COMMITTEE ON THE
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination
The fifth, sixth,
seventh, eighth and ninth periodic reports of Nicaragua, submitted in one
document (CERD/C/277/Add.1), were considered by the Committee at its 1110th
and 1111th meetings, held on 7 and 8 August 1995 (see CERD/C/SR.1110 and
The report was
introduced by the representative of the State party, who referred to the
tragic events that had affected his country, in particular the political
struggles that had given rise to civil wars and dictatorships. With the
election in 1990 of Mrs. Chamorro, the candidate of a coalition of 14 political
parties, Nicaragua had embarked on a process of transition towards economic
and social reconstruction, strengthening of democracy and national reconciliation.
To that end, the main programmes being implemented by the authorities related
to combating poverty, decentralization and encouraging the establishment
of small- and medium-sized businesses. The process was fraught with difficulties,
however, due to the country's poor economic and social situation, with the
highest rate of external indebtedness in the world, a very low GDP and a
very high birth rate (3.7 per cent).
Article 5 of the
1987 Constitution, amended in 1995, enshrined the principle of political,
social and ethnic pluralism, by recognizing for the first time the existence
of indigenous populations who thus enjoyed constitutional rights and guarantees,
in particular the right to preserve their identity and their culture, to
adopt their own social structure and administer their local affairs and
to maintain community forms of land ownership, enjoyment and use. Article
121 of the Constitution stipulated that the indigenous populations of the
Atlantic Coast regions were entitled to a multicultural education in their
region. Most of the ethnic groups in Nicaragua lived in the two Atlantic
Coast regions and were composed chiefly of mestizos, Miskitos, Creoles,
Sumus and Ramas. Those regions were the least densely populated in the country,
with a population that was 35 per cent urban and 40 per cent rural, with
the rest living in scattered areas.
The legal system
set up by the authorities in 1986 to protect the minorities in accordance
with the Convention was described in detail in the report, in particular
the relevant provisions of the Constitution and Act No. 28, the Autonomy
Statute of the Atlantic Coast Regions of Nicaragua. The latter provided
for the establishment of Governments of the Autonomous Regions, comprising
a Regional Council, a Regional Coordinator and municipal and communal authorities,
with decision-making power regarding the use of natural resources.
Thanking the representative
of Nicaragua for the additional information he had provided in introducing
the report, the Committee expressed its satisfaction at the resumption of
dialogue with Nicaragua, but noted with regret that the report did not contain
specific information on the implementation of the anti-racial-discrimination
legislation and the Convention. The Committee reminded the representative
of Nicaragua that regularity in submitting periodic reports under the Convention
(every two years) was essential for an effective dialogue with the Committee.
general part of the report, the members of the Committee requested more
information on the composition and operation of the Nicaraguan Institute
for the Development of the Autonomous Regions (INDERA) and up-to-date information
on the indigenous populations, in particular their composition, geographic
location and economic situation, throughout the territory of the country.
The members of the Committee pointed out that the report contained information
on the ethnic minorities of the Atlantic Coast only and asked about the
other minorities and indigenous groups living in Nicaragua, especially those
on the Pacific coast. They also asked about the status of international
conventions, in particular the International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in Nicaraguan domestic law.
With regard to
article 2 of the Convention, the members of the Committee asked for further
information on the policies implemented to combat all forms of racial discrimination.
Concerning article 2, paragraph 2, they also asked for more information
on the effective functioning and strengthening of the powers of the two
Regional Councils set up by the 1987 Autonomy Statute, especially with regard
to conservation and use of natural resources and to their degree of political
and administrative autonomy with respect to the central government in Managua.
Information was also requested on the situation of the special fund for
social development and progress provided for the two Autonomous Regions
and on the amount of financial resources allocated annually by the central
authorities to the operating budgets of the autonomous governments. They
also asked for further information on the draft legislation to be prepared,
in consultation with the indigenous populations concerned, on the rational
use and conservation of the natural resources of the autonomous regions.
noted that the information provided in connection with article 3 of the
Convention was inadequate, inasmuch as practices identical to apartheid
continued to exist in several parts of the world. The members of the Committee
therefore asked for additional information on the measures taken by the
authorities under article 3 of the Convention.
With regard to
article 4 of the Convention, in view of the lack of information in the written
report, the members of the Committee asked for further details on the positive
legislative steps taken by the authorities, especially in the criminal sphere,
to make all forms of racial discrimination punishable offences; in that
connection, they asked the representative of Nicaragua whether the Statute
on the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans, mentioned in the previous report,
article 22 of which prohibited all propaganda against peace and any advocacy
of national, racial or religious hatred, was still in force, and if so,
whether it was applied and in what context.
Noting the lack
of information on article 5 of the Convention in the report, the Committee
asked for additional information on the steps taken to implement that article,
in particular the measures adopted, and their application, to ensure the
equality of all before the law and the exercise of political, civil, economic,
social and cultural rights by everyone, without discrimination.
6 of the Convention, the members of the Committee asked for explanations
of the steps taken by the authorities to facilitate the return and resettlement
of the members of indigenous groups who had fled to Honduras and Costa Rica
during the hostilities, in particular long-term measures; they also asked
for information on the functioning of the judicial bodies in the Autonomous
Regions and on the administration of justice in general in those regions,
which according to article 18 of the Autonomy Statute was governed by special
regulations. They also asked what remedies were available in cases of racial
discrimination. Information was also requested on the establishment of the
Human Rights Advocate and on his powers and functions.
with article 7 of the Convention, the members of the Committee asked what
were the "cases specified by law" in which, according to article
11 of the Constitution, "the languages of the communities of the Atlantic
Coast region of Nicaragua shall also be used officially". Since the
relationship of the indigenous peoples of the Atlantic Coast with their
land was basic to their culture, the members of the Committee asked what
was the area of the inalienable lands of those groups and requested details
of the provisions governing the mineral resources found on them.
In response to
the questions and comments by members of the Committee, it was said by the
representative of the State party that the Nicaraguan Institute for the
Development of the Autonomous Regions (INDERA) had recently been disbanded,
firstly because its main function, to bridge the gap between the national
Government and the Atlantic Coast autonomous regions, was no longer relevant
as regional governments and councils had been consolidated, and secondly
because the management of the Institute was primarily handled by representatives
of the Misquito community, thus leading to discontent among the members
of other ethnic groups who felt they were not adequately represented. He
said that there were various indigenous communities in the Pacific coast
regions, with populations of between 14,000 and 28,000 inhabitants, but
in general those indigenous populations had been assimilated into the local
community, thereby losing their traditional cultures and customs.
specific questions regarding the exploitation of natural resources in the
autonomous regions, the representative of the State party said that the
central Government issued the licences, which were subject to the approval
of the Regional Councils. The regional territory could not be yielded without
the prior approval of the Regional Councils, the resulting disputes between
the State and the Regional Councils being dealt with by the Supreme Court
added that concerning the bilingual inter-ethnic education programme, teachers,
instructors and leaders and representatives of indigenous communities were
directly involved in its implementation, which had covered 13,000 children
between pre-school age and the fourth grade of primary school, in 1992.
A bilingual teacher training centre had been set up in Puerto Cabezas in
the North Atlantic Coast region. He added that in the autonomous regions,
the languages spoken by the indigenous communities were used officially
in the administrative organs of the regions, in addition to Spanish; translations
of employment contracts and collective agreements must be guaranteed and
all staff involved in the administration of justice and law enforcement
officials must be able to understand the languages spoken by all parties
involved in a dispute. In the field of technical education, the Nicaraguan
Institute of Technology and a number of indigenous organizations had organized
between 40 and 50 courses aimed at job creation and the enhancement of technical
skills, particularly for the benefit of demobilized persons, returnees and
women heads of household, in about 60 indigenous communities. Some 300 people
had participated in workshops designed to encourage the launching of small-scale
projects and micro-enterprises.
said that his Government had allocated funds through the Emergency Social
Investment Fund (FISE), which had been promoting the development of economic
and social infrastructures such as bridges, roads, waterways, educational
buildings, health centres and in reforestation programmes. The Nicaraguan
Institute of Energy, with foreign assistance, had invested US$ 5 million
in the previous two years in new electric power plants designed to improve
energy distribution in urban centres such as Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas.
in the autonomous regions, the Ministry of Tourism was preparing cultural
and environment-friendly tourism programmes, in which members of the communities
were trained to run the projects, and advisory services were available for
the launching of community-based initiatives.
said that a Commission on Ethnic Affairs and Indigenous Communities had
been set up in the National Assembly, all its members being from the indigenous
population; this Commission had prepared the Nicaraguan Plan of Action for
the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, comprising several
themes and activities each year until the year 2004.
At the same time,
the representative emphasized that it was impossible to redress in such
a short period of time the consequences of civil wars, foreign occupation,
dictatorship, natural disasters and negligence on the part of the central
involvement in the international and interregional protection of the rights
of minorities, the representative said that Managua was the headquarters
of the Indigenous Parliament of America, which recently held the eleventh
Inter-American Indigenous Congress, during which the Managua Declaration
was adopted; the Declaration noted the urgency of recognizing the tenure
of land belonging to the continent's indigenous populations, of establishing
coordinating machinery between States and indigenous populations to facilitate
decision-making on matters concerning those populations, and of involving
indigenous peoples in all aspects of political, legal, economic and social
life. Nicaragua had actively participated in the activities of the Working
Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination
and Protection of Minorities since its establishment in 1982 and it also
supported the drafting of a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
thanked the representative for the supplementary information provided, but
noted that the delegation had failed to explain how it was complying with
article 4 of the Convention.
At its 1124th
meeting, held on 16 August 1995, the Committee adopted the following concluding
expressed for the resumption of the dialogue between Nicaragua and the Committee,
and for the detailed and frank report submitted by the State party. It is
however regretted that the report provided insufficient factual information,
especially with regard to the implementation of the Convention and the related
domestic legislation. The delegation which presented the report is commended
for the useful additional information provided orally, in response to the
questions raised and comments made by the Committee members, and its commitment
to provide the Committee with written answers is most welcome.
The armed conflict
raging in the country during the past decade, in which the indigenous populations
were, willingly or unwillingly, used as political, military and strategic
tools, dominated the overall human rights picture of the country, and still
has some consequences for the full enjoyment of human rights by all Nicaraguans,
together with the political problems of governance and economic crisis,
which still persist.
It is noted that
the State party has not made the declaration provided for in article 14
of the Convention, and some members of the Committee requested that the
possibility of such a declaration be considered.
of 1987, which recognizes for the first time the multi-ethnic character
of the Nicaraguan population and grants to all persons the enjoyment of
the rights proclaimed in various international and regional instruments,
is welcomed. Other encouraging developments include the provisions of the
same constitution and of Act No. 28 of 1987, known as the Autonomy Statute,
which establishes a special regime of autonomy for two regions of the Atlantic
coast of Nicaragua where most of the ethnic minorities and the indigenous
groups live. The Autonomy Statute recognizes and guarantees, among other
things, the communal form of land ownership of the peoples of the two autonomous
regions and their right to education in their own language.
welcomes the constitutional amendments of 1995, especially the provisions
which emphasize the ethnic pluralism of Nicaragua and reinforce the rights
of the indigenous populations and other ethnic groups of the Atlantic coast,
including the right of the regional councils to approve agreements for the
exploitation of their natural resources.
The adoption of
the Amparo Act in 1988, providing for the right to habeas corpus in the
constitutional, administrative and criminal spheres, and the statement made
in the report that cultural, social and other factors are taken into account
when members of the indigenous communities are tried, are both welcomed.
Note is taken with appreciation of articles 549 and 550 of the Criminal
Code, inspired by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide.
in 1990 and 1994 of the two Regional Councils, which are granted important
functions and powers by the Autonomy Act of 1987, in particular with regard
to the conclusion of agreements between the regional and central governments
on rational use and exploitation of the regions' natural resources, are
noted with satisfaction, as is the constitutional provision of 1995 to enact
a new and more complete law for the autonomous regions.
It is noted with
appreciation that efforts are being made by the authorities to set up a
multi-lingual education system in favour of the indigenous communities,
and that, in accordance with Act. No 162, indigenous languages besides Spanish
are of official use in the autonomous regions.
in the constitutional reforms of 1995 of the Office of Human Rights Ombudsman
to inquire into human rights violations and to monitor the implementation
of international human rights instruments ratified by Nicaragua, such as
the Convention, is welcomed.
The efforts made
by the State party, in cooperation with the United Nations, to arrange the
repatriation and the resettlement of the Miskitos, Sumus and Creoles who
fled to neighbouring countries during the civil conflict, are commended.
subjects of concern
Concern is expressed
as to the status of the Convention in the domestic legal order of Nicaragua
and the lack of information about this in the report and during the oral
It is noted with
concern that the State party has not implemented the provisions of article
4 of the Convention, which call for the adoption of positive measures and
specific penal legislation to combat racial discrimination.
of economic and social rights is a matter of continuous concern, in particular
as the so-called structural adjustment measures and the privatization of
State property have had negative consequences on the enjoyment of the economic,
social and cultural rights of the Nicaraguan people, especially on its most
vulnerable sectors and among them the indigenous communities.
It is regretted
that insufficient information was provided on the implementation of articles
5 and 6 of the Convention, in particular on specific provisions of the domestic
legislation adopted to implement these articles and on the number of complaints
of racial discrimination brought before the courts.
Concern is expressed
at the ratio of communal land to private land in the autonomous regions,
with particular regard to the mining rights and at inequalities in the sharing
of the benefits of the exploitation of natural resources in the autonomous
territories between the regional and the central authorities.
is expressed at the lack of adequate consultation with the regional authorities
in the decision-making process by the central authorities, thus leading
to insufficient participation of the indigenous groups in decisions affecting
their land and the allocation of the natural resources of their land, their
cultures and their traditions.
recommends that the State party implement the obligations under the provisions
of article 4 of the Convention.
In view of the
importance of measures in the fields of teaching, education, culture and
information to combat prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and
to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among racial and ethnical
groups, the Committee recommends that the State party takes all necessary
measures in those fields in accordance with article 7 of the Convention.
recommends that, in its policy-making on matters relating to racial discrimination
at large, the Government take into account the general recommendations adopted
by the Committee, including those relating to the establishment of a national
commission for the purpose of facilitating the aims and purposes of the
Convention (general recommendation XVII (42)) and to the training of law
enforcement officers (general recommendation XIII (42)).
recommends that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph
6, of the Convention, adopted by the fourteenth meeting of States parties.
recommends that the State party's tenth periodic report, due on 17 March
1997, be a comprehensive report.