Political Violence in Nicaragua Worries IACHR

In a press release issued today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its concern over acts of violence committed in Nicaragua last week.  The Commission reports:

During the incidents serious disturbances took place, dozens of individuals were detained, property was burned, and shots were fired. The Commission learned that these acts were undertaken to prevent the functioning of the National Assembly.

According to coverage by Nicaraguan newspapers La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario and Spanish daily El País, the violence is an expression of opposition to the legislature’s consideration of a proposed law that would revoke Executive Order 03-2010, issued by President Daniel Ortega in January, which mandates that the Supreme Court justices and other public officials keep their posts beyond their term limits, despite the fact that they have, or will shortly, expire.

Some have accused President Ortega of orchestrating the violent attacks by his followers, supporters of the governing party, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, against the national legislature (Asamblea Nacional) and individual legislators.  In separate incidents, the Ortega supporters – including government journalists and hooded individuals -physically attacked legislators, burned the cars of two politicians, attacked the headquarters of one opposition party and shot at another, threw rocks and bricks at the Asamblea Nacional building and blocked its entrance, and took to the streets of Managua to protest.

Executive Order 03-2010 survived a constitutional challenge last week, when the Supreme Court held that the petitioner lacked standing to challenge it (Radio La Primerísima, La Voz del Sandinismo).

The Inter-American Commission urged the Nicaraguan government to respect its international obligations, stating:

The Commission reminds the Nicaraguan State that it has the duty to maintain public order within the framework of national and international instruments on human rights. As the IACHR has noted before, States must ensure administrative control measures that guarantee that the use of force in public demonstrations shall be exceptional in nature and applied in strictly necessary circumstances based on internationally established principles. The IACHR urges the Nicaraguan authorities to guarantee the normal functioning of democratic institutions.

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