Nicaragua: de facto police state, warns the IACHR

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“The concentration of power in the executive facilitated Nicaragua’s transformation into a de facto police state in which the government installed a regime of suppression of all freedoms,” said Fiorella Melzi, coordinator of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI, in Spanish). the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), declared on December 6, 2021.

Melzi made the statement during the “Nicaragua: Portrait of the Institutional Capture in the Americas” webinar, hosted by the Center for Justice and International Law, the Washington Office on Latin America, the Human Rights Collective Nicaragua Never Again, and the American Jewish World. . A service.

According to Melzi, the Ortega-Murillo regime exercises control and surveillance of citizens through state and parastatal security institutions with the support of other state powers. “There is no system of checks and balances in the country, since all the institutions respond to the decisions of the executive,” Melzi said.

Growing repression

Over the past three years, the IACHR has alerted the international community to serious human rights violations in Nicaragua. “[Violations include] harassment and repression against anyone considered to be an opponent of the government, arbitrary use of lethal and non-lethal force, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, raids, threats, reprisals and ill-treatment,” Melzi said.

According to the expert, the Ortega-Murillo regime also resorts to criminalization through hundreds of legal proceedings “under unfounded or disproportionate charges, such as terrorism or organized crime”.

In the seven months leading up to the general elections in November 2021, the Ortega-Murillo regime intensified repression with the arbitrary detention and criminalization of more than 30 people on baseless charges and without the necessary judicial guarantees, a Melzi said. Seven of these people were presidential candidates who remain deprived of their liberty. Melzi also denounced the harassment of leaders of social and student movements, as well as the frequent limitations of the independent press.

power focus

According to the IACHR, the concentration of power in Nicaragua began in 1999, with a pact between the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN, in Spanish), led by Ortega, and the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC, in Spanish), led by the president at the time. Arnoldo Aleman. Through the so-called “Alemán-Ortega Pact”, the two political forces negotiated a series of agreements to ensure control of the executive and the subordination of the other branches of government.

“[The pact] instituted a bipartisan structure with the aim of taking over the highest positions in government,” the IACHR said in the report. Nicaragua: concentration of power and attack on the rule of lawpublished October 25, 2021. The concentration of power by the executive intensified in 2007, when Ortega assumed his second term, and was consolidated by the crackdown on social protests that began in April 2018.

In October 2021, MESENI found that the repression of protests had left at least 328 people dead, with 1,614 people deprived of their liberty, 150 students expelled, more than 405 medical professionals fired and more than 103,600 Nicaraguans exiled, the report said. organization in its report. . “These actions have emerged with the support of different state institutions: the General Assembly, the […] Judiciary (especially the Supreme Court of Justice) and the Supreme Electoral Council,” Melzi said in his presentation.

The agreement between the FSLN and the CLP was solidified through constitutional, electoral and legal reforms that violated the principle of separation of powers, the IACHR said. In 2010, for example, the Supreme Court allowed Ortega to run in the 2011 presidential elections, despite a constitutional ban on re-election.

In 2014, the ruling FSLN majority in Nicaragua’s National Assembly approved a constitutional reform that allowed for indefinite presidential re-election. The reform, approved by 64 votes to 25, also gave the president the power to issue decrees having the force of law, the BBC reported at the time.

“The OAS General Assembly [Organization of American States] indicated that it is essential to take action to promote free and fair elections in Nicaragua,” said Melzi. “None of the measures proposed by the OAS General Assembly have been implemented,” she concluded.

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