The regime of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, which had bloodily repressed a major protest movement in 2018, multiple since the schemes to stifle any opposition in the country, denounces Amnesty International in a new report.
The document details “the continuum of repression” to which the population “daring to denounce” the authoritarian drift of the ex-guerrilla has been subjected since these clashes, notes Erika Guevara Rosas, who is responsible for the Americas section of the organization.
Police, aided by hooded paramilitary groups, had killed more than 300 people and injured more than 2,000 during the wave of protests while carrying out hundreds of arbitrary detentions, using excessive force that went largely unpunished.
The justice system was “co-opted” in the aftermath by the regime, which introduced several laws allowing dissidents to be imprisoned for no good reason.
This “militarization” of the courts, the report notes, has led to the imprisonment of hundreds of Nicaraguans over the past five years “who simply sought to exercise their right to protest, to denounce abuses committed by the regime, and to defend and promote the rights of the person in Nicaragua”.
Political prisoners are generally deprived of any contact with their lawyer until the minutes preceding the trial and have no way of preparing a defense strategy while the evidence presented by the prosecutor is accepted as true “even when there is contradictions or improbable elements”.
Defendants are often officially charged with “conspiring to undermine national integrity”, a term sufficiently vague according to Amnesty International to encompass acts amounting to nothing more than the exercise of fundamental freedoms.
Authorities also regularly cite “spreading false news” as an alleged crime to punish anyone who criticizes the regime online, sometimes with benign motives.
Nidia Barbosa, a 66-year-old woman who was a member of a coalition of civil organizations opposed to the government, was blamed in particular for having published a prayer asking for better social conditions in Nicaragua.
She served 11 years in prison after her arrest in the fall of 2021 and was only able to regain her freedom in February this year when the regime deported more than 200 political prisoners to the United States while revoking their Nicaraguan citizenship.
Dissidents, the report points out, are sometimes placed with up to 20 other people in cells designed for five or six and deprived of adequate food and water so as to “put increased pressure” on them.
Violeta Granera, a sociologist and politician critical of the regime, was sentenced in 2022 to eight years in prison and detained despite her advanced age and serious health problems that were not “adequately taken care of” by the authorities. prison authorities.
The detainee’s family members could only visit her infrequently, often months apart, and struggled to provide her with the medication she needed. Ms. Granera was also eventually deported from the country to the United States in February.
In addition to directly attacking its detractors through worthless lawsuits, Daniel Ortega’s regime has multiplied the procedures to outlaw many civil society organizations that are active in the media, culture or education.
No less than 3,000 of them were sanctioned by order of the National Assembly, which is controlled, again, by the regime, notes Amnesty International.
At the height of the repression in 2018, the United Nations had registered more than 23,000 asylum applications in Costa Rica, a neighboring country, in a few months. By the end of 2022, this total was estimated at nearly 200,000.
Managua’s repressive turn has also affected many international human rights organizations, which are now forced to monitor the situation from a distance because they are not allowed to return to the country.
Ms. Guevara Rosas notes that it is crucial, in the context, that the international community act in a “coordinated and determined manner” to continue to highlight the abuses of the regime and support the victims “that it has made and continues to make. “.