Since April 18, police and para-police groups have violently suppressed protests in Nicaragua, resulting in the deaths of at at least 127 people, and hundreds more injured, detained or missing, including students, human rights defenders, journalists, and other civilians. These figures are expected to continue to rise due to the continued violence and repression. A preliminary report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) described a wide range of human rights violations committed by government security forces and para-police bodies, including extrajudicial killings, illegal and arbitrary detentions, torture, censorship and attacks against the press; threats, harassment, and other forms of persecution meant to dissuade protests and inhibit citizen participation. International organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and national organizations, such as the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos, CENIDH), have also documented human rights violations and extreme violence used against protesters.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) strongly condemns the violent retaliation against Nicaraguan citizens exercising their legitimate right to peacefully assemble, as they demand greater democratization and openness in their country. It is imperative that the Nicaraguan government immediately rein in the repressive response against demonstrators and uphold citizens’ right to peacefully protest. It is deeply troubling that violence against protesters has continued despite the statements of international bodies and organizations, and following the IACHR visit. At the same time, the government must dismantle the para-police groups, and ensure the prompt, exhaustive, and impartial investigation, prosecution, and punishment of those responsible for human rights violations committed since April 18.
The IACHR-backed creation of an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to assist in the investigation of the violence is a positive step towards ensuring truth and justice. The group of experts have guarantees of autonomy and independence to assist and support the investigation of all acts of violence that have occured since April 18, including deaths, acts of torture, and detentions. The creation of the panel was one of the measures recommended by the IAHCR following their visit to Nicaragua in May. It is essential that the Ortega administration provide the panel with the access and conditions necessary to fully carry out its mandate, and to ensure that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
In order to arrive at a peaceful resolution for the political crisis, the Nicaraguan government must promptly comply with the 15 recommendations issued by the IACHR following its preliminary visit, and jointly establish a follow-up mechanism with the IACHR to monitor and verify the implementation of these recommendations. Moreover, along with demonstrating a firm commitment to truth and justice, the Nicaraguan government must guarantee reparations for all victims and their families.
The Nicaragua government must also implement concrete measures and reforms to address grave concerns regarding the erosion of democratic institutions and practices, and the lack of government accountability and transparency. We share the disappointment expressed by other civil society organizations regarding the weak resolution on Nicaragua’s crisis approved June 6 by the Organization of American States (OAS). The United States, other OAS member states, and the international community should support the efforts of the Inter-American Commission and the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference (CEN), call on the Ortega administration to immediately cease the violent repression of demonstrators, and allow for the independent investigation of the acts of violence, as well as demand a democratic solution to the current crisis.