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Universal Jurisdiction Can Punish Nicaragua’s Ortega Regime

Human Rights Watch official points out that the international community must “seek alternatives” to stop the impunity Ortega supporters operate with

Riot officers beat protesters during an “express picket” on Carretera a Masaya, in July 2019. Photo: Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

15 de septiembre 2023

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The call by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, to the UN Human Rights Council to prosecute crimes against humanity in Nicaragua, through the principle of universal jurisdiction, is a call to action and “the most appropriate way” to stop the impunity with which the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo opeates, said Juan Pappier, acting deputy director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The international community must “look for alternatives” in the case of Nicaragua, he warned in an interview he gave to the program Esta Noche.


Pappier said the high commissioner’s proposal is “the path that must be explored now,” since unfortunately the Sandinista Government cannot be taken to the International Criminal Court, because it is not a State party.

However, universal jurisdiction allows for the investigation of “facts that are so serious that it supersedes whether they occurred in the country where they are being investigated, or whether the victims are from that country, or whether the perpetrator is from that country. A crime against humanity committed in Nicaragua by Nicaraguans and against Nicaraguans can be investigated, because universal values are at stake here,” Pappier said.

Both the Interdisciplinary Group of Experts, of the Organization of American States, and the Group of Experts on Human Rights, of the UN Human Rights Council, have concluded that “crimes against humanity are committed in Nicaragua.” Therefore, they maintain that States that adhere to international jurisdiction can initiate proceedings against the Ortega-Murillo regime.

“It would be important for these investigations to be carried out in Latin America to prevent the Nicaraguan regime to continue with this absurd story that it is a victim of imperialism. The Government of Nicaragua is not a victim of anything, only Nicaraguans are victims of its ruthless repression,” Pappier stressed.

Experts suggest reviewing cooperation

Along the same lines, the UN Group of Experts presented an update report on Nicaragua this week and urged the international community to review economic cooperation and expand sanctions on individuals and institutions involved in human rights violations.

Pappier believes the recommendations of this Group of Experts are “crucial”, since there are international organizations, such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, that continue to provide funds to the regime, despite the repeated violations of the human rights of the Nicaraguans.

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“The money that the Central American Bank gives to Nicaragua is immense, and there is no serious control over the use of that money,” Pappier stated.

“We should pay close attention to who will be Dante Mossi’s successor, when the new president of the Bank is chosen in the last months of 2023,” he added.

He pointed out that it is important for this Group of Experts to rule on Nicaragua, to investigate the situation in the country and to motivate other States to carry out criminal investigations, under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

“We will surely have their report this year or early next year. That is to be expected. And I think it will be very important because the two topics that they have chosen, both the Army and corruption, are very serious topics in Nicaragua and that have not been explored or investigated in much detail until now,” he stressed.

A “categorical” report

Regarding the report presented this week by the UN High Commissioner, Pappier called it “categorical” regarding the complaints about the closure of civic spaces in Nicaragua, citizen expulsions from the country, violations of due process, and physical and psychological torture.

Furthermore, “the high commissioner gave a very powerful message, basically saying: ‘it is time for the Government of Nicaragua to demonstrate why it governs, whether it governs to serve its people or only to repress,’  Pappier highlighted.

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.

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