International Peace, Security Not Threatened Opponents Stress, Citing Manipulation of Human Rights Issues to Achieve Other Aims
Delegates expressed deep concern today about violence allegedly perpetrated by paramilitary “shock force” in Nicaragua, while continuing to diverge as to whether that escalating crisis merits consideration by the 15-member Security Council.
Several speakers emphasized that the Council’s mandate is limited to threats to international peace and security, not domestic issues, while stressing the importance of the independence and national sovereignty of States. In that context, they sounded the alarm over attempts by some States to manipulate the Council in pursuit of their own interventionist agendas. Meanwhile, other delegates stressed the Council’s obligation to respond to early signs of conflict — such as the violence against protesters and the silencing of opposition leaders reported in Nicaragua — as a critical element of United Nations efforts to prevent conflict.
Gonzalo Koncke, Chief of Staff to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), briefed Council members on the recent political crisis and violence in Nicaragua which has claimed more than 300 lives. Outlining OAS efforts to ensure peace in that country — including by establishing a group of independent experts and the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua — he said the situation has nevertheless not improved, and a violent crackdown by police groups has violated the health, free expression and other rights of Nicaragua’s citizens. Calling for the completion of necessary electoral reforms by January 2019, he stressed that, given the heightened tensions, “the voice of the people at the ballots is the way forward”.
Felix Maradiaga, a civil society leader and former Secretary-General in Nicaragua’s Ministry of Defence, said few nations have had a history as difficult as that of his own. Some 23,000 Nicaraguan refugees have left for Costa Rica in the last four months while hundreds of university students sought refuge in Managua Cathedral after police fired indiscriminately upon them. Describing his own experience of assault, death threats and physical intimidation, he said Nicaragua has become a huge prison in which human rights defenders and religious leaders are especially at risk. The United Nations has a responsibility to restore the rule of law, he said, calling upon the Council to consider a resolution on the situation in Nicaragua.
The representative of the United States, which holds the Council Presidency for September, spoke in her national capacity, declaring: “When human rights are denied, the violence and instability that follow spill over borders.” Tyranny follows a predictable pattern, including silencing the free press, attacking institutions and imprisoning or executing dissidents. “Daniel Ortega has adopted the tactics of the dictators he once claimed to oppose,” she added, referring to the President of Nicaragua. Likening the situation to those witnessed in Syria and Venezuela, she said “the Council cannot be a passive observer” as Nicaragua descends into further chaos.
Costa Rica’s delegate described the spill-over impacts of Nicaragua’s social and economic issues on his country, noting that more than 12,000 asylum requests have been received in the first eight months of 2018. Voicing support for relevant OAS resolutions, he urged the Government of Nicaragua to re-embark on the path of dialogue.
Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, citing several recent examples of situations in which low-intensity crises have morphed into serious conflicts — with tragic results — faulted the international community’s refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of such situations as a major driver of conflict.
Other speakers also spotlighted current and recent crises around the world, while striking a different tone. Bolivia’s representative compared Nicaragua’s history of facing interference and invasion to more recent interventionism that has led to the worst conflicts ever seen in the Middle East. Reaffirming his delegation’s rejection of the convening of today’s meeting, he reiterated that the situation in Nicaragua does not constitute any threat to international peace and security. Council members are duty-bound to guard against its exploitation for ideological and political goals, he warned, condemning the manipulation of agenda items and cautioning against using preventive diplomacy as a pretext for other goals.
The Russian Federation’s representative echoed those concerns, noting that some nations seek to foment intolerance with the single aim of changing Governments around the world. Citing the long history of United States intervention and support for rebel groups around the globe, he warned against using the concept of human rights as an indicator of imminent conflict. He called upon that country to abandon its long-standing colonial activities, saying that, if it was genuinely concerned about the Nicaraguan people, it should lift its economic sanctions against their country and reverse its decision to end the temporary protected status that Washington, D.C., granted its citizens.
Venezuela’s delegate said that abuse of the Council’s agenda constitutes a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and reveals the arbitrary nature of the organ’s current presidency. Since the situation in Nicaragua represents no threat to international peace and security, it falls outside the Council’s purview, he said, while emphasizing that OAS is only promoting the strategic interests of the United States.
Denis Moncada Colindres, Nicaragua’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, called for the immediate end of any policy that interferes in his country’s domestic affairs. “There is consensus in this [Council] that Nicaragua does not represent a threat to international peace and security,” he said, stressing that its inclusion on the organ’s agenda therefore represents a breach of international law. Indeed, the Council is not the appropriate organ to address any such issues, which must always be rooted in the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Kuwait, United Kingdom, Peru, France, Netherlands, Poland, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and China.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:20 p.m.
GONZALO KONCKE, Chief of Staff to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), briefed the Council on that bloc’s work relating to the recent political crisis and violence in Nicaragua, which has claimed more than 300 lives to date. “The death toll has been on the rise, unfortunately,” he said, noting that the OAS Secretary General has been holding meetings to address the crisis and its economic repercussions. OAS has been using all tools available to ensure peace in Nicaragua, having also obtained authorization from that country to ensure access to it by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. It has established a group of independent experts, as well as the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua, to monitor the situation. Meanwhile, OAS has been working with Nicaraguan officials to ensure that the necessary steps are taken for appropriate electoral reforms, and that perpetrators of human rights violations and other crimes are identified.
Despite all those efforts, however, the situation has not improved in terms of human rights and the State’s political and social life, he said, going on to describe the violent crackdown by police groups that has violated the health, freedom of expression and other rights of Nicaragua’s citizens. Any solution to the crisis will require a true quest for peace, truth and democracy, as well as Nicaragua’s full cooperation with the Special Monitoring Mechanism. The State must also commit not to obstruct the work of OAS, he emphasized, adding that the voice of the Nicaraguan people must be heard, and that they must be able to hold free, fair and transparent elections. The relevant electoral reforms must be completed by January 2019, he said, adding that, in light of the heightened tensions, “the voice of the people at the ballots is the way forward”. He declared: “Nicaragua is at a critical juncture that could have been avoided.” Noting that the Inter-American Court system possesses all the tools required for peace, he said the international community must now support Nicaragua by helping it to apply democratic mechanisms and recover peace.
FELIX MARADIAGA, civil society leader and former Secretary-General in the Ministry of Defence of Nicaragua, said few nations have had a history as difficult as that of his own. Recalling the armed conflicts of the 1980s, he noted that the international community supported Nicaragua when there was too much bloodshed amid those cycles of violence. Noting that some 23,000 Nicaraguan refugees have left for Costa Rica in the last four months, he said that, during the crisis in April, hundreds of university students, including his own students, sought refuge in Managua Cathedral after police fired indiscriminately upon them.
One of the most alarming elements of the crisis was the criminalization of protesters, he noted, explaining that he has received hundreds of death threats. On 11 July, 20 paramilitary personnel surrounded his car, pointed an AK‑47 assault rifle at him and asked whether he was ready to die. The paramilitaries said they would release him because they did not yet have permission to kill him. The voices of hundreds of Nicaraguans have been silenced by death, imprisonment and the climate of terror, he said.
Nicaragua has become a huge prison in which human rights defenders and religious leaders were especially at risk, he continued. The mere trace of a tweet can lead to arbitrary detention or torture, including the severing of genitals, he said, adding: “Nicaragua is becoming a hopeless country.” Although many conflicts exist around the world, for more than a decade, the Daniel Ortega regime has benefited from being off the international radar, he noted. The United Nations has a responsibility to restore the rule of law in Nicaragua, he said, calling upon the Security Council to consider a specific resolution on the situation in Nicaragua.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) noted his delegation’s objection to the discussion, emphasizing that those supporting the meeting are well aware of the divide within the Council and of the possible repercussions of its interference. “Does the Security Council’s mandate include exerting pressures on a sovereign State?”, he demanded, pointing out that, while some nations base their foreign policies on mutual respect, others seek to foment intolerance with the single aim of changing Governments around the world. “There is no place on the [Council’s] agenda for the Nicaragua issue,” he said, underlining that the internal crisis in that country poses no international threat. The United States, which called today’s meeting, does not genuinely care about the people of Nicaragua, he said, citing Washington’s long history of intervention and support for rebel groups there, as well as in Cuba, East Asia, the Pacific and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the United States continues to levy fictional accusations about interference by third countries in the affairs of its “great democracy”. The pretext of human rights as an indicator of imminent conflict is “sly and hypocritical”, he said, pointing out that conflicts are, in fact, often stoked from abroad, which in turn causes major human rights violations. Calling upon Washington, D.C., to abandon its long-standing colonial activities, he said the United States should — if genuinely concerned about the people of Nicaragua — lift its restrictive economic measures and overturn its decision to end temporary protected status Nicaraguans.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) noted that the Council is meeting against the backdrop of an absence of consensus on the issue before it. Citing relevant parts of Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter — which allow the organ to take conflict‑prevention measures — he also emphasized the critical role of regional and subregional organizations. Expressing regret at the recent violence and casualties in Nicaragua, he called upon all parties concerned to adhere to all their international obligations, while emphasizing that the Council should put the interests of the Nicaraguan people at the forefront of its efforts. Meanwhile, the Government of Nicaragua should work with all regional actors, including OAS, to overcome the current crisis. He concluded by emphasizing the need to ensure that all established international legal principles are fully respected in the Council’s consideration of the issue, especially the principles of the sovereignty and independence of States.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) also echoed support for that legal framework, as enshrined in the Charter, declaring: “It is right that the Council is made aware [of the crisis] by the regional organizations concerned.” Recalling that the Government of Nicaragua expelled representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), she said the Council must always support United Nations entities — reason enough to hold today’s discussion. Another relevant issue is the possible implication of the flow of refugees leaving Nicaragua, which may become destabilizing to the region, she cautioned. Calling upon that country’s Government to comply fully with its international obligations — including allowing the people to demonstrate peacefully and lawfully — she expressed concern about the excessive use of force, calling upon that Government to demobilize all paramilitary groups. Nicaragua’s challenges can only be overcome through a meaningful, inclusive dialogue that includes the views of the protesters, she emphasized.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) affirmed that Chapter VIII of the Charter provides for the Council to be fully informed of activities undertaken by regional organizations. Condemning the violence, deaths and disappearances in Nicaragua, he said they have been documented by OHCHR and other specialized and independent entities. Protests against the Government have been peaceful, he said, while acknowledging cases of attacks against Government officials. OAS has called upon the Government and all parties to engage in dialogue, he recalled, noting that the regional bloc has established the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua, in which his country plays an active role. The Mechanism has stated its readiness to begin constructive dialogue with the Government of Nicaragua, but the latter has not responded to that offer. Peru’s commitment to peace and democracy in the region is illustrated by its active role in the quest for a sustainable peace in Central America during the 1980s, he pointed out.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) emphasized that it is incumbent upon the Council to set aside ideological approaches and contribute with open eyes to preventive diplomacy in the Nicaragua crisis. France called upon the Government of Nicaragua to end the repression and excessive use of force against its critics and human rights defenders, he said, vehemently condemning violence by paramilitary groups, including recent abductions. National dialogue is crucial and can help to bring about a peaceful end to the crisis, he said, expressing regret that the dialogue process organized under the aegis of the Episcopal Conference has been interrupted. Noting that the Conference has stated its willingness to resume the dialogue, he emphasized that the Government must seize that opportunity, while also stressing the importance of cooperation with multilateral organizations.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) underscored the importance of discussing the issue to prevent a further escalation of the crisis, employing local and regional mediation efforts, and preventing impunity. Expressing regret about reliable accounts of human rights violations by Government officials, paramilitary police groups and armed third persons, he said “the Government has not protected its civilians”. Describing today’s meeting as an opportunity for dialogue, he said there is an important role for the Council in early warning and preventing conflict, which are important priorities for his country. The Council should support the engagement of local and regional actors in efforts to end the crisis. Lack of progress in the national dialogue process remains worrying, as does the Government’s decision to terminate the presence of the OHCHR mission, he said. “We expect the authorities to seriously consider the findings of the [Office] and take urgent action to implement the report’s recommendations,” he emphasized, also urging them to cooperate fully with international organizations, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) said that calls for an immediate end to violence and the prompt resumption of dialogue “have rung hollow” to date. Voicing grave concern over the ongoing deadlock in Nicaragua, he urged the country’s Government to denounce all violence and engage in dialogue. Citing recent examples of situations in which low-intensity crises morphed into serious conflicts with tragic results, he pointed out that the international community’s refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of such situations — and its general lack of international interest in them — has been a major driver of conflict. He said that a constructive approach to ending the crisis is the basis of his country’s support for the proposal to add the situation to the Council’s September agenda.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), stressing the need to see the current situation in its broader context, called upon the Nicaraguan authorities to ensure full respect and compliance with the applicable human rights standards relating to the rights to peaceful assembly and free speech. Regional organizations often prove themselves far more efficient in mediation, she said, adding that their geographical proximity to the actors involved makes for deeper comprehension of the problem’s specificities and key nuances that “we might simply overlook”. She expressed strong support for the efforts undertaken by OAS, and hope that inclusive and fruitful dialogue will commence. The Government of Nicaragua must not perceive today’s discussion as an attempt to stigmatize their country, she stressed.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), condemning all violence and attacks against civilians, said the Government and people of Nicaragua will be able to overcome the current situation. The level of tension has decreased, and the situation is gradually normalizing, he commended the launch of national dialogue, mediated by the Catholic Church, calling upon the latter “to develop an algorithm for resolving existing problems”. Reaffirming the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, he underlined that the situation in Nicaragua does not constitute a threat to international peace and security, and should, therefore, not be on the Security Council’s agenda. At the current stage, the involvement of the United Nations should be only through the mediation efforts of the Secretary-General’s good offices, he added.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), echoing concerns over the violence unfolding in Nicaragua, including by so-called “shock forces” and “mobs” loyal to the Government, urged the latter to revive its national dialogue with all concerned parties. Condemning all violence, including by protesters, he stressed that the authorities must act in accordance with international human rights law, and that regional and subregional organizations are the key to preventing emerging crises from evolving further. Commending the role of OAS in Nicaragua, he said the United Nations also has an important role to play in supporting a peaceful solution to the crisis there, not least in support of regional efforts and preventive diplomacy. The European Union, for its part, will continue to engage in dialogue with all parties and actively support the efforts of the broader international community, he said.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) emphasized that the views of the countries concerned, as well as those across the region, must be considered in full. “Past experiences have shown that international engagement in any situation, including by the United Nations, can only be effective if it is carefully calibrated and coordinated with regional efforts,” she stressed, pointing out that there have been no indications that convince her delegation that the situation in Nicaragua constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Since that is the basis for any involvement by the Council, the situation therefore remains an internal matter for Nicaraguans that should be addressed through genuine dialogue among the stakeholders concerned she said. Given the region’s history “and the sensitivities surrounding any perceived external involvement”, she added, caution was required in the Council’s handling of the situation, and it should discreetly deploy good offices to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said the Council must meaningfully improve its interaction with regional and subregional organizations. Stressing the importance of a peaceful solution, in accordance with the principles of international law, he urged the parties concerned to continue the national dialogue and seek the support of international organizations that could act as mediators. Equatorial Guinea also encouraged OAS and the Catholic Church to continue their constructive role, he said, encouraging the Government of Nicaragua to open up to the international community.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) reaffirmed his delegation’s rejection of today’s meeting, reiterating that the situation in Nicaragua does not constitute any threat to international peace and security. Council members are duty-bound to avoid the ideological and political exploitation of the organ, he said, adding that Article 34 of the Charter does not apply because the Council is not looking into any dispute that could lead to international friction or jeopardize the maintenance of international peace. The current reality of Nicaragua is relative calm, he said, noting the mediation efforts of the Catholic Church. While hundreds are dead and injured, institutional efforts led by the Nicaraguan Government will lead to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators. Underlining the importance of non-interference in the internal affairs of States, he condemned the manipulation of agenda items, cautioning that such treatment of preventive diplomacy would only exacerbate the situation. Pointing out that Nicaragua’s history is one of interference and invasion, he further pointed out that interventionism has also led to the worst crises in the Middle East.
WU HAITAO (China) noted that his delegation has consistently called for the Council to respect in full the Charter principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and non-interference in the internal affairs of States. The situation in Nicaragua poses no threat to international security, he reaffirmed, reiterating: “The Security Council should not get involved.”
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States), Council President for September, spoke in her national capacity, recalling her recent visit to the border between Venezuela and Nicaragua, where people starved by their dictator are fleeing across the frontier. “When human rights are denied, the violence and instability that follow spill over borders”, and can even become global crises, she said. Such a process is already well under way in Nicaragua, she said, adding that the spread of tyranny follows a predictable pattern: efforts to silence the free press; attacks against such institutions as trade unions, universities and the church; and the imprisonment or execution of dissidents. When the people rise up they are then met with violence and death and begin to flee. “Daniel Ortega has adopted the tactics of the dictators he once claimed to oppose,” she said, noting that the President’s regime has long controlled Nicaragua’s media, banned opposition parties and rigged elections so he can run for office five consecutive times.
Now, he is killing, detaining and brutalizing anyone who dares to oppose him, turning citizens against citizens, she continued, noting that more than 25,000 Nicaraguans have already migrated to Costa Rica, with Honduras, Panama and Mexico also receiving asylum seekers. Likening the situation to those witnessed in Syria and Venezuela, she stressed that “the Council cannot be a passive observer” as Nicaragua descends into further chaos. “We know where this path leads,” she said, warning that an exodus from Nicaragua will overwhelm the region and create a broader crisis. The United States stands with that country’s people, not just because it believes in human rights, but because “their security is our security”, she said. The Council still has the opportunity to prevent further escalation of the crisis, she said, recalling the overwhelming adoption of the OAS resolution holding the Government of Nicaragua accountable for abuses against its own people and expressing support for the establishment of a monitoring mechanism in that country.
DENIS MONCADA COLINDRES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, said his country loves peace, works to strengthen its security and defends human rights in a holistic manner. It also believes in the principles of sovereignty and independence, as outlined in the United Nations Charter. In that context, Nicaragua calls for the immediate end of any policy that interferes in its domestic affairs, he said. “There is consensus in this [Council] that Nicaragua does not represent a threat to international peace and security,” he said, emphasizing that its inclusion on the agenda therefore represents a breach of international law. Describing his country as a model of security in the region’s ongoing struggle against transnational organized crime and drug trafficking, he said it has also enjoyed an average annual growth rate of more than 5 per cent and has effectively halved poverty rates.
Nicaragua also adheres to all human rights treaties to which it is a party, he added, underlining that the Council is not the appropriate forum in which to address any such issues, which must always be rooted in the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity. Emphasizing the right of the Nicaraguan people to pursue their own security and development as they choose, he advocated “true dialogue” among them as the only way forward. Thanking those Council members which have recognized that his country’s situation does not warrant discussion in the Council, he recalled that the International Court of Justice formally condemned the United States for its past terrorist and paramilitary activities in Nicaragua. The country is still awaiting compensation for those actions and expects that they will never be repeated, he added.
RODRIGO ALBERTO CARAZO ZELEDÓN (Costa Rica) said the systematic erosion of human rights in Nicaragua is a priority issue for his delegation because anything happening in that small interconnected geographical space affects his country and the region. Costa Rica cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of its brothers and sisters, he said, recalling that, since the crisis erupted in April, its Government has expressed vocal concern at the repression. With the social and economic issues spilling across its borders, and the crisis deepening, the number of people fleeing Nicaragua, most of them from vulnerable populations, has increased significantly, he said, recalling that, in the first eight months of 2018, Costa Rica has received 12,000 asylum requests from Nicaraguans. He said the Government has sought to respond in a responsible and orderly manner, in accordance with domestic and international rules, and is cooperating closely with the relevant entities. Urging the Government of Nicaragua to establish conditions suitable for dialogue, he reiterated his delegation’s support for the relevant resolution adopted by the Permanent Council of OAS and called upon that Government to re-embark on the path of dialogue.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) described the abuse of agenda items as a flagrant violation of the Charter which demonstrated the arbitrary nature of the current presidency. Reaffirming that the situation in Nicaragua is in no way a threat to peace and security, whether at the regional or international level, he reiterated that it remains outside the Council’s purview, and is enjoying peace and stability after four months of terrorist activity promoted and financed by external Powers. Turning to the interventions by OAS, he said the bloc is promoting the strategic interests of the United States, and its Secretary General is merely a spokesperson for those interests. The people of Nicaragua have the tools and wisdom to resolve their own internal disputes and decide their own future, he said, noting that the treatment to which that country has been subjected is very similar to that meted out to Venezuela.