Nicaragua: Canal Opponents Denounce Human Rights Violations

"In this country, we’ve been pleading for justice for four years, asking to be listened to, to please repeal the Law that is violating our rights"

HAVANA TIMES – Members of the Farmers’ Movement who are demanding the repeal of Law 840 (the canal concession) took their complaint against the Nicaraguan State to the OAS’s Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. They went to denounce the Nicaraguan government’s repression against their movement.

The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, represented by their legal advisor Gonzalo Carrion, and the Popul Na Foundation, represented by attorney Monica Lopez, accompanied the Rural Movement in the denunciation on Thursday.

The plaintiffs are asking the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to declare that the construction of an Inter-Oceanic Canal in Nicaragua represents a violation of human rights; and as a result, that they order the State to repeal the legislation approving its development.

The farmers consider that Law 840 violates their human rights because in order to construct the megaproject it arbitrarily intervenes in their lands.  According to the government, the project would give an important boost to the country’s economy.

Nothing is known about the actual state of the Canal Project, but the rural residents assert that while the Law remains on the books, the concessionaire, Chinese magnate Wang Jinig, could leave them stripped of their properties.

“We request that the Inter-American [Human Rights] Commission consider the entire community to be victims and offended parties, and that they declare all of those who are here and those who inhabit the Canal route as people whose human rights have been violated. This would then obligate the Nicaraguan State to restore the infringed rights as part of their international responsibility, and to immediately repeal Law 840,” stated Carrion during the press conference.

Anti-canal leader Francisca “Chica” Ramirez recalled that their struggle has been going on for over four years, ever since Law 840 was approved. During that time, the farmers have suffered police repression in around ten of the ninety marches they’ve held.

The most serious police actions left their scars on the people who were fighting to protect their properties. The loss of an eye and lifelong lesions are only some of the wounds inflicted by the Nicaraguan State, according to the complaint.

“In this country, we’ve been pleading for justice for four years, [asking] to be listened to, to please repeal the Law that is violating our rights. We’ve asked them to respect the human rights of all Nicaraguans, but it’s been just the opposite: the Nicaraguan State has responded to us by sending riot police to abuse us over, to repress us. Although we have a Constitution that gives us the right to freedom of movement, the Nicaraguan State has impeded us from exercising this right in 90 marches. [They tell us] not to march, not to protest. And we’ve always remained ready for the struggle, saying that we ask for justice. But today is a day when we put our hopes in the idea that, while we haven’t achieved justice, we’ll get there,” said Ramírez.

The process of requesting a ruling from the Commission is a long one. For example, in the case of Maria Luisa Acosta, the environmental activist who filed a complaint against the Nicaraguan State for the death of her husband, Francisco Garcia, it took two years before a resolution was emitted.

In that case, the Nicaraguan State was found at fault and ordered to repair the damages caused to Acosta through economic reparations for her and the Human Rights organizations that accompanied her.

In the view of Monica Lopez, the lawyer, the erosion of trust in the Nicaraguan judicial system is what obliged them to take other measures to demand the repeal of the Law.

“The Nicaraguan legal system has failed the people, has failed the farmers’ movement. We’ve gone to every one of these bodies to initiate the established institutional processes to guarantee the rights of these communities. The response that we’ve obtained is not only to close the doors of the corresponding institutional routes, but also to unleash repression and aggression,” she stated.

The plaintiffs will continue their struggle on a national level while their request is being processed in the Commission. On August 15, in the community of La Fonseca, they’ll hold March #91 against the Inter-oceanic Canal.

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