Democracy's downward spiral continues in Latin AmericaIACHR Expresses Concern over Removal of Opposition Legislators in Nicaragua
August 8, 2016Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern regarding the removal from office of opposition legislators in Nicaragua, and urges the State to adopt any measures that may be necessary to ensure the free exercise of political rights in the country.
According to the information received, on July 28, 2016, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) decided to unseat all legislators who did not accept Pedro Reyes as leader of the Partido Liberal Independiente (PLI).
On July 30, the Executive Board of the National Assembly acted on the CSE decision to unseat the 16 regular deputies and 12 alternates who belonged to that political party, on grounds that they had refused to recognize Judgment 299 of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, which removed Eduardo Montealegre as the PLI’s legal representative and replaced him with Pedro Reyes. With this decision, individuals elected by popular vote to hold office as deputies of the National Assembly were replaced by means of a judicial decision issued in the political context of an election year. General elections in Nicaragua are scheduled for November 6 of this year.
The right to vote means that citizens can decide for themselves and freely elect, under conditions of equality, those who will represent them in decision-making on public affairs, and political participation through the exercise of the right to be elected implies that citizens can run as candidates under conditions of equality and that they can hold elective public office if they win the required number of votes.
The inter-American human rights system, through decisions of the Inter-American Commission and Court, has established that citizens have the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs through freely chosen representatives. The right to vote is one of the essential elements for the existence of democracy and one of the ways citizens exercise their right to political participation.
As the Inter-American Commission and Court have indicated, the American Convention on Human Rights establishes that the full scope of political rights may not be restricted in such a way that their regulation or the decisions adopted in application of this regulation prevent people from participating effectively in the governance of the State or cause this participation to become illusory, depriving such rights of their essential content. Instituting and applying requirements for exercising political rights is not, per se, an undue restriction of political rights, as these rights are not absolute and may be subject to limitations. However, in a democratic society the regulation of these rights should respect the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality.
Based on the foregoing, if the decision to remove the legislators from office means that authorities elected by the mandate of the vote cannot serve out the terms for which they were elected, this decision could constitute an undue restriction on the exercise of political rights. In this regard, the Commission urges the State to create the appropriate conditions and mechanisms so that political rights can be exercised effectively, respecting the principle of equality and non-discrimination. The IACHR also recommends that the State adopt the measures necessary to guarantee due respect for the powers of political adversaries who have been elected and invested with the people’s mandate.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.