Nicaragua: Money Laundering Law Further Restricts the Functioning of Civil Society

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The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its concern on Monday about the entry into force last Friday of a new law in Nicaragua that limits “even more” the functioning of civil society.

According to Office spokeswoman Liz Throssell, the legislation, which is intended to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing in principle, further represses civic space.

“The provisions of the law make it difficult for non-governmental organizations to registerforcing them to seek government approval for their activities, and impose new information requirements, such as detailing funding sources, financial statements, activities, and beneficiaries,” he detailed.

The spokeswoman also highlighted the vagueness of the norm, adding that it does not define exactly what the prohibition of “making political proselytism and partisan politics” consists of.

Possible restrictions on freedom of expression and association

Throssell explained that the decree also moves in ambiguous terrain by defining “a maximum quota of 25% of foreign “members” for any organization”, a situation that, in his opinion, “severely restricts” the right of foreigners residing in the country to enjoy freedom of expression and association.

“We fear that these restrictions will have the effect of restricting freedom of expression and association of any organization that wants to be critical of the government”, he highlighted.

At the same time, he described as “even more worrying” the fact that the legislation entered into force the same week that the National Assembly stripped 50 civil society organizations of legal personality for an “alleged breach of other provisions of the legislation national”.

Since 2018, at least 209 organizations have been closed in Nicaragua, 137 of them during the current year. Among the groups affected are the main Nicaraguan NGOs that fight for human rights, including those that work for the rights of women and those of indigenous peoples, and others that work in the areas of education and development, as well as medical associations.

Similarly, the legal personality of at least twelve universities, which are currently under government control, was annulled.

“As the High Commissioner recommends, it is crucial that the Nicaraguan authorities stop the improper cancellations and restore the legal personality of all organizations, political parties and media outlets that have been arbitrarily shut down”, he requested.

Lastly, he urged the authorities to return all improperly seized goods, documents and equipment.

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