An international group of experts determined that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and top police commanders should be investigated for hundreds of deaths that occurred during massive, anti-government street protests this year. They found Ortega and senior police officers had coordinated a repression campaign against civilians. Their actions, including assassinations, arbitrary detentions, and persecution qualify as crimes against humanity under international law. (Confidencial and El Nuevo Diario)
The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) was convened earlier this year by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in an agreement with the Nicaraguan government. But the GIEI carried out its investigative work without official cooperation, and members were summarily kicked out of the country this week, a day before the report was set to be released. (See Thursday's post.)
The report was presented in Washington D.C. earlier today. Far from an isolated episode, they point to a pattern of repression that fueled intense discontent that boiled over in the April protests this year. At least 325 people have been killed, thousands have been wounded and about 600 are still detained as a result of the political unrest that has engulfed Nicaragua since April. (Wall Street Journal)
The pattern of repression demonstrates that it was a government policy ordered by the maximum authorities, according to the GIEI.
The GIEI report examines 109 deaths that occurred between April 18 and May 30, and points to a high prevalence of shooting victims among the dead, many with high-caliber weapons of war. Most of the dead were killed by shots to the head, neck or thorax, proof that security forces were aiming to kill. Many public hospitals turned away demonstrators, and doctors were harassed for treating them. The report also recommended that Nicaragua’s health minister and the heads of state-run hospitals who turned away wounded demonstrators be investigated for their role in denying medical care to those in need, reports the WSJ.
The report also notes the high level of impunity -- the vast majority of the deaths have not been investigated, and those that have been are carried out with major procedural irregularities.
The report debunks the government's claims that security forces used legitimate measures to defend themselves from "terrorist" attacks and coup attempts. Instead citizens were making use of their democratic freedoms, said the experts. (Univisión) They found no evidence of coup attempts, and emphasized lack of separation of powers in Nicaragua. (La Prensa)
The GIEI experts' "work in Nicaragua is an example to all who believe human rights transcend ideological and political divides, and that all governments, even progressive revolutionary or conservative military dictatorships, must be held to universal standards for treating their citizens," write Eric Olsen and James Feeley in an Univisión opinion piece.
The Latin America Daily Briefing will be taking a much needed holiday rest, and will resume publishing on Jan. 2. As always, feedback, comments, and articles are welcome.