NEW YORK (July 11, 2018) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) joins the United Nations in condemning the more than 300 state-sponsored killings in Nicaragua. On April 18, protests broke out in the country in response to changes in social security policy. After the first protest-related deaths on April 19, there was a shift in the focus of the protests and activists began demanding the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and calling for electoral reform to restore the country’s democracy. However, on July 7, Ortega announced that he would be ignoring calls for early elections. HRF urges Ortega to cease the violence and heed protesters’ demands in order to restore peace and justice in Nicaragua.
“Faced with country-wide protests by Nicaraguans demanding an end to Ortega’s authoritarian rule, the regime’s response has been brutal,” said HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov. “While Ortega has reluctantly participated in several ‘negotiations’ to end the crisis, the violence by his regime did not stop during the so-called peace talks. Not even an OAS mission to the country, invited by Ortega himself, nor the publication of the OAS’s report strongly condemning the human rights abuses, stopped the violence. As a matter of fact, the violence has only gotten worse. Now, the regime is even carrying out summary executions as a means of intimidation. It is clearer than ever that Ortega and his cronies do not care about the Nicaraguan people and that their only goal is to cement their authoritarian grip on power,” Kasparov added.
Several reports and official statements by international bodies and local NGOs documented criminal actions by the police and pro-Ortega paramilitary groups. On June 22, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a comprehensive report on the human rights violations committed during the protests. Most recently, on July 5, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein explicitly deemed the killings “state violence,” holding the regime accountable even as Ortega blamed his opponents for the ongoing violence.
Ortega’s response to the violence has been marked by hypocrisy. On June 2, President Ortega bragged about his government’s involvement in a national dialogue process that had yielded several written and verbal agreements to end the violence. Yet that same day, according to Asociación Nicaragüense Pro Derechos Humanos (ANPDH), a local NGO, at least 10 people were killed, 72 wounded, 10 missing, and 120 arrested after barricades in the western city of Masaya were violently attacked by local police and pro-Ortega paramilitary groups. ANPDH’s latest report on the situation in Nicaragua published today brings the death toll to 351.
On June 15, a new round of peace talks resulted in a government pledge to “end all forms of violence and threats no matter where they come from.” The next day, six members of a family, including two children, were killed in a fire started by paramilitary groups, with help from the police.
ANPDH also reported that this past weekend, as Ortega blamed “coup-mongers” for the violence, regime-aligned paramilitary groups killed at least 12 people in Diriamba and Jinopete, located south of the country’s capital. Police also reportedly arrested over 200 protesters during these attacks. Similar incidents have been reported throughout the country. In a conversation with HRF, a source in Nicaragua, who asked for anonymity due to fear of reprisal, stated that Nicaraguans are also very worried about the rising number of targeted attacks against civilians, which have become “a government strategy to discourage protests.”
“Although the protests started due to an increase of social security charges, the regime’s brutal response seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Nicaraguans,” said Centa B. Rek, International Legal Associate at HRF. “Nicaragua has suffered a serious interruption of its already-eroded democratic order under Ortega, and this has come hand-in-hand with serious human rights violations. Freedom of the press and freedom of association, the right to free and fair elections, and the right to protest have been under attack for years,” said Rek. “Ortega’s regime cannot be considered democratic any longer, as it violates the principles set out in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. He has remained in power through a series of unconstitutional reforms and illegal court rulings that did away with presidential term limits. Ortega must accept the OAS’s proposal, call an early general election, and step down peacefully.”
Learn more about the situation in Nicaragua by watching this talk from the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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