Rafael Solis: Ortega & Murillo Run the Courts and Police

By Confidencial

Rafael Solis, formerly a Nicaraguan Supreme Court Justice, and the chief legal adviser to Daniel Ortega.  

Former Supreme Court Justice reveals how the presidential couple ordered the court’s guilty verdicts and the police harassment of the opposition. “These are orders from above”.

HAVANA TIMES – Former Supreme Court Justice Rafael Solis identified Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo as directly “responsible” for the political prisoners’ guilty verdicts. The presidential couple also heads the “chain of command” for the police sieges and harassment of dozens of opposition figures.  Solis spoke from Costa Rica, where he fled in 2019.

The man who for several decades was Ortega’s chief legal adviser, was interviewed by “100% Noticias“ and “Nicaragua Actual”. He recalled: “I used to meet with them [Ortega and Murillo] and they said: ‘Payo, take a look at these cases, they need to be found guilty’. So, I’d tell them: ‘I’ll call the judge and arrange a meeting in my office’.”

Solis admitted that he’d arranged such meetings with “a lot of judges”. “There were a number of [such] cases, where Daniel or Rosario, would ask me to intervene. [The cases] involved kids who were linked to the roadblocks, the barricades, in the universities.”

Up until 2019, Solis was Ortega’s chief operator in the courts. “I was the political head of the entire legal branch, and had a lot of power over the judges,” he stated. In January 2019, Solis renounced his Supreme Court seat, as well as his militancy in the FSLN and went into exile.

The judges’ verdicts are political orders

“In all these cases [involving the protesters], the decisions were political. The courts had no option but to comply with the political decision,” said Solis. The criminal court judges had to file certain reports that he requested. These were then sent to the presidential couple’s residence and offices in El Carmen.

“I’d send the report to El Carmen, to the President and Vice President, with my criteria and my opinions. Sometimes they took them into consideration,” he noted.

It was “difficult”, he stated, to determine which of the two rulers was more active in seeking his intervention for a guilty verdict. Solis added, however, “possibly Rosario was a lot more active.”

Solis was involved in some 120 cases. Of these, around 10% of the political prisoners weren’t sentenced. The released prisoners, “were set at liberty the way they (the government) arranged it. They were allowed to go home, but they remained under surveillance.”

Journalists asked the former Justice: “Do you regret those orientations you gave the judges?” He responded, “It was my responsibility, as political head of the Judicial Branch, to act in accordance with my orders. Effectively, my bosses were Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.”

Decisions from “above” and chain of command

“All the government branches and all their functionaries must answer to them [Ortega and Murillo]. Some – like myself – were directly under them; others indirectly, so their orders are conveyed to them,” said Solis.

He gave an example of this process, citing the government’s decision to take over the building of “100% Noticias”. “The decision to confiscate “100% Noticias” was made behind closed doors. It wasn’t made known to the civilian authorities at any of the other state powers. That’s my case. That operation came from above. There’s no way the police would make a decision of that nature, unless the order came from higher up. That’s how Nicaragua functions.”

He continued: “The Police can make some decisions, within what they think is correct, and inform them [the presidential couple] later. But that’s a minority of the decisions.”

Solis emphasized that the policy of police siege – surrounding the homes of opposition leaders across the country – isn’t made locally. “That’s not done by the chief of police, nor the head of any paramilitary. That’s done by the President or Vice President. They’re weighty decisions.”

Opinions of forensic doctors kept under wraps

Before he resigned, Solis recalls, he read through a “large quantity” of official reports from the Institute of Legal Medicine. Their examinations confirmed that Ortega’s snipers shot “directly for three places: the head, the neck or the heart”.

Raphael Solis had access to these reports as a Supreme Court Justice. However, neither the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights nor the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts were allowed to inspect the Legal Medicine opinions.

“This (…) tells you that there was an order to kill those kids, that it wasn’t a confrontation,” stated the former Justice.

Solis was asked about the Nicaraguan Army’s involvement in the brutal repression of the demonstrators. He stated he had “the perception that, effectively, the weapons belonged to the Army. That’s something exceedingly difficult to deny.”

“There wasn’t any participation from the Army as an institution, in terms of having soldiers in the streets,” he clarified. However, he affirmed that handing weapons over to the police or the paramilitary “implies some level of participation.”

He noted that the Army has denied that they supplied weapons, saying they were obtained on the streets. “All these activities need to be investigated.”

Ortega’s “hard line” on elections

On the subject of the upcoming Nicaraguan elections, Solis indicated that Ortega “is taking a hard line. It’s difficult to imagine that he’ll better the conditions for the opposition.” He predicted, “The conditions are going to be tough.” Nevertheless, he also stated: “It’s possible that international pressure could make him [Ortega] change.”

If the current bill for Electoral Law reform is approved without any changes, Solis feels that Ortega will be left in total international isolation.  The Organization of American States, the US, Canada, and the European Union “will all pile on top of him.”

The former Justice foresees a Supreme Electoral Council made up of five magistrates who are Ortega loyalists. He believes there will also be two from the “parliamentary opposition”. Parties accused of collaborating with the FSLN.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.