A year after the beginning of the crisis in Nicaragua, President Ortega’s government is continuing its strategy of repression and human rights violations, despite the many calls from international organizations and the determined efforts of civil society to find a swift solution that upholds the rights of the population.
“The spiral of state violence in Nicaragua has not come to an end. Instead of taking every measure in their power to end the violence, the authorities continue to create an atmosphere of terror, where any attempt to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is punished with repression,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
“Once again, President Ortega’s government has responded with excessive police deployment that only seeks to intimidate, instill fear and prevent people from exercising their rights.”
During the past week, Amnesty International received numerous reports of arbitrary arrests, obstacles to freedom of expression, and harassment of journalists.
In one case, Yader Parajón, a young activist whose brother was killed in the protests, was violently arrested on 16 April. Yader told Amnesty International that police officers detained him as he was walking near his home and took him to a police station. He said he was held for nearly six days, during which time he had no access to legal assistance, was unable to notify or see his family, and was never informed of the reason for his arrest.
According to the information that Amnesty International received, on 17 April, in the context of a peaceful march that citizens organized on the eve of the anniversary of the crisis, there was a heavy police deployment in the city of Managua at different points along the route of the march. In addition, police officers surrounded the demonstrators’ main meeting point and the surrounding areas, impeding the march from getting started and temporarily preventing the exit of those who were there.
An activist told Amnesty International that he witnessed the police using stun grenades and tear gas to disperse a group of people who were demonstrating near to where the march was due to begin. Dozens of demonstrators and a journalist were arrested in this context. In addition, there were reports of intimidation by alleged pro-government armed groups, who moved around the protest area aboard motorcycles and trucks.
For their part, the National Police heavy-handedly interrupted public religious celebrations on 19 April. Amnesty International was informed of police intimidation of participants in the Via Crucis festivities. For example, in the city of Tipitapa, many people had to refrain from participating in religious ceremonies due to the presence of multiple police officers, who took photos and videos of some of the parishioners. On the same day, according to the available information, the Via Crucis in Managua ended with hundreds of people seeking shelter inside the cathedral, while police surrounded the area.
“During the first anniversary of the beginning of the protests, President Ortega’s government had the opportunity to show the Nicaraguan people and the international community that the fulfillment of their human rights commitments transcends the discourse that they constantly recite at the negotiating table or in international forums,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
“Unfortunately, the authorities demonstrated that their strategy to end the crisis – far from guaranteeing justice, truth and reparation – includes continuing to repress any form of protest or dissent and trying to silence the independent media. The government’s supposed commitment to a solution to the human rights crisis must be reflected on the streets of Nicaragua.”