تجاوز إلى المحتوى الرئيسي

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Considers Situation in Nicaragua in the Absence of a Delegation

Meeting Summaries

 

Committee Experts Express Concern Regarding Reports of Violence Against Indigenous Peoples and People of African Descent in Nicaragua

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Dissemination today considered the combined 15th to 21st periodic report of Nicaragua in the absence of the delegation, with Committee Experts expressing concern regarding the violence faced by indigenous peoples and people of African descent in the State.

Verene Albertha Shepherd, Committee Chairperson, said the delegation of Nicaragua was absent from the room, which was an unusual circumstance. Ms. Shepherd said that she and the Committee had taken all the necessary steps to cooperate with Nicaragua and assist the State to appear for the dialogue with the Committee, including remotely. A letter had been sent to the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the United Nations Office, expressing the Committee’s concern about the lack of response from the State party and requesting it to provide a response and indicate the list of the members of the delegation. The Secretariat had not received any response to this letter.

The Committee deeply regretted Nicaragua’s lack of response to all communications sent, which was considered as an evident lack of cooperation, but had nevertheless decided to consider its 15th to 21st periodic reports in absence of a delegation, and a letter had been sent to the State party for information. Ms. Shepherd stated that the ratification of the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination entailed several international obligations and engagements with respect to the Committee. The doors for cooperation were open and the Committee looked forward to having Nicaragua present for dialogue in future sessions.

While presenting findings from the report, Eduardo Ernesto Vega Luna, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that the invasion of indigenous territories had generated a situation of violence, with allegations that the State was promoting the internal migration of non-indigenous persons in territories that had traditionally been occupied by indigenous peoples, causing the forced displacement of the affected communities. It was important to have information from the State on these allegations. Mr. Vega Luna also called for information on the measures taken to prevent the invasion of indigenous territories by third parties, and on measures to avoid conflicts concerning the occupation and use of indigenous peoples' land and territories. In August 2021, the Kiwakumbaih massacre occurred, the fourth attack in 2021 in the Mayangna Sauni As indigenous territory. There were between 13 and 18 indigenous people killed—including a child, a teenager and two indigenous Mískitu women, one of who was mutilated. The wife and daughter of a miner were sexually assaulted by several of the attackers.

A Committee Expert said alarming reports had been received regarding what was happening to African descendant communities and indigenous communities. According to reports, in the areas of the Caribbean coast where there was a past policy of autonomy, people were being victims of kidnapping, sexual assault and arson attacks on their home by local Government authorities. There was cause for great concern for what was happening in those areas, based on all reports received from reliable sources. The Expert called on the Government to cease and desist and respond to these charges, and invited them to appear before the Committee.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Vega Luna thanked the Committee for their questions and comments. When the time came to consider the concluding observations, the Committee would have to develop three very specific plans on what could be done. A more urgent plan would focus on what could be done to protect those currently in danger, as there were people in the country right now whose life was at risk. The second plan related to what the Committee typically did when there was minimal information. The third plan would present some possible outcomes and open doors for the future. The way out would involve the United Nations system and its various bodies.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Nicaragua after its one hundred and seventh session, which concludes on 30 August. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and seventh session and other documents related to the session can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 11 August at 3 p.m. to review the combined 10th to 12th report of the United States of America (CERD/C/USA/10-12).

Report

The Committee has before it the combined 15th to 21st report of Nicaragua (CERD/C/NIC/15-21).

Statements by Committee Experts

VERENE ALBERTHA SHEPHERD, Committee Chairperson, said the delegation of Nicaragua was absent from the room, which was an unusual circumstance. Ms. Shepherd said that she and the Committee had taken all the necessary steps to cooperate with Nicaragua and assist the State to appear for the dialogue with the Committee, including remotely. A letter had been sent to the Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the United Nations Office, expressing the Committee’s concern about the lack of response from the State party and requesting it to provide a response and indicate the list of the members of the delegation. The Secretariat had not received any response to this letter. Ms. Shepheard reiterated that a State party was expected to be present at meetings of the Committee when its reports were being examined, in order to participate in the discussions and answer questions concerning the reports. The dialogue was a key component of the consideration of the report and provided a unique opportunity for the Committee and the State party to hold constructive and in-depth discussions. Such discussions allowed the Committee to assess the progress made in the implementation of the Convention and to indicate the areas where further efforts were needed.

The Committee deeply regretted Nicaragua’s lack of response to all communications sent, which was considered as an evident lack of cooperation. The Committee had nevertheless decided to consider its 15th to 21st periodic reports in absence of a delegation, and a letter had been sent to the State party for information. Ms. Shepherd stated that the Committee reminded Nicaragua that the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination entailed several international obligations and engagements with respect to the Committee. The doors for cooperation were open and the Committee looked forward to having Nicaragua present for dialogue in future sessions. Nicaragua was considered a friend and an important State party. 

EDUARDO ERNESTO VEGA LUNA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, expressed regret at the absence of the State party during the session. The last report was submitted by the State party in 2019, with an eight-year delay. It was important to have the State present to provide up-to-date information on the country’s situation. In 2018, there was a social and political crisis in the country which led to violent repression by the police. The State party had shown a lack of cooperation and commitment to dialogue, both regionally and within the United Nations system. More than 200 organisations had been shut down in Nicaragua, including the largest non-governmental organisations protecting the rights of women. The State had developed a framework to bring greater protection to indigenous people and people of African descent. However, there had been testimonies that the State party had taken measures that ran counter to its own legislation, which would represent a possible regression in the protection of the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendants. This required an explanation from the State.

Mr. Vega Luna expressed concern at a lack of disaggregated data and statistics. There needed to be up to date, thorough, broken-down data and statistics on the different ethnic groups and indigenous populations of Nicaragua. The Committee would be interested to know if the State party had a nation-wide policy on combatting racial discrimination. More information on methods taken to combat this would be appreciated. The Committee was concerned about the independence and autonomy of public institutions. In 2019, the Subcommittee on Accreditation of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions noted that the Office of the Procurator for the Defence of Human Rights of Nicaragua had been reclassified to "B" status, which was a matter of concern. The living conditions of indigenous people had been described as precarious, without electricity or running water. This clearly showed the decree of structural discrimination experienced by indigenous people and people of African descent. There was no information from the State on the participation of indigenous people within communities. What measures were being taken to ensure the titled land of indigenous people was being protected?

Mr. Vega Luna said that the invasion of indigenous territories had generated a situation of violence, with allegations that the State was promoting the internal migration of non-indigenous persons in territories that had traditionally been occupied by indigenous peoples, causing the forced displacement of the affected communities. It was important to have information from the State on these allegations. Mr. Vega Luna also called for information on the measures taken to prevent the invasion of indigenous territories by third parties, and measures taken to avoid conflicts concerning the occupation and use of indigenous peoples' land and territories. In August 2021, the Kiwakumbaih massacre occurred which was the fourth attack in 2021 in the Mayangna Sauni As indigenous territory. There were between 13 and 18 indigenous people killed—including a child, a teenager, and two indigenous Mískitu women, one of whom was mutilated. The wife and daughter of a miner were sexually assaulted by several of the attackers. The Committee requested information on the measures taken to consult with indigenous peoples and to obtain their informed consent regarding all legislative and administrative measures likely to affect them.

Mr. Vega Luna said the State party promoted an extractive policy of natural resources, and asked for information on the standard of living of indigenous people who had been affected by extractive activities. Such activities impacted their right to land. Had there been any environmental impact studies conducted before granting the licenses for these projects? According to unofficial data, 98 per cent of health posts in Wangki Maya and Wangki Twi Raya did not have basic infrastructure or health services. The State party was requested to provide updated information on this situation. There was also no reliable and disaggregated data to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on indigenous peoples. The Committee regretted not having information on the impact of hurricanes on indigenous people.

The illiteracy rate of the indigenous population was significantly higher than that of the rest of the population. The Committee also requested information on the high levels of school dropouts for indigenous girls and boys and the lack of secondary education in indigenous communities. Could information on cases of excessive use of force on indigenous people be provided, and such cases investigated? There was no data on the political participation of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, in elected public offices and decision-making positions. There was also no information on cases of racial discrimination. What investigations had been carried out and what were their outcomes, including the sanctions imposed on persons found responsible?

Mr. Vega Luna said that, according to information received by the Committee, there was a lack of access to justice and protection by the State of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. Information had been received on the lack of effective investigation into attacks and violence against indigenous peoples, leaving many human rights violations unpunished. In this regard, the Committee had received information on the lack of independence of the judicial system. Information was needed on the measures taken to protect human rights defenders and prevent them from being criminally prosecuted for acts related to their activities. The Committee required information on the scale of measures to prevent the spread of messages that promoted the dissemination of stereotypes and racial prejudices against indigenous peoples and people of African descent. Mr. Vega Luna concluded by saying that he hoped that the State could contribute to clarifying these issues as part of its obligation to protect human rights and avoid all forms of racial discrimination.

GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-up Rapporteur, said the Committee had identified three issues to be followed up, which were supposed to be presented in a report by the State party. The report did not eventuate. The first was the recommendation to ensure the national commission of racial discrimination was recognised as the body responsible for implementing a policy to combat racism; however there had been no development on this. The second issue was that the Committee urged the State party to proceed immediately with land titling for indigenous communities. The third issue was that the Committee had urged the State party to step up its efforts to guarantee the right to public health and social services to the indigenous peoples.

A Committee Expert mentioned a handbook which had been described to the Committee by non-governmental organisations, stating this had been created by the Government and outlined the authority of the autonomous region, without considering the views of the indigenous people living in that region.

A Committee Expert said alarming reports had been received regarding what was happening to African descendant communities and indigenous communities. According to reports, in the areas of the Caribbean coast where there was a past policy of autonomy, people were subjected to kidnapping, sexual assault and arson attacks on their home by local Government authorities. There was cause for great concern regarding what was happening in those areas, based on all reports received from reliable sources. The Expert called on the Government to cease and desist and respond to these charges, and invited them to appear before the Committee.

A Committee Expert said around 500 non-governmental organisations were deprived of exercising their rights to freedom of expression in Nicaragua. There was a serious risk for population groups protected by the Convention. There was a risk for several nationals of Nicaragua to lose their nationality and be considered stateless; what was the State doing to try to streamline and harmonise its internal order? What was the rate of schooling for people of African descent and indigenous communities? How many people were in school across the board? How many were represented in institutions such as the police service? What could be done to ensure the national human rights institute was compliant? Where could individuals protected by the Convention make their voices heard?

A Committee Expert clarified that the Country Rapporteur worked alone as he was the only Committee member who could work in Spanish. The Expert said that the Committee had heard that health centres were not adequately equipped, stating it was never too late for the State party to send the Committee information on this issue.

A Committee Expert noted that the World Health Organisation had complained that Nicaragua failed to prioritise health workers when the COVID-19 pandemic started and during the vaccination program. The Expert asked the Committee if there were additional measures the Committee could take other than writing concluding observations. Given the severity of the information received, was there a possibility of speaking to other actors within the system to raise the issue at a higher level?

VERENE ALBERTHA SHEPHERD, Committee Chairperson, said the issue would be raised in another forum. The Committee had benefitted from information from other treaty bodies, including the Committee Against Torture. There had been reports on the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders. The report had mentioned that the national human development plan was a national priority. Had the plan made issues of racial discrimination a priority? Could the State party show progress that was made in phases one and two of the plan?

Concluding Statements

EDUARDO ERNESTO VEGA LUNA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, thanked the Committee Experts for their questions and comments. When the time came to consider the concluding observations, the Committee would have to develop three very specific plans on what could be done. A more urgent plan would focus on what could be done to protect those currently in danger, as there were people in the country right now whose lives were at risk. The second plan related to what the Committee typically did when there was minimal information. The third plan would present some possible outcomes and open doors for the future. The way out would involve the United Nations system and its various bodies.

VERENE ALBERTHA SHEPHERD, Committee Chairperson, thanked the Country Rapporteur for the task he undertook in unusual, and expressed gratitude to the members of the Committee who took the time to raise issues and concerns and pose questions.

 

Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.

 

CERD22.009E