Grace Gonzalez/Amnesty International

Nicaragua: Daniel Ortega’s candidacy is a reminder of how impunity prevails in the country

Should Daniel Ortega remain president of Nicaragua, the impunity for serious human rights violations and crimes under international law committed under his rule would be perpetuated, Amnesty International said today upon the announcement of his candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections.

The elections, scheduled for 7 November, will take place while the country is in the midst of a serious human rights crisis, which began in April 2018 and has intensified in recent months.

“While Daniel Ortega’s candidacy is announced, thousands of victims of human rights violations continue to await justice for crimes committed by Nicaraguan authorities under his rule,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

“Maintaining the structures that have ensured impunity cannot be the basis for building the future of the country. To put an end to the crisis, human rights violations must be stopped, those identified as suspects must be investigated impartially and promptly, and the victims must obtain truth, justice and reparations”.

During the human rights crisis, Ortega, now in his third consecutive presidential term, has used judicial and legislative bodies to implement repressive tactics. This, in part, has allowed for the construction of a system that guarantees impunity and allows individuals accused of committing crimes under international law to avoid justice and instead seek positions of power.

Maintaining the structures that have ensured impunity cannot be the basis for building the future of the country.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

In 2018, the report of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts for Nicaragua found that Nicaraguan authorities committed crimes against humanity. It also pointed out that there are factors that suggest that the crimes committed were tolerated, encouraged or ordered by the highest authorities, including the president of the country, who also serves as Supreme Chief of the National Police, the highest rank of institutional command. In addition, the report indicated that these acts were carried out in the context of a plan defined by the highest levels of government.

According to international human rights standards, if there is a well-founded suspicion of the involvement of public officials – particularly those belonging to the military, security, police, intelligence and judicial sectors – in crimes under international law or serious human rights violations, they should not continue to serve in state institutions until the investigations against them are concluded.

“Currently no one accused of committing crimes under international law is under investigation. On the contrary, Daniel Ortega once again stands as a candidate for the presidency, a position in which he will be protected from any investigation against him,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“Any state that has a person accused of these serious acts under its jurisdiction must bring them to justice. The international community cannot stand idly by if any individual suspected of committing these crimes is in its territory.”

The run-up to the Nicaraguan elections has been characterised by human rights violations, including the right to freedom of expression and association, and repeated obstacles to the exercise of political rights. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has pointed out that freedom of expression, assembly and association are essential conditions for the effective exercise of the right to vote and, therefore, must be fully protected. However, in Nicaragua the exercise of these rights is part of an unattainable reality.

In recent months, the government of Daniel Ortega has arrested around twenty people, including six presidential candidates, student leaders, political activists, campesino representatives and public political figures in the country in addition to the more than 100 people who were detained in the context of the protests that began in April 2018 and who remain imprisoned.

With this it is clear that the road to the elections will be plagued by repressive actions implemented to make it impossible for the population to exercise their political rights without fear of reprisals. The detention of presidential candidates could also constitute an affront to the exercise of the population’s political rights.

Any state that has a person accused of these serious acts under its jurisdiction must bring them to justice.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

In addition, state agents continue to harass human rights defenders, journalists and the media. As a result, local organisations report that more human rights defenders and media workers have been forced to leave the country to protect their freedom and safety, adding to the more than 100,000 people who have already had to leave the country to protect their lives.

The upcoming elections are an opportunity to confront the legacy of impunity and initiate a process wherein the Nicaraguan people can have access to truth, justice and reparations. However, this could be at risk if those leading the new government become the biggest obstacle to restoring a country where human rights are a reality.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Duncan Tucker:  [email protected]