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UN experts urge legal action against Ortega regime

Organizations and victims stress that the GHREN report has “the necessary elements for the international community to act.”

Jan-Michael Simon y Angela Buitrago

Jan-Michael Simon y Angela Buitrago, miembros del GHREN, durante su conferencia en Ginebra, Suiza. Foto: Captura de video

Redacción Confidencial

8 de marzo 2023


The Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) urged the international community to take legal action against the Ortega regime to prevent “human rights violations” from escalating into “a humanitarian crisis.” The call was made at an international press conference in which they confirmed the commission of crimes against humanity and extrajudicial executions in Nicaragua.

At the same time, human rights organizations supported GHREN’s call for other countries, under universal jurisdiction, to initiate legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the documented crimes, which include arbitrary detention, torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, arbitrary deprivation of nationality, and violations of the right to remain in one’s own country, as well as violations of the right to participate in public affairs and freedom of expression.

The group, led by German jurist Jan-Michael Simon, expert on criminal investigation and criminal law; former Colombian prosecutor, Angela Maria Buitrago; and Chilean, Alexandro Alvarez, former Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) consultant, recommended that the international community “initiate legal action against the individuals responsible of documented violations, abuses and crimes, in accordance with their domestic legislation,” states the report presented on Thursday. The investigation was ordered by a resolution of the UN Human Rights Council in 2022.

Buitrago indicated that any country can conduct an investigation into documented abuses in Nicaragua. In the case of victims with dual nationality, their nations could activate legal mechanisms in favor of their causes.

“The Group’s call, particularly based on what we found, produces the need to call for action to exercise what is called the “principle of protection,” which means that we can request that the community —which is obliged to prevent these crimes against humanity from being committed— act informally,” explained the Colombian expert.

The group of experts detailed that, in order to perpetrate the multitude of crimes in the last five years, there were “a variety of actors and institutions” that followed the orders emanating from the Presidency, headed by Daniel Ortega, and from the Vice-Presidency, represented by Rosario Murillo.

They confirmed that the Police and pro-government armed groups executed opponents or persons perceived as such, following instructions from national and local authorities or territorial leaders of Ortega’s party. The Ortega and Murillo government ignored the GHREN resolution and also did not respond to any of the letters sent about the investigation.

The state becomes a “weapon of persecution”

“These crimes have been committed for political reasons and are still being committed today. The entire state apparatus has become a weapon of persecution against the population,” stated the group’s president, Jan-Michael Simon.

He commented that they are concerned about the cruelty of the situation in Nicaragua, maintaining that the international community should not wait until the crisis to worsens further, reaching even the point of a humanitarian crisis. “That is what we are talking about bilaterally with other member states.”

Simon explained that the conclusions of the report are based on consuetudinary international criminal law— tribunals established by the United Nations Security Council and which have evaluated specific cases of human rights violations— and that a large number of cases of human rights violations have been reported to the UN Security Council. The vast majority of countries worldwide have ratified the Rome Statute. This provides a sufficient basis to be able to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes under universal jurisdiction.

“The case of Nicaragua is a very serious case, which has not been seen in Central America for a long time, after the signing of the peace accords in the 1990s in the region,” he emphasized.

The Colombian investigator pointed out that, based on the evidence documented and authorized by the victims to the GHREN, any State could verify it to determine criminal responsibility. In Latin America, Argentina began in October 2020 a criminal investigation against Daniel Ortega and the high authorities of his regime to determine whether they committed crimes against humanity.

A light of hope for the relatives

Lizeth Davila, mother of Alvaro Conrado, the first minor killed in the April 2018 massacre, said from Geneva that the GHREN’s report proved, once again, that the Ortega regime committed crimes against humanity and that the Police were involved. The investigation filled her with hope and made her see “a little light” on the very difficult road to justice.

Almost five years after her son’s murder, Davila stressed that the report is proof of the crimes and that it contains “the necessary elements for the international community to act.”

“We are not going to give up. It has been five years, but we continue the struggle, as we have since the first day. We are mothers and losing our children hurts. We are aware and we have been fighting because our children deserve justice. They wanted to silence their voices, but we are the living voices of those victims who were silenced,” emphasized Davila.

Organizations demand action from the international community

Lawyer Juan Carlos Arce, a member of the Nicaragua Lucha Coalition —made up of more than 15 human rights organizations— present in Geneva, joined GHREN’s call to demand “more concrete actions” from the international community in relation to the human rights crisis.

“What is happening in Nicaragua should not and cannot be allowed. It is a very serious situation,” he said on social networks.

Erika Guevara Rosas, director for the Americas of Amnesty International, described the UN report as “forceful.” She emphasized that the specialists recommended the international community to impose sanctions on institutions or individuals involved in crimes against humanity against civilians for political reasons.

Olga Valle, human rights defender and member of the Observatorio Urnas Abiertas, highlighted that the findings of the report confirm the denunciation sustained by civil society organizations about the destruction of the civic and democratic space in Nicaragua.

“We join the recommendation made by GHREN that calls on States to initiate legal action against those responsible for the crimes, as well as to extend sanctions and include human rights guarantees in cooperation and investment projects,” she said.

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.