• Press Release

Nicaragua: Violence and state repression intensify despite numerous efforts at dialogue

June 21, 2018

Relatives and friends of Marvin Lopez, 49, who was shot in the throat during clashes with riot police and members of the Sandinista youth, attend his funeral in Masaya, about 35 km from Managua on June 20, 2018. - Residents in the Nicaraguan opposition bastion of Masaya were on Wednesday holding off an offensive by police and pro-government paramilitaries as fresh violence flared across the Central American country. Funerals were held for three people killed in clashes in the flashpoint city on Tuesday, bringing to 187 the number of dead since protests against President Daniel Ortega's government began on April 18. (Photo by Inti OCON / AFP) (Photo credit should read INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)

Nicaragua remains mired in an ongoing cycle of violence, despite numerous efforts by Nicaraguan civil society for national dialogue and calls from international organizations to stop the grave violations of human rights committed by state agents and affiliated groups.

Amnesty International has continued to monitor and document the grave human rights crisis in the country and can confirm that state repression and violence have intensified in recent weeks. According to the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH), the number of people killed, most at the hands of the police and pro-government armed groups, has risen to over 190. The harassment of journalists and human rights defenders is continuing, as are restrictions on access to the right to health of injured protesters.

“The upsurge of violence and attacks against civilians by Nicaraguan government agents and pro-government armed groups acting with their acquiescence in recent days highlights President Ortega’s insincerity and lack of commitment to resolving this crisis peacefully,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“The Nicaraguan government cannot continue to call for dialogue while at the same time committing serious violations of human rights and crimes under international law and failing to take all measures within its power to stop the violence.”

There has also been an increase in the number of people unlawfully deprived of their liberty by groups of private individuals, while arbitrary detentions by state security forces in the context of the protests persist. Around 70 people are believed to be detained at present in violation of fundamental rules of international law. More than 2,100 people are estimated to have been injured and numerous public and private buildings have been burned down. 

According to the information received, by 19 June, two months after the state repression started, at least three people had been reportedly extrajudicially executed by members of the National Police and pro-government armed groups and some 30 people had been injured in the cities of Masaya and Ticuantepe.

At least 10 people lost their lives in the context of the protests at the weekend, eight of whom were reportedly killed by pro-government armed groups and members of the National Police. Among the dead was a family of six, including an eight-month-old baby and a two-year-old girl, who died in a fire at their home in Managua. Several witnesses, including a survivor, stated that the fire was started by police and pro-government armed groups.

Cities such as Granada, Nagarote, Bilwi, Jinotega and Nindirí have recently been added to the list of towns where people have been killed by third parties and reportedly extrajudicially executed or injured by state security forces and pro-government armed groups.

In addition, Amnesty International received reports of other unprecedented actions such as light aircraft flying over Jinotepe and certain neighbourhoods in Managua, spraying cypermethrin insecticides (which cause vomiting, dizziness and vertigo in humans) on demonstrators and the alleged use of vehicles from the Ministry of Health – as well as the possible use of vehicles masquerading as Red Cross ambulances, as the Red Cross itself highlighted in a press conference – to transport to pro-government armed groups.

According to information received from medical staff at the Bautista Hospital in Managua, over the past few weeks the number of people treated for gunshot wounds has increased while injuries caused by rubber bullets have been virtually non-existent. Amnesty International believes that the deliberate state strategy of using lethal force highlighted its recent report, Shoot to kill: Nicaragua’s strategy to repress protest, has been intensified.

The government of President Ortega must immediately order an end to the repression. It must order the National Police and riot police to adhere strictly to international standards on the legitimate use of force and dismantle pro-government armed groups. It is crucial that Nicaragua comply with its international obligations to protect the human rights of all without distinction and take steps to guarantee an end to the violence.

Amnesty International calls for the immediate deployment of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to carry out a thorough investigation into the violence and the serious human rights violations that have occurred in the country since 18 April. The organization also considers that unrestricted access to the country by international organizations is key and calls on the government to give full access and guarantee that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which has recently been granted permission to visit the country, is afforded the conditions to enable it to carry out its work documenting human rights violations.

On 22 June, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will submit its final report on its recent visit to Nicaragua and the serious human rights violations it has documented to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS). This represents an opportunity for member states of the OAS to reinforce a firm regional position condemning the human rights violations and the responsibility of the Nicaraguan state.