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BRIEFING NOTES – (1) Nicaragua; (2) Samoa


Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights:
Marta
Hurtado

Location:
Geneva

Date: 28 May
2021

Subject: (1) Nicaragua; (2)
Samoa

1) Nicaragua

We are deeply concerned
that Nicaragua’s chances of holding free and genuine
elections on 7 November are diminishing as a result of
measures taken by authorities against political parties,
candidates and independent journalists, which further
restrict the civic and democratic space. Last February, the
Human Rights Council mandated the Office to closely monitor
human rights during the electoral process in Nicaragua, and
we have witnessed troubling developments in recent
weeks.

On 4 May, the country’s National Assembly —
which is aligned with the ruling party — passed an
electoral reform that disregarded the demands of the
opposition, civil society and the international community by
not incorporating safeguards to guarantee the impartiality
of electoral authorities. It also contains provisions that
do not comply with human rights norms and standards,
including restrictions on the right to freedom of
expression, assembly, and political
participation.

Under this reform, the authorities have
in recent weeks dissolved two political parties using
arguments that are contrary to international norms and
standards, and without due process.

On 19 May, the
authorities announced they had initiated a criminal
investigation of one of the main presidential
pre-candidates, Cristiana Chamorro, for alleged money
laundering through the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro
Foundation. The investigation is based on the law
Against money laundering, terrorist financing and
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction adopted in July
2018.” This broadly-worded law has raised general concerns
that it may be used to silence dissent. The allegations
against Ms Chamorro include the supposed misuse of funds
received from international sources. Over the past week,
staff working for 12 independent media outlets have been
requested to testify in the same criminal proceedings. On 20
May, the police raided the offices of the
Confidencial media outlet run by Carlos Fernando
Chamorro, Ms. Chamorro’s brother, seized equipment and
temporarily detained a camera operator. Presently, Ms.
Chamorro faces both the prospect of a criminal conviction
and of being disqualified as a candidate.

The National
Police has also intensified its actions to restrict the
movements of other opposition leaders.

Under these
circumstances, the dissolution of political parties and the
initiation of criminal investigations that could lead to the
disqualification of opposition candidates, without due
process, not only undermine the right to stand for election
by aspiring candidates, but also the right of voters to
elect the candidates of their choice.

The continued
harassment of independent media curtails the right to
freedom of expression and undermines the publics’s right
to be informed, something that is crucial in any democracy
at any time, but is of paramount importance during an
electoral period.

The new electoral law is the latest
in a series of laws adopted by the National Assembly that
unnecessarily and disproportionately restrict human rights,
especially of members of civil society organizations, human
rights defenders, journalists and political and social
leaders.

We call on the Nicaraguan Government to cease
the harassment — including judicial harassment — of
members of the opposition and journalists.

We also
call upon the authorities to fully ensure the enjoyment of
the freedoms of information and expression, assembly,
association, as well as the right to political participation
— all of which are essential during the electoral process,
if the election itself is to be considered free and
genuine.

We therefore urge the authorities to amend
the electoral law through an inclusive and participatory
process. The Office stands ready to provide technical
cooperation to the Nicaraguan authorities to reform
restrictive legislation that impinges on human rights in
order to comply with international human rights norms and
standards.

2) Samoa

We are concerned by
challenges to the rule of law in Samoa following the 9 April
elections. The Secretary-General called last Monday on the
country’s leaders to find solutions to overcome the
current political situation through dialogue in the best
interest of Samoa’s people and institutions.

OHCHR
urges that the rule of law and democratic institutions in
Samoa be respected and protected, and in particular the key
role played by an independent judiciary. We emphasize that
Samoan judges must be able to undertake their functions
without pressure, interference or personal attacks from any
quarter.

It is a fundamental right to take action
through the courts, including to challenge election results,
in accordance with the applicable legal framework. At the
same time, decisions of the Supreme Court should be
respected, in a manner consistent with international human
rights norms.

Samoa is a party to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 2008 and has
thus committed itself to safeguard access to justice and the
independence of the
judiciary.

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