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UN calls on Nicaragua to end ‘persistent repression of dissent’ | World news

The UN human rights office has called on Nicaragua to end its “persistent repression of dissent”, saying that the recent detention of 16 anti-government protesters accused of arms trafficking appear to be based on “trumped-up charges”.

Nicaraguan police said on Monday that the protesters were also suspected of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in the Central American country, which has been roiled by demonstrations against the administration of President Daniel Ortega since April last year.


Rupert Colville, a spokesman in Geneva for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters the arrests looked like an attempt to silence criticism of the government.

“We are very concerned that these apparently trumped-up charges may constitute a renewed attempt to stifle dissent,” said Colville.

Colville voiced particular concern over the fate of 13 people who entered the San Miguel church in the western town of Masaya last week, only to be encircled by police.

Nine people began a hunger strike in the Masaya church on 14 November, calling for the release of 130 people allegedly detained in the context of the protests, according to the rights office.

They were quickly surrounded by police, who cut water and electricity and prevented anyone from entering the church to deliver humanitarian supplies, including insulin for the priest, who suffers from diabetes, Colville said.

“The same night, a group of at least 13 members of the opposition were detained after delivering some water to the people surrounded by the police,” he said, adding that prominent human rights defenders such as Amaya Coppens and Olga Valle were among those arrested.

Colville also voiced alarm over the situation at the Managua Cathedral, where a pro-government mob broke in on Monday to try to dislodge hunger strikers demanding the release of political prisoners.

“Dozens of pro-government elements entered the cathedral … and reportedly intimidated and attacked [the protesters] with stones … with the acquiescence of police officers, who had surrounded the premises,” he said.

Nicaraguan government-backed media said the Ortega supporters were demonstrating peacefully against what they described as the politicization of the church.

“So that churches aren’t used as a den of thieves, murderers, rapists … in practice they’re complicit in crimes, murders, rapes,” Tomás Valdez, a leader of the government supporters occupying the cathedral, told broadcaster Channel 8.

Human rights groups say more than 320 people have been killed during crackdowns of protests by security forces and armed supporters of the government since demonstrations began.

“The government must end the persistent repression of dissent and the ongoing pattern of arbitrary arrests and refrain from criminalizing and attacking human rights defenders, political opponents and any other dissenting voices,” Colville said.

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