For a real reparation, the only path is a new government
Officials responsible for deaths, injuries, kidnapping and torture could be sued to demand compensation
By Juan Carlos Bow (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Lizeth Davila does not seek compensation for the murder of her son, Alvaro Conrado. She only longs for punishment for the guilty. The teenager was killed by a sniper on April 20, 2018. Despite the position of this mother, the justice that she so desires provides for an element of reparation, which includes compensation and attention to face her loss and that of hundreds of relatives of the 325 murdered by Ortega’s repression, thousands of wounded, dozens of disappeared and tens of thousands of exiles.
The mother of Alvaro, the teenage martyr, can accept or reject any restitution, although to reach that point there are many days of negotiation with the Ortega regime, which, at this point, even denies the existence of the dead, injured, kidnapped and tortured. This makes difficult any compensation for the relatives of those murdered and survivors of the repression, which the country experienced since April 18 of last year.
Reparations are part of the demand for justice of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, which includes the truth about the massacre and no repetition, based on the demands of the Mothers of April Association, to which Davila belongs. At the same time, the Association has taken elements of the Comprehensive Reparation Plan of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, in Spanish), which determined that the regime committed crimes against humanity in the context of the repression of the civic protests of 2018.
“We start from the fundamental premise that it is necessary to recognize what happened and undertake a social reflection to understand not only the immediate causes, but also the deep (causes) of recent acts of violence and their consequences on individuals, families, communities and on Nicaraguan society as a whole. The GIEI believes that only in this way will it be possible to break the cycles of political crisis, internal armed conflicts, dictatorships and massive and systematic violations of human rights, that Nicaragua lives repeatedly in its recent history,” stated the experts in their comprehensive plan.
The reparation of the victims is one of the three aspects on which transitional justice is based, which is what several national and international sectors suggest to be adopted in Nicaragua. The other two elements are: knowing the truth and doing justice.
Transitional justice is what is applied in countries after a war, a crisis with tragic balances or that live a process of transition from dictatorship to democracy. It seeks to redress massive violations of human rights through special judicial and political measures.
In Colombia, transitional justice would be applied after the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This initiative also has been applied in Guatemala, Ecuador, and other countries in the region.
Jose Pallais, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and main delegate of the Civic Alliance in the dialogue, assured that the Government does not support the proposal of a transitional justice for Nicaragua.
Reparation in his own way
The former diplomat mentioned that of the justice proposal, the regime only accepts the part on reparation, but “does not support a Truth Commission, transitional justice, repentance, nor the commitment of non-repetition and institutional reforms for no repetition.”
He explained that the idea of reparation by the Ortega regime is based on attention in the social services of the government, such as Social Security or Ministry of Health. “It does not contemplate financial reparation, he said.
The GIEI proposes an economic compensation for the moral and material damages caused to the victims, which would contribute “to having a projection of life forward and a future in conditions of dignity and well-being.”
For the experts, the compensation should favor the relatives of those murdered and disappeared, and “the survival and family nucleus of the people who suffered arbitrary detention and kidnapping and who suffered sexual violence and torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, resulting in situations of mental or physical disabilities, total, partial or temporary; and the child born as a result of rape.
Pallais expressed that “the State is co-responsible and has to pay, although the State can in turn sue officials who were involved.”
Former Sandinista guerrilla, Dora Maria Tellez, says the regime is not interested in reparation to the victims because it knows that they would have to sue the officials who made a “criminal use” of their posts.
“To the Minister of Health (Sonia Castro), for example, the regime would have to sue her for having given the order not to attend to the injured in the protests. How many people would not have died or how many lifelong consequences would have been avoided, if they had had attention in time,” underlined the former combatant against the Somoza dictatorship.
The GIEI highlights in its final report that the Nicaraguan legislation establishes that “anyone who, by willful intent or by a malicious act, causes harm to another, is obliged to reparation along with damages” and that “the execution of an act described in the law as a crime, obliges the reparation for damages and loses.”
Not a word in the law
Tellez commented that if the regime accepts reparation for the victims, it will recognize that there was “willful intent” in the actions of some of its officers and police commissioners.
In the Law for a Culture of Dialogue, Reconciliation, Security, Jobs and Peace, approved by the National Assembly—with an governing party majority—last January, there is no mention of the issue of victim reparation.
The legislation does not establish concrete measures to achieve dialogue or reconciliation, in a compendium of lyric declarations, which is limited to only indicate that the government will promote “family and Christian” values through its institutions.
“That law has nothing. It wants Nicaraguans to forget, to believe that there were no victims or dead,” Tellez said.
To determine pain
Carlos Tunnermann, former diplomat and a delegate of the Civic Alliance in the negotiations with the dictatorship, explained that the willful intent “first has to be determined by a Truth Commission, and then by a Special Prosecutor’s Office.” The regime opposes the creation of both entities.
The scholar pointed out that for the Civic Alliance a Truth Commission should be created— “formed by people with recognized experience, honesty, impartiality and objectivity” –, to clarify who were responsible for the events which took place from April 18, 2018, forward.
“Since there is no confidence in the Attorney General’s Office, due to the way it has acted in trials, we proposed a Special Prosecutor’s Office be created, which will be the one that does the investigations, once it has the reports of the Truth Commission, where responsibilities will be elucidated,” he reasoned.
Tunnermann said that the reparation of the victims will be included in the consideration that the Special Prosecutor’s Office will give to people who have “recognized” a damage caused. “Within this principle is that the Special Prosecutor’s Office should establish reparation for the victims, in such a way that all people who have caused harm or committed abuse of authority, during the context of the events, should contribute.”
Amnesty will not save them
Tellez, Pallais and Tunnermann agreed that an amnesty law does not exempt those responsible for abuses from reparation for the victims.
The magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), Francisco Rosales, announced that the dictatorship intends to decree an amnesty to release political prisoners already convicted.
With this amnesty, the regime would ensure that the crimes committed by Ortega’s policemen and paramilitaries are not punished.
Rosales, one of the Ortega’s delegates in the negotiation, said that the release of the convicts can only be done “through an amnesty or a pardon, because the judicial process should be closed according to law.”
Pallais explained that the amnesty sought by Ortega “does not cover crimes against humanity,” so those responsible for these crimes would not be “protected.”
Tunnermann noted that the Alliance has not contemplated the issue of amnesty. “We are talking about transitional justice,” he stressed.
Investigate those responsible
In its final report, the GIEI recommended that “the responsibility of the President, as supreme chief of the National Police, be investigated, as well as those who served as General Directors (Aminta Granera and Francisco Díaz), the Deputy Directors Ramon Avellan and Adolfo Marenco, in charge of the operations and intelligence areas and members of the National Command.”
The experts proposed to also investigate the “authorities of the different departmental and regional delegations,” of the Police, the “authorities of the Police of Managua, commissioners Sergio Gutiérrez. Fernando Borge and Juan Valle, of the Department of Surveillance and Patrols, and the chief of DOEP, Justo Pastor Urbina, and the chiefs of the specialized units that make up the DOEP (Directorate of Special Operations).”
Additionally, they suggested examining the responsibility of Health Minister, Sonia Castro, and the board of directors of each public hospital. Likewise, what role did the FetSalud union play in not providing care to the injured, and what “measures were taken—or not—to guarantee public health in very serious cases.”
The regime’s legacy
Tunnermann indicated that if this government does not make the reparations “which are due justly,” it will be up to a future government “to receive the complaints or the claims and to attend them.”
Pallais said that a new government will have responsibility for economic reparations. “The institutional responsibility does not end with the government that did it, but it is transferred to the State itself, as co-responsible for having allowed it, independently of the change of government. This is a legacy.”
“A new government should have a very clear policy on this aspect, as an element of respect for human rights and justice,” he added.
Pallais recommended that a new administration should prepare a mechanism for possible lawsuits against the “officials directly responsible” for the abuses committed.
Tellez notes that among these officials, Ortega stands out as supreme chief of the Police, and the Vice President Rosario Murillo, as administrator of public affairs. “They gave the orders; they are the first responsible.”