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Briefing Notes: Nicaragua, Egypt and Mexico

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville Location: Geneva


1) Nicaragua

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is issuing a press release today warning that if the arrests and convictions of people expressing dissenting opinions continue in Nicaragua, current efforts to start dialogue to solve the political and social unrest in the country could be seriously undermined.

Over the last six months, several hundred people - including peasant leaders, students, former politicians, journalists and civil society activists - have been arrested and held in pre-trial detention for long periods in connection with their alleged roles during the protests between April and July 2018.

Since December, amid rising concerns about the independence of the judiciary, various criminal courts in Managua have handed down guilty verdicts and extremely heavy sentences to a number of prominent opposition or community leaders, some of whom had cooperated with the UN and helped to highlight human rights abuses in Nicaragua.

2) Egypt

We are very concerned by the news from Egypt that a total of 15 people have been executed so far in the month of February, including nine people who were executed on Wednesday and six others who were subjected to the death penalty earlier in the month.

On 20 February, nine individuals were executed in a case related to the killing of Egypt’s General Prosecutor, Hisham Barakat. During the trial, detailed accounts of the torture allegedly used to obtain confessions were apparently ignored by the court without due consideration.

A week earlier, on 13 February, three other individuals, convicted of the assassination of a police officer, General Nabil Farrag, were hanged, and a week before that, on 7 February, three men were executed in connection with the murder of the son of a judge. All of them had claimed before the courts that they had been disappeared, or detained incommunicado for prolonged periods, and were subjected to torture in order to make them confess to the crimes.

There is significant cause for concern that due process and fair trial guarantees may not have been followed in some or all of these cases, and that the very serious allegations concerning the use of torture were not properly investigated.

In countries that still permit the death penalty, trials in cases of capital punishment must meet the highest standards of fairness and due process in order to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice resulting in innocent people being deprived of their right to life. In particular, confessions obtained under torture must be excluded from the trial.

Over the past few years, there has been a succession of cases of individuals being convicted in similar circumstances in Egypt amid disturbing reports of a lack of due legal process. A number of these individuals, having exhausted all legal proceedings, are currently on death row and at imminent risk of execution.

The allegations made by the defendants and their lawyers are particularly disturbing given that on 23 June 2017, after a four-year confidential inquiry under article 20 of the Convention Against Torture, the Committee against Torture concluded that torture is “practised systematically” in Egypt.

We urge the Egyptian authorities to halt all executions; conduct a review of all pending cases involving the death penalty, in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations; conduct credible, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture; and take all necessary measures to ensure that violations of due process and fair trial are not repeated.

We expressed similar concerns just one year ago, on 5 January 2018, after 20 people were executed in a single week.

3) Mexico

Our office in Mexico has the revised text of the National Peace and Security Plan, and is in the process of analysing it. We understand the important security challenges facing Mexico and the complexity of addressing the various causes of the endemic violence that has been afflicting the country for many years.

Our office has been very involved in discussions with the authorities on the National Peace and Security Plan, and we made our views clear about certain issues we perceived as problematic, including in three presentations before the Congress and Senate. We will have to see to what extent our views have been taken into account before commenting further.

The High Commissioner has a meeting scheduled with the Foreign Minister of Mexico,Marcelo Ebrard, and the Undersecretary for Multi-lateral Affairs and Human Rights, Martha Delgado, during the Human Rights Council next week here in Geneva. I can also now confirm she will make a visit to the country in early April, at the invitation of the Government. We’re optimistic that we can continue to find common ground in the effort to improve the human rights situation in the country.

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