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Ortega expels Thomas Ess, head of mission for the International Committee of the Red Cross

The ICRC confirmed that they received a letter from the Government informing them that they are withdrawing their “approval” of the Chief of Mission

Redacción Confidencial

29 de marzo 2022


The regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo ordered the expulsion of Thomas Ess, Chief of Mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the only international organization that would have access to visit political prisoners in the different prisons of Nicaragua.

“The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that it received a letter in which the Government of Nicaragua notifies that it decided to withdraw their approval of our Chief of Mission of Nicaragua,” the ICRC told Confidencial.

The ICRC said they received the letter at the beginning of this week, but they do not know the government’s reasons for this decision which “took them by surprise.”

The untimely withdrawal of the Ortega-Murillo regime’s “approval” comes a week after the ICRC’s Regional Chief for Mexico and Central America, Jordi Raich, received, at the hands of Ortega’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, the order “José de Marcoleta, in the rank of Grand Cross,” for having maintained “respectful collaboration” and a “vision of accompaniment to the Government’s priorities.”

The expulsion of the ICRC Chief of Mission was added to that of the Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, representative of the Holy See in Nicaragua, on March 6. The Vatican confirmed, on March 12, that they received “the communication from the Government of Nicaragua with surprise and pain” in which they indicate that they “withdraw their approval” of Sommertag, ordering he “leave the country immediately” after notification of the measure.

Sommertag assumed his post in Nicaragua in 2018, precisely, in the year of the outbreak of protests against the Ortega regime. In 2019, as a representative of the Vatican, he even participated as a “witness and companion” of the National Dialogue table, which at that time the Government agree to have with the Nicaraguan opposition. The priest, although he did not always disclose his efforts, worked “in pro of national reconciliation and the release of political prisoners.”

ICRC continues to operate in Nicaragua

The ICRC spokesperson told Confidencial that, despite the withdrawal of Ess, who is already out of the country, “the ICRC office in Nicaragua continues to operate.”

She also indicated that as an organization they ratify “their commitment to continue their humanitarian work in Nicaragua, adhering to their principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.”

Since March 2019, the ICRC has carried out a monitoring mission of political prisoners and released prisoners in Nicaragua, to guarantee that international humanitarian standards are respected, at the request of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, following the dialogue that the Ortega-Murillo regime accepted on that date with different sectors of the opposition.

Currently, in Nicaragua, there are more than 170 political prisoners in different prisons of the country. Relatives of the prisoners held in the El Chipote police complex have denounced the constant deterioration of the health of their imprisoned relatives, who have lost weight due to malnutrition, lack of medical attention, scarce access to the yard and sun hours, prolonged isolation, and inhumane conditions in their cells.

Earlier this week, relatives of prisoners of conscience imprisoned in El Chipote said the ICRC requested the regime allow them to enter El Chipote to find out the situation of political prisoners, but the authorities have denied them access.

“The last information we had is that the ICRC has been systematically denied access to (El Chipote) in spite of having made several requests,” said Ana Lucía Alvarez, sister of political prisoner Tamara Davila, in a press conference held on March 21 by relatives of political prisoners.

Alvarez also recalled that “the ICRC fulfills a humanitarian mandate, which is to corroborate the state and condition of our relatives, as well as the conditions in which they are being held,” thus far disallowed by the government at El Chipote.

The ICRC, in compliance with its mandate, does not publicly report on its actions or visits it makes to political prisoners. Only the relatives of each prisoner of conscience, who have previously requested the ICRC’s efforts, have access to any information it collects. While El Chipote is off bounds, visits to other prisons are previously arranged with the Government, which decides whether to grant authorization.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times



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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.