Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. The National Assembly of Nicaragua approved today an Amnesty Law that allows for the release of 182 political prisoners who remain in prison and the termination of criminal proceedings for those who have been released after being detained in the context of the April’s protests. In exchange, no investigation will be carried out against those responsible for the lethal violence used by the State to suppress the protests, which caused more than 325 deaths, including 24 children and teenagers and 21 policemen. Additionally, two thousand people have been wounded.
Race and Equality recalls that the Nicaraguan government had already committed to release all political prisoners by June 18, through an agreement signed at the negotiating table that was attended by the Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Sommertag, on behalf of the Vatican, and Luis Ángel Rosadilla, on behalf of the Organization of American States (OAS). Both served as witnesses of the process.
The draft Amnesty Law, sent yesterday to the National Assembly as a matter of urgency, was approved with 70 votes in favor. All of the votes came from deputies of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FS.L.N.), the governmental party. According to the text of the law, the amnesty covers all political and common crimes, and “it extends to persons who have not been investigated, who are in investigation processes, who are in criminal proceedings to determine responsibility, and who are serving sentences”.
The proposal, like other decisions taken unilaterally by the government and its operators in the Nicaraguan Assembly (such as the recent Law of Reparation for Victims of Violence in Nicaragua and the Reconciliation Law), was not the subject of any debate. The proposal was adopted outside of the negotiation process between the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy and the governmental delegation, which has been suspended since the political prisoner Eddy Montes Praslin died as a result of a shot fired by a prison guard.
Race and Equality expresses its strong rejection of this Amnesty Law, which seeks to leave unpunished the crimes against humanity committed by police authorities and parastatal groups that occurred in the context of the repression of the protests of April 2018 and the subsequent months.
The approved law insists on the government’s narrative that what happened in 2018 in Nicaragua was an attempted coup d’état. This law goes against international standards in matters of truth, justice, and reparation, and therefore does not respect human rights or the peace of Nicaragua.
To date, the government has shelved all of the complaints filed by relatives of Nicaraguans who died as a result of the State’s repression, neglecting their legitimate claim for justice. Now, the Nicaraguan government intends to legalize the omission of its duty to investigate and punish such deaths. This includes not investigating crimes that were committed with the consent of the highest leaders of the governmental structure, such as assassinations, incarceration, persecution, rape, torture, and enforced disappearance, as verified by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, for its initials in Spanish) regarding the 109 deaths that occurred between April 18 and May 30, 2018, which they managed to investigate.
We consider that the release of the political prisoners, as well as the cancellation of their criminal records and processes, should not be conditioned in any way on the exemption of the State’s duty to honor the lives of the victims of repression and investigate and punish those responsible for their deaths. Race and Equality demands the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, who have been subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment for months.
The law passed today by the National Assembly demonstrates that the Nicaraguan government continues to disregard its international human rights commitments. We demand justice, truth, and reparation for the victims of repression. We consider it unacceptable that the Nicaraguan authorities continue to ignore these victims, as they do in the Amnesty Law.