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UN Experts denounce “Widespread Persecution in Nicaragua”

“Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo, and senior state officials must be subjected to judicial investigations for their responsibility in crimes”

Informe del Grupo de Expertos de la ONU denuncia persecución generalizada y crímenes de lesa humanidad en Nicaragua

Redacción Confidencial

3 de marzo 2024


Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have increased repression in the last year to all those who are perceived as opposition or “not sufficiently loyal” to the Sandinista regime, states the Group of Experts on Human Rights in Nicaragua (GHREN), in a new report to the United Nations, presented on February 29, 2024.

“President Daniel Ortega, Vice President Rosario Murillo, and identified senior state officials must be subjected to judicial investigations for their possible responsibility in the crimes, violations, and abuses described and discussed in this report and in the Group’s first report. Nicaragua must also be held accountable for its possible state responsibility,” the report concludes.

The experts point out that in the past year, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo extended repression to the entire population perceived as opposition or “not sufficiently loyal” to the Sandinista regime.

“They carried out ‘illegal acts’ with the intention of ‘ensuring, through the violation of a multitude of human rights, the elimination of any threat these individuals might pose’,” the experts note.

Furthermore, they analyzed in detail patterns of violations and abuses, impunity, and individual criminal responsibilities, describing the organized power structure of the repressive State and its chains of command.

Among the actions classified as crimes against humanity, are the exile and statelessness of 317 Nicaraguans. “These crimes were perpetrated in the context of a discriminatory policy (…) intentionally applied from the highest levels of the Government, constituting prima facie the crime against humanity of persecution for political reasons.”

Widespread Persecution Extends to Children

Among Ortega and Murillo’s victims are members of different sectors of society including priests, seminarians, journalists, judicial employees, judges, indigenous leaders, students, members of civil society organizations, and political and peasant movements.

“All of them were real or perceived opponents of the Government,” they emphasize, adding that the families of these individuals were also “victimized simply for being related to government targets.”

GHREN documented persecution against relatives of regime victims, including children, who were discriminated against and had their rights violated due to their parents’ activities or opinions.

“The children have been separated from their parents, who were expelled or denied entry into Nicaragua, and apparently because the children were also denied a valid passport to reunite with their parents,” they denounce.

Lack of Resources and Government Ignoring UN Experts

This is the second report of the Group of Experts, composed of German jurist and group president Jan-Michael Simon, an expert in Criminal Investigation and Criminal Law; former Colombian prosecutor Angela Maria Buitrago; and Uruguayan lawyer Ariela Peralta Distefano. All were appointed by the President of the UN Human Rights Council, and they worked voluntarily as independent experts, supported by a secretariat composed of UN officials. The UN Council renewed their mandate in April 2023, for two more years.

GHREN highlights that this report was possible despite delays in hiring a significant part of the secretariat staff with the necessary expertise, as well as the reduction of essential resources to fulfill the group’s mandate.

Ortega’s dictatorship rejected the report on the grounds that the experts relied on “inputs from manipulated criteria, from people funded to distort reality.”

Prosecutor Wendy Morales, speaking via video call, affirmed that GHREN “follows the same narrative as those who oppose” Ortega’s government, therefore any report or update “lacks credibility.”

The Group presented a first report in March 2023, which was also rejected by the Ortega regime. For this new document, they sent several communications between August 2 and November 22, 2023, but again, there was no response from the president. They even sent him a copy of the report. “The Government continues to refuse to engage and cooperate with the Group,” they lament.

In December 2018, the dictatorship also rejected the report of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), who were expelled after months of work in Nicaragua.

Impunity Extended to Foreign Jurisdictions

In the new report, the Group of Experts states that they advanced in identifying the structure and chains of command within various institutions, organs, and agencies of the State, as well as in identifying the alleged direct perpetrators of violations, abuses, and crimes.

“The Group identified that the president (Ortega) and the vice president (Murillo) give orders and instructions —directly or through trusted advisors— to the different institutions tasked with carrying out repressive acts against real or perceived opponents and their families,” they affirm.

The experts maintain that the State of Nicaragua is “responsible for serious, systematic, and widespread violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international law for political reasons.”

Among these violations is the failure to “fulfill its international obligations under the 1961 Convention to reduce statelessness.”]

“Nicaragua violates, in particular, Article 9 of the Convention, which establishes the absolute prohibition for States that are Parties [to the Convention] to deprive a person or group of persons of their nationality for racial, ethnic, religious, or political reasons, a prohibition that can be considered an obligation for all parties”,” the report states.

They also point out that the State “has implemented and applied a plan or policy aimed at repressing any form of dissent by attacking real or supposed opponents in order to maintain power.”

The Group reiterates that the “instrumentalization of all state powers,” especially the Judiciary, has prevented proceedings from being initiated against the perpetrators of repression. Rather, it has protected them from accountability with the amnesty law, passed in June 2019.

They also add that impunity extends to cases presented before foreign jurisdictions. Such was the case with the murder of Brazilian medical student Rayneia Lima. The Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office informed Lima’s mother’s lawyers “that the Nicaraguan Government had refused to accede to the Brazilian authorities’ request for international legal assistance,” when then asked to see the file of her daughter’s killer. The reason given was that the perpetrator was released under amnesty.

Entry Denied to 145 Nicaraguans, Crimes Identified

The experts documented 145 cases of Nicaraguans who were denied entry into the country. This act shows a pattern that violates the right to freedom of movement and the free choice of residence, and in turn, leaves the victims in conditions of great vulnerability similar to those caused by statelessness.

“The practice of the Nicaraguan State of denying its nationals entry into the territory of their country of nationality may also constitute a violation of the principle of international law according to which a State cannot deny its own nationals the right of entry or residence,” they explain.

Moreover, they were not only exiled but also stripped of their civic and political rights “and suffered numerous violations of their social and economic rights, all while they were outside Nicaragua in an already vulnerable state.”

Over 600 Victims Confirm Violations and Abuses

The Group of Experts indicates that they were able to gather, corroborate, and analyze information and evidence to establish facts and circumstances of serious human rights violations, despite the lack of cooperation from the Ortega Government and “the increasing concerns for the safety of victims, witnesses, and sources of information.”

In the process, they conducted 642 interviews with victims of state repression. Some of these were conducted remotely, but there were 11 conducted “on the ground.” GHREN also examined hundreds of secondary sources to corroborate and contextualize the collected information. And they ensure that they rigorously evaluated “these sources to determine their reliability.”

They also interviewed 73 of the 222 political prisoners who were exiled to the United States. “All the victims corroborated the patterns of mistreatment detailed in the Group’s first report, which, in many cases, reached the threshold of torture.”

The UN group identified a list of 20 violations and abuses perpetrated by the dictatorship against opponents and perceived opponents. These are 20 of the violated rights, the last three against children’s rights:

  1. Non-discrimination
  2. Right not to be subjected to torture
  3. Liberty and security of the person
  4. Fair trial and due process guarantees
  5. Effective remedy
  6. Freedom of movement
  7. Right to nationality
  8. Recognition of legal personality
  9. Right not to be subject to interference in private and family life
  10. Freedom of opinion and expression
  11. Freedom of conscience and religion
  12. Peaceful assembly
  13. Freedom of association
  14. Participation in public affairs
  15. Education and academic freedom
  16. Work
  17. Social Security and an adequate standard of living
  18. Not to be subjected to discrimination of any kind, regardless of the political or other opinions of the child or its parents;
  19. To protect their identity, including nationality, name, and family relationships recognized by law, without unlawful interference;
  20. Not to be separated from their parents without judicial review and due process.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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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.