Report From UN Experts Puts Ortega in the Crosshairs

They found Nicaragua's government keeps perpetrating systematic human rights abuses
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 29, 2024 3:55 PM CST
Report From UN Experts Puts Ortega in the Crosshairs
Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega poses for a photo during the ALBA Summit at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.   (Adalberto Roque, Pool Photo via AP, File)

A panel of UN-backed human rights experts on Thursday accused Nicaragua's government of continuing to perpetrate systematic human rights abuses "tantamount to crimes against humanity"—implicating a range of high-ranking officials in the government of President Daniel Ortega. The allegations follow an investigation that has been underway since March 2022 into the country's crackdown on political dissent. The Ortega government has gone after opponents for years, but it hit a turning point with mass protests against the government in 2018 that resulted in violent repression by authorities, per the AP. What you need to know from the report:

  • The government's view: Ortega's government has repeatedly said that the mass demonstrations against it in 2018 constituted a failed coup attempt orchestrated by the United States. It typically defends any repression on its part as a crackdown on anti-government plots.
  • Summing it up: Jan Simon, who headed the investigation, said "Nicaragua is caught in a spiral of violence marked by the persecution of all forms of political opposition, whether real or perceived, both domestically and abroad."
  • More specifically: As a press release puts it, "the Government has moved closer to its goal of total destruction of critical voices in the country"—with those voices including civilians, including university students, Indigenous and Black Nicaraguans, and members of the Catholic Church. Children and family members are now targeted simply for being related to people who raise their voices against the government.
  • Some examples: ln December, police charged the director of the Miss Nicaragua pageant of a "beauty queen coup" plot, saying she rigged the competition against pro-government beauty queens. In February, the government shut down yet another round of social groups, including the country's scouting organization and a rotary club.
  • Who the report points a finger at: It claims Gustavo Porras, the head of the country's National Assembly, pushes through legislation to facilitate repression. It says Marvin Aguilar García, the head of the Supreme Court, takes direct orders from Ortega's government and commands lower level judges to fall in line. Meanwhile, Chief Prosecutor Ana Julia Guido Ochoa's office allegedly fabricates evidence against real or perceived opponents.
  • Beyond Nicaragua: The report says the crackdown has expanded past Nicaragua's borders to the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled government repression, largely landing in the US and Costa Rica. Hundreds of Nicaraguans have been stripped of their citizenship and left stateless.
  • The report's ask: The UN report urges the Ortega government to release "arbitrarily" detained Nicaraguans and calls on global leaders to expand sanctions on "individuals and institutions involved in human rights violations." (Nicaragua freed a jailed bishop in January after the pope's public comments on the matter.)
(More Nicaragua stories.)

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