Amnesty International Issues Scathing Report on Nicaragua Unrest


Ortega “unleashed a lethal strategy of repression against protesters”


HAVANA TIMES – Amnesty International (AI) denounced today that the Government of Nicaragua committed “crimes of international law”, by “exercising a lethal repressive policy” against the ongoing protests that began on April 17, with evidence of having “intentionally deprived the life of political opponents and protesters,” reported dpa news.

“Amnesty International has concluded that faced with the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression, through protests in different parts of the country, the Nicaraguan government’s response has been fundamentally unlawful and beset with serious human rights violations and even crimes under international law,” indicated a 36-page report released on Tuesday in Managua by AI. 

AI’s director for the Americas, Erika Guevara-Rosas, and former actress and human rights defender Bianca Jagger presented the document at a press conference.

The day before, shortly after their arrival in the country, both witnessed violent disturbances in the capital and condemned “the repression of police and mobs” against students who left at least one dead and more than forty injured, according to the report.

“The organization has also concluded that the strategy adopted by the Nicaraguan authorities, which has resulted in, among other things, an alarming number of fatalities and serious injuries, was intended to punish dissenting voices, discourage further public criticism and cover up human rights violations and crimes under international law,” added the report.

Amnesty, which has documented cases of repression during the three consecutive mandates of Daniel Ortega since his return to power in 2007, deployed a mission in four cities in Nicaragua between May 4 and 13 to investigate “allegations of serious violations of human rights”.

After several days held back in their barracks, the riot police where unleashed on Monday in Managua to attack students and other protestors.

Most of the deaths recorded in the last 40 days were due to gunshot wounds, “even though the use of this type of weapons in a lethal manner by the authority should only be authorized in the most extreme situation of threat for life,” said AI.

According to the report, the deceased had wounds “in areas of high lethality” such as head, neck and upper chest, “which would indicate the lethal intentionality of the shots,” whose trajectory “suggests the possibility of snipers or people firing from a Privileged positions.”

AI further explained that as part of its strategy, the government tries to “criminalize the protests” by promoting a “discourse of denial of reality” in the very voice of Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo.

These statements not only denies and ignores the reality of the violence that is occurring under the direct command of Ortega and Murillo but also stigmatizes the demonstrators as promoters of violence by labeling them as “violent”, “delinquents” or “vampires claiming blood”, to justify the repression, said the organization.

AI said that in addition to the police forces, “the authorities used para-police groups, largely made up of people sympathetic to the government, with the intention of committing attacks (sometimes armed), inciting violence, multiplying its repressive effect and operating outside of the law.”

The burning on Monday May 28th of the governing party’s (FSLN) Nuevo Radio Ya.

“This strategy enabled them to sow fear in the population, impede the identification of the attackers and thereby generate a climate in which the government could evade  responsibility of the Government,” the report said.

Threats and pressures on relatives of the victims, irregularities in the investigation of crimes and the absence of autopsies in many cases were considered by AI as an impediment to access the truth and bring those responsible to justice.

In this regard, AI suggested to the Public Ministry that it investigate the deaths of demonstrators in a prompt and impartial manner, including “not only those who committed the crimes or ordered them, but also their accomplices.”

Finally, AI recommended that the State of Nicaragua comply with the 15 recommendations issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) after its recent visit to the country, including the “cessation of repression” and the dissolution of paramilitary forces controlled by the Government.

The IACHR counted 79 dead, 868 wounded and 438 arrested from April 18 to May 24, although the Government records only 22 deaths.

The crisis began with a student protest against a reform to Social Security – later repealed after the first 12 days of protest – that affected thousands of workers and retirees, and which intensified greatly as a result of the violent police and paramilitary action against the unarmed demonstrators, mostly students and other young people.