Since April 2018, the socio-political situation in Nicaragua has been of concern to the international community. The dismantling of the rule of law has raised a number of questions about the independence of the judiciary and the fragility of democratic institutions. Similarly, political opponents and demonstrators are being imprisoned arbitrarily and with total disregard for the rights of the defence. By analogy, civil society organisations faced major challenges. While the impact on organisations is linked to human rights work, the disarticulation of civil society means that the government fears that citizens and freedom of association will become an obstacle to the regime’s centralised model. The regime has become increasingly restrictive towards non-profit organisations and civil society as a whole. The closure of civic space has accelerated with the recent entry into force of the Foreign Agents Regulation Act (2020) and the General Act on the Regulation and Control of Non-Profit Organisations.
Although the organisations affected by this restrictive framework are mainly engaged in the defence of human rights, it should be mentioned that this sector also includes some private companies and international organisations that used to channel international cooperation resources in this area. Complex administrative and registration procedures, the dissemination of beneficiary data, severe limits on external funding and, lastly, the revocation of an organisation’s legal personality are at the root of the growing restrictions on civic space in the country.
The absence of accountability mechanisms in the country and the lack of regional coordination between civil society players demonstrate the urgent need to create paradigm-shifting strategies to overcome the growing weakness of the rule of law in the region. Similarly, in addition to the legal mechanisms adopted by the regime to restrict civic space, it is believed that even when organisations retain their legal personality, this is generally linked to a de facto closure due to an immeasurable burden of administrative obstacles and the general inertia of the state administration in responding to organisations’ requests.
The International Human Rights Network – Europe (RIDHE), in collaboration with Ms Soraya Rodríguez, member of the European Parliament’s Liberal Group (Renew Europe) and co-president of the Social Committee of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, organised a formal meeting on 13 April between representatives of Nicaraguan civil society and the European Union’s High Representative for Human Rights, Mr Eamon Gilmore. This initiative was part of the advocacy work carried out by RIDHE to denounce the dramatic socio-political crisis in Nicaragua.