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Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Hold Public Hearing on Colonization of Indigenous Lands in Nicaragua

March 12, 2021
Miskitu villagers on the banks of Rio Coco. November 2018


March 12, 2021, 8:00 AM PT/10:00 AM Nicaragua/ 11:00 AM Washington, DC

Media Contact:
Anuradha Mittal, [email protected]; +1 510-530-5126

  • On March 18, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a public hearing on the impacts of the colonization of Indigenous lands on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua at its 179th Period of Sessions.

  • In 2020 alone, at least 13 Indigenous rights defenders were killed, eight people injured, two people kidnapped, and one community forcibly displaced in the Indigenous territories of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in northeastern Nicaragua, as part of ongoing violent colonization of the region.

  • The public hearing comes after months of growing international pressure on the Nicaraguan government and the private sector to take concrete action against the invasion of Indigenous and Afrodescendant lands on the Caribbean coast.

Oakland, CA — On March 18, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold a public hearing on the impacts of the colonization of Indigenous lands on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Six civil society organizations will participate in the hearing and bring attention to the causes, magnitude, and impacts of colonization of Indigenous territories in northeastern Nicaragua and the drivers of this violence.

The latest information on the violence against Indigenous peoples and land defenders caused by colonization will be communicated at the hearing, as well as  details on the collusion and complicity of the Nicaraguan government and private sector actors involved in gold mining, cattle ranching, and forestry, as revealed in Oakland Institute’s 2020 report, Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution: The Indigenous Struggle for Saneamiento. In 2020, there were 13 killings, eight injuries, two kidnappings, and the forcible displacement of one community in the Indigenous territories of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve alone. This violence has continued as recently as March 4, 2021, when settlers carried out an attack on Mayangna people in the area of Kimak Was, leaving one person injured with five bullet wounds and temporarily kidnapping another person. Community members and civil society organizations will provide testimony on the impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities’ economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, including their ability to maintain access to food sources and clean water, traditional medicine, and relationships with their lands more generally. Participants will also discuss the enduring effects of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, which struck the northern Caribbean coast of Nicaragua in late 2020.

The hearing comes as international pressure on the Nicaraguan government and complicit private enterprises grows to take concrete steps to halt the process of colonization. On February 1, 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders sent a letter to the Nicaraguan government calling for a full investigation of the November 2020 murder of Nacilio Macario, a Mayangna leader who was campaigning against illegal gold mining and forestry operations. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment and the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises endorsed the letter. In late February, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported to the Human Rights Council on Nicaragua and, for the first time, included a section on the situation of Indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples. The High Commissioner denounced the “recurrent invasions and violent attacks by settlers (colonos)” against Indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples and the failure of the Nicaraguan government to adequately investigate the attacks and allegations of local authorities’ collusion in the attacks. The State has also systematically failed to implement the precautionary and provisional measures granted by the IACHR and IACHR Court to one Mayangna and 12 Mískitu Indigenous communities.

Most recently, the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility announced that it was dropping Nicaragua from its portfolio after determining that it will be impossible “to put in place the necessary systems for environmental and social management, monitoring and evaluation, and independent certification of outcomes.” FCPF funding in Nicaragua was set to pay out up to US$55 million for the reduction of deforestation. 

The public hearing will take place from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. EDT on March 18, 2021 and will be held virtually through Zoom and the IACHR Facebook page. The organizations participating in the hearing are the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN), the Center for Legal Assistance to Indigenous Peoples (CALPI), the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights, the Oakland Institute, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The state of Nicaragua has been invited to participate.