Washington DC, December 28, 2018 – The Organization of American States (OAS) will begin the process of applying the Inter-American Democratic Charter to Nicaragua, declared Secretary-General Luis Almagro yesterday, after the Vice President of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), Esmeralda Arosamena de Troitiño, presented a report produced by independent experts from various disciplines that reveals that actions committed by the State of Nicaragua against the peacefully-demonstrating population could be considered crimes against humanity.
Almagro explained that the application will begin with the convening of the Permanent Council, pursuant to Article 20 of the Charter, which establishes that when an alteration of the constitutional order occurs in any Member State that seriously impacts its democratic order, a collective assessment of the situation can be performed and related decisions adopted.
“We are required to begin the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to Nicaragua. The solution is still political and diplomatic, and we have the Inter-American regulatory instruments to address them,” Almagro said during an extraordinary session of the Permanent Council held in Washington, DC.
The Secretary-General of the OAS emphasized that at the beginning of the application of the Charter there is also an opportunity for the government of Nicaragua to reconsider its actions. Eight months after the beginning of the human rights and socio-political crisis in Nicaragua, at least 325 people have lost their lives as a result of the repression of demonstrators and more than 2,000 have been injured, according to the IACHR, while another 50,000 have had to flee the country and around 565 have been imprisoned.
During the last month, the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo launched a new escalation of repression against organizations defending human rights and media outlets by arbitrarily closing them and criminalizing journalists. Even the IACHR missions working in Nicaragua were expelled last week, accused of being “interventionist” and “biased.”
Secretary General @Almagro_OEA2015 at Special Meeting of Permanent Council: The logic of dictatorship is installed in #Nicaragua and #OAS must act to protect and defend. We are forced to begin the process of application of Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter pic.twitter.com/OFMeXt7YNS— OAS (@OAS_official) 27 de diciembre de 2018
Under the current context of repression in Nicaragua, diplomatic representatives of several countries on the continent urged the Nicaraguan government to stop the repression and allow the return of the IACHR missions to the country; adhere to the recommendations of human rights experts; resume the national dialogue in a committed way; and reform the electoral system in order to hold early elections.
The United States of America, Colombia, Argentina, and Chile also requested the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, whose ultimate consequence could be the suspension of Nicaragua’s right to participate in the OAS.
Paula Bertol, Argentina’s ambassador to the OAS, stressed that “the lack of democracy and freedom in Nicaragua” has been exposed in the experts’ reports, and that is the reason why “many of our States are thinking about applying the Democratic Charter.” “Many of our States are also considering an extraordinary consultation meeting because we are worried about what is happening in Nicaragua, because we don’t want more people to die as a result of the abuse of State power,” she added.
The ambassador of Chile to the OAS, Jaime Francisco Alliende, also called for “a solution to the political crisis in Nicaragua to be developed according to the principles and values of Inter-American instruments, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” maintaining that when faced with a rupture of the rule of law, “all OAS Member States must raise their voices to call upon that regime to accept a peaceful and democratic solution to this serious crisis.”
The Vice President of the IACHR also supported the activation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the Nicaraguan government: “The IACHR calls on the OAS Member States to reject violations of human rights and acts of repression against the Nicaraguan population, and to consider compliance with the conditions that make the Inter-American Democratic Charter applicable to the country,” Arosemena de Troitiño said.
In his speech, the Secretary-General also explained that future actions the OAS will take include asking the IACHR to denounce the crimes documented in its report before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and to ask the Permanent Council to request a meeting with the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) to present them the report on crimes against humanity.
The latter action would also permit the UN Security Council to remit the investigation of these crimes to the International Criminal Court, an organ of justice of which Nicaragua is not currently a party.
“If crimes against humanity continue to be committed, we will ask the States Parties of the OAS, as well as all democratic States, that under the concept of ‘universal justice,’ the officials appointed as instructors and executors in the experts’ report be detained and tried in their respective territories for these crimes, thus activating universal justice,” Almagro warned.
The ambassador of Nicaragua to the OAS, Luis Alvarado, ignored the report presented in the OAS and accused several countries of being “interventionist” and “biased” for requesting justice and democracy for Nicaragua. He also affirmed that Almagro did not deserve to be the Secretary-General of the OAS, an organization that he tried to disqualify by using the words of the late Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, describing it as a “Ministry of the Colonies.” The representative of Venezuela was the only one to openly endorse Alvarado’s speech.
The report of the GIEI
In its final report drafted after six months of work in the Central American country, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) determined that “the State of Nicaragua has engaged in conduct which, in accordance with international law, must be considered crimes against humanity,” according to what was made known by the IACHR experts last week.
The report, presented in Washington, DC two days after the group was expelled from Nicaragua by the authorities, indicates that the crimes committed with the consent of the highest levels of the Nicaraguan government, were assassinations, incarceration, persecution, rape, torture, and forced disappearance.
The foregoing was affirmed following an arduous process of collecting information through direct interviews with relatives of victims and surviving victims, visits to and observations conducted in locations where the violent incidents occurred, meetings with journalists, examination of documents such as videos, photographs, and material from [traditional] media and social media. The State refused to provide them with information, despite the fact that the authorities had accepted that the GIEI’s primary mission was to assist the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Nicaragua to clarify the violent incidents that occurred at the beginning of the crisis.
The experts found that between April 18 and May 30, at least 109 people were assassinated and another 1,400 were wounded as a result of a “generalized and systematic attack against the civilian population” that was demonstrating against the government.
“The clearest and most serious pattern of behavior consisted of the use of firearms, including weapons of war, directly against people who participated in protest actions,” the report states, pointing to the National Police as the force in command of this conduct, which was accompanied in its actions by parastatal armed groups with the support of local political authorities.
For this same reason, GIEI recommends investigating President Ortega as being responsible for these events, in his capacity as supreme commander of the National Police.
Another human rights violation described in the GIEI report is the State of Nicaragua’s violation of its duty to ensure due diligence in the investigation of the violent deaths that occurred between April 18 and May 30, 2018.
“Out of 109 cases of violent deaths registered by GIEI, only nine have been prosecuted, which means that 100 still remain shrouded in impunity,” said Claudia Paz y Paz during the presentation of the report.
Even so, in the nine cases that have been prosecuted, six relate to victims with some relationship to the State of Nicaragua or government party. “In no case have trials begun against State security forces, despite the various evidence that indicates their possible responsibility,” the Guatemalan expert lamented.
Main photo: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS.