Press Release

IACHR Condemns Increased Violence in Nicaragua

June 13, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is alarmed and deeply concerned about the continuing and increased violence in Nicaragua, which has already claimed the lives of 143 people and remains a serious human rights crisis that the Nicaraguan State urgently needs to deal with. Further, the IACHR strongly condemns the increased use of force by the State and the persisting attacks by parapolice actors and other armed third parties, which the State has an obligation to dismantle. The Commission once again urges the State of Nicaragua to immediately end repression of demonstrators and other opposition activists and to investigate and punish all acts of violence that may have taken place. The IACHR further condemns all humiliation and harassment practices, which it regards as a violation of human rights that all people are entitled to without discrimination. The Commission calls on the State to seek a peaceful, constitutional and democratic exit from the current crisis and welcomes the efforts made by the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference to restore national dialogue.

The IACHR notes that the State needs to guarantee that all citizens can exercise their rights free from threats and violence, particularly in a context of demonstrations and social protests. The Inter-American Commission has repeatedly said that States must take measures not only to protect citizens from human rights violations committed by State agents but also to prevent and punish the acts of violence perpetrated by non-State groups or actors.

In particular, the IACHR condemns the events that have occurred since June 2, 2018, the date of the Commission’s last press release on violence in Nicaragua, which have worsened the human rights crisis in that country. According to information that is publicly known, on Saturday, June 2, as a result of clashes between demonstrators and police riot squads in the city of Masaya, at least one person died, an unknown number were injured and more than 30 were arrested. Also on June 2, there was a clash between a group of civilians holding a barricade and National Police officers, 28 kilometers south-east of Managua. Donald Ariel López was killed in those events, and 22 other people were injured. Also on June 2, in Masaya, Junior Gaitán, 15, Donald López, 27, Rigoberto Carballo, 28, and Eduardo López, 37, were killed in the context of clashes between civilians and the National Police.

On June 6, Jorge Zepeda Carrión in Masaya, José Leonel Casco Barrios in Chinandega, and José Maltés and Jaime Antonio Salinas in Granada were all killed, allegedly in the context of various clashes with armed groups. On June 6, the Commission received information about an act of arson against city government headquarters in Granada. Later, on June 8, 18 masked attackers carrying Molotov cocktails, mortars and other weapons allegedly entered Radio Nicaragua to burn and destroy its facilities and injured at least one person.

On June 8, according to publicly available reports, there were several further incidents in other parts of the country. In Jinotega, in the early hours, Abraham Antonio Castro, 17, was killed with a firearm when an armed group shot indiscriminately at demonstrators. More than 20 other people were allegedly injured in the incident. In Altamira, Chris Montana died of a gunshot wound. In Masaya, Cristian Salvador Gutiérrez Ortega died of gunshot wounds to his chest. On June 9, a group of people carrying guns allegedly kidnapped three members of the staff of the Jinotega Mayor’s Office: Jairo Antonio Suárez Zúñiga, Javier Enrique González Siles and Douglas Gómez Zamora.

The Commission was informed on June 10, 2018, that riot-squad and parapolice vehicles allegedly attacked the barricade in Las Maderas, using even AK rifles, in an incident that allegedly left two people dead and seven injured. According to the information the Commission has had access to, the town of Las Maderas is under siege by police and parapolice groups.

The State said that, on June 10, an unidentified group of people armed with firearms kidnapped Harold René Arroyo Altamirano, a member of the Agriculture Ministry’s technical staff, who was released on June 12. The State further said that, also on June 10, a group of masked attackers used firearms, mortars and Molotov cocktails to attack the police delegation in the town of Sébaco for three hours, in events that left police officers Helen Mendoza and Santos Cosme Martínez Hernández injured. The State also reported an attack on June 11 against the police delegation in the Pueblo Nuevo community, in the Mulukuku municipality, allegedly perpetrated by a criminal gang. The State further noted that Dixon Bismark Soza Henríquez and Carlos Zamora were killed in those events and that Captain Ramón Zavala and officers Leonardo Castillo and Martín Sánchez went missing. The Commission was also informed of the alleged kidnapping by 30 masked attackers on June 9 of Juan Ramón Méndez, head of the police delegation in the municipality of El Jicaral, and of junior detectives Pablo Reyes and Juan Jirón, who were all reportedly released the following day in Sébaco.

On June 10, as reported by the State, masked attackers set fire to a building in Managua where several government institutions—including the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Property Registration Authority and the Office for the Defense of Human Rights—provide their services. Also on June 10, National Police officers Marcos Antonio González Briceño and Jean Kerry Luna were shot while travelling on a motorbike in the department of Managua. Both were injured, and González Briceño later died of his wounds. On the same day, Kener Joel Velásquez, 17, was allegedly kidnapped in the municipality of Masatepe, and he remains unaccounted for.

“The number of people killed and injured continues to increase in an alarming way. It is deeply concerning that, based on the information that is available to date, a total of 143 human lives have been lost in the context of the repression of protests, and the situation continues to get worse,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Nicaragua. “The Nicaraguan State must take urgent measures to immediately end arbitrary attacks on the lives and personal integrity of all Nicaraguans, with no distinctions whatsoever, including their political views,” she stressed. “The State has an obligation to seek a peaceful solution for the country’s situation and to investigate and punish the people responsible for all acts of violence.”

The IACHR’s Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression has also received information about a string of attacks against media outlets and about acts of violence and threats against journalists working on the current political crisis. The State needs to investigate those events and to protect media and reporters who face a real and imminent risk of renewed attacks.

The IACHR, based on its preliminary observations, again alerts about the continuing denial and obstruction of medical assistance for injured persons in public hospitals. The Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (ESCER) continues to receive extremely worrying reports about the failure to guarantee and to protect the right to health, both in some hospitals and in actions allegedly carried out by parapolice forces that reportedly prevent humanitarian staff and ambulances from assisting the injured.

The alleged occupation by such groups of the Santiago Regional Hospital in Jinotepe in the early hours of June 12—during which attackers reportedly terrorized patients and health workers in order to prevent the provision of medical assistance—is especially worrying. In other cases, the injured are allegedly not receiving the medical treatment they need because they decline to go to healthcare centers for fear of being attacked. In particular, the IACHR had access to a statement by doctors at Bertha Calderón Roque Hospital, dated June 7, 2018, where those professionals express their commitment to continuing to assist the population and providing first aid to anyone who needs it, while they demand respect for the dignity and the lives of medical staff, paramedics, Medicine students and the population as a whole. We have further received information that members of the Red Cross were attacked in the city of León while they carried out their humanitarian tasks.

Faced with these facts, the IACHR and ESCER both insist on the State’s obligations to provide emergency medical assistance, facilitate access to medical centers and humanitarian services for the injured without discriminating, and protecting its population from any restrictions by third parties of the right to health.

The Commission rejects all forms of violence. In this context, based on the preliminary observations it carried out during its working visit to the country, the IACHR stresses that the Nicaraguan State has the obligation to dismantle the repressive structures, parapolice groups and other armed third-party structures that are operating in the country, who need to be investigated and brought to justice. The State also needs to restore its legitimate and proportionate use of force, within the constraints of the rule of law.

The Commission insists in the recommendations it made in the Preliminary Observations of its visit to Nicaragua, including immediately ending repression of demonstrators and arbitrary arrests and ensuring respect for the lives, personal integrity and safety of all persons who exercise their public rights and liberties in a context of extreme repression.

Paulo Abrão, Executive Secretary of the IACHR, said: “At this time, the IACHR is finalizing the selection of members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its Spanish acronym) for Nicaragua and continues to closely follow developments through its Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua.” Abrão added: “The Commission is finishing its final report on its working visit to Nicaragua, which is set to be put to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States at the request of the General Assembly of the OAS.”

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 128/18