What's In Blue

Posted Tue 4 Sep 2018

Nicaragua Briefing

Tomorrow (5 September), the US, this month’s Security Council president, is planning to hold a Council meeting on the situation in Nicaragua. A procedural vote to determine whether to convene the meeting is possible. If the meeting is held, briefers are expected to include Gonzalo Koncke, the Chief of Staff of the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) and Felix Maradiaga, a civil society representative.

Nicaragua has experienced significant unrest since a wave of protests began in April over planned changes to the country’s social security system. These protests have been violently repressed, resulting in the deaths of some 300 people. According to the UNHCR, thousands of Nicaraguans have sought asylum in neighbouring Costa Rica since April.

A 29 August report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights documents violations and abuses of international human rights law, including the disproportionate use of force by police, sometimes resulting in extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; widespread arbitrary detentions; torture and ill-treatment; and violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and of peaceful assembly. The team, which produced the report, was expelled from the country on 31 August. Human rights abuses have also been documented by the OAS’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

A resolution adopted by the Permanent Council of the OAS on 18 July urged the government of Nicaragua to support an electoral calendar jointly agreed to in the context of the country’s national dialogue process. Efforts to facilitate a national dialogue in Nicaragua have failed to yield results, however. In a meeting between Secretary-General António Guterres and Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada last week, Guterres insisted on the importance of a truly inclusive national dialogue and expressed the United Nations’ readiness to support this process.

There are strong divisions among members regarding whether it is appropriate to discuss Nicaragua in the Council at the current time. Several Council members expressed their opposition to holding this meeting at a breakfast discussion of Council permanent representatives earlier today to discuss the monthly programme of work and at a rare public meeting on the programme following the breakfast. During the public session, Bolivia, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea signalled their opposition, saying that they do not consider the situation in Nicaragua as a threat to international peace and security.

The other nine Council members supported holding the meeting and presented various perspectives about discussing the issue in the Council. Peru, which had successfully proposed that the meeting be held under the overall agenda item of cooperation with regional organisations, highlighted the obligation by regional organisations to report under article 54 of the UN Charter on the actions they undertake to maintain international peace and security. Several other members supported Peru’s proposal.

A number of the Council members supporting the meeting referred to the potential preventative value of the briefing. In this regard, the UK recalled the powers of the Council under article 34 of the Charter, which empowers the Council to “investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Given that nine members have publicly supported holding the meeting, it is expected to take place even if any of the Council members opposing it call for a procedural vote on whether to convene the meeting. (Nine votes are needed in order to hold the meeting, as the veto does not apply on procedural matters.)

The failure to agree on whether to include Nicaragua on the monthly programme of work led to a highly unusual situation by which the Council was unable to adopt the September provisional programme of work today. Instead, an unofficial calendar of events during the US presidency in September has been circulated.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails