A urgent Session of the UN Security Council on the Situation of Nicaragua urgently
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Petition Convene a Session of the UN Security Council on the Situation of Nicaragua urgently
We support this request from a wide array of civil organizations and social movements in Nicaragua. We wish to express our grave concern about the rapid deterioration of the security and human rights situation in Nicaragua, and to request your UN good offices to take urgent action to prevent a further escalation.
Local human rights organizations indicate that in the past 90 days since the protests started on the 18th of April of 2018, initially against pension reforms which evolved into protests against President Daniel Ortega’s government, between 350 to 400 people have been killed, over 2000 have been injured, and hundreds have been detained and forcibly disappeared, in a campaign of violent repression against protesters “overwhelmingly perpetrated by the State and by pro-government armed elements”, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in his statement of the 17 of July of 2018. He goes on to add that “the violence is all more horrific as armed elements loyal to the government are operating with the active or tacit support of and in coordination with the police and other state authorities. UN Human Rights Office staff on the ground report that a wide range of human rights violations are being committed, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, and denying people the right to freedom of expression. There has been incitement to hatred and smear campaigns, including against human rights defenders. The backdrop for all these violations is the absence of rule of law and due process (…) Amid the increasing climate of fear and mistrust, there are growing concerns that violence will intensify.”
We greatly appreciate the various statements and offers of support by the Secretary-General on the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua, as well as the deployment of the mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to follow to situation closely and assist the work of the National Dialogue between the government and civil society.
We also salute the expressions of solidarity and offers of support by former Swedish Ambassadors to Nicaragua, to address the situation in the UN Security Council (UNSC), given Sweden’s role as the current Presidency of the UNSC and its historic ties and support to the democratization of Nicaragua since the days of Former Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr. Olof Palme.
We would like to request the Secretary-General to use his good offices and in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations “Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches Of The Peace, and Acts Of Aggression’’, to urgently convene a session of the UN Security Council on the Situation of Nicaragua and brief Council members on the evolution and escalation of violence in the country. Our hope is that a session in the Security Council would allow not only to alert the international community about this mounting crisis, but more importantly it would allow to put forward concrete actions in addition to declarations of condemnation expressed by various countries and regional bodies, particularly analyzing measures available to the Council under Article 41 and 42 of Chapter VII of the Charter.
We urge you to consider discussing the following points as part of these potential measures and courses of action taken by the UN Security Council:
1. Cessation of aggression and disarmament: Issue directives that can help prevent an escalation of the conflict and guide a cessation of aggression from the Police and other State-sponsored armed paramilitary forces on unarmed civilians and peaceful protesters, including a roadmap towards the disarmament of these groups.
2. Sanctions: Analyze and discuss potential sanctions available to the Council under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter, including economic sanctions, arms embargoes, financial penalties and restrictions, and/or travel bans on members of the Ortega regime that have ordered and committed human rights violations. The reports and allegations of the participation of foreign paramilitaries and entry of military-grade weapons shipments into country to support the regime’s armed campaign against civilians, on the heels of a presidential decree sent for urgent approval of congress (approved decree number 08-2018) to allow for military troops (from Venezuela, among others), to enter Nicaragua, is particularly alarming. It warrants investigation and preventative measures to limit the escalation of the conflict to a regional scale and an increase of arms in the hands of irregular forces.
3. International Commissions of Inquiry: The establishment of an International Commission of Inquiry, with the support of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other specialized UN agencies, would be a crucial step towards thoroughly investigating the violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law investigating, including those that may constitute crimes against humanity, and identifying those responsible to ensure that perpetrators of violations are held accountable. Currently, an ad hoc mechanism has been established by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS), through a letter of agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the Inter-Disciplinary Group of International Experts (GIEI, for its Spanish acronym), to investigate the different cases and violations of human rights. However, given the government’s rejection of IACHR’s previous investigative reports – particularly its findings on the involvement of the State and National Police in the majority of cases of deadly violence–, there is concern that the findings of GIEI will suffer the same fate and that it does not have a strong enough mandate to ensure the that Prosecutor’s Office and other national prosecutorial and judicial institutions firmly under the regime’s control, will process the cases referred to it by GIEI. Thus, an International Commission of Inquiry, with its mandate firmly rooted in the system of international law and granted at the highest level by the UN Security Council, could complement GIEI and work as a joint OAS-UN task force.
The International Commission of Inquiry (ICI) would also be critical in bringing needed additional expertise to the country in addition to human rights and international law experts, to investigate the wide array of allegations of violations relating to the use of military-grade weaponry and arming of irregular forces; use of lethal force and torture by police and penitentiary personnel, as well as other breaches of police and judicial process; use of chemicals on civilian population via airplanes; denying injured victims from accessing public health centers, barring the access of ambulances and intercepting ambulances to detain injured victims; and, widespread allegations of alteration of autopsies and causes of death by public hospitals and the Institute of Forensic Medicine to declare them unrelated to protest-related violence and deaths. Thus, an ICI could include but not be limited to the provision of the additional following expertise: forensic specialists, police analysts, weapon experts, medical specialists and criminal investigators.
The establishment of a UN-mandated investigation would also increase international awareness and attention to the situation of Nicaragua, including greater coordination of actions and aid to partners and governments outside of the region and reach of regional organizations. It would also allow for the direct and periodic reporting of the situation to the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly, among others.
An ICI would also set the basis for a future mechanism of transitional justice or commission with partial judicial mandate (e.g. special independent prosecutor’s office or special tribunal) to be established in the country, to guarantee the achievement of truth, justice and reparations for victims, while the national judicial system undergoes profound reforms to reestablish its impartiality, non-partisanship, transparency and citizen trust. An ICI would ensure that such future mechanism is established meeting international standards, mandates and principles.
Finally, an ICI could be the main source of information for judicial procedures, particularly for a possible investigation of the International Criminal Court.
4. Referral and Jurisdiction for the International Criminal Court: Based on the OHCHR mission report of its visit between 26 of June to the 3rd July and monitoring of its in situ team, the briefs of the UN Special Rapporteurs of the 27 of April and 14th of June, the Country Report of the IACHR “Gross Human Rights Violations in the Context of Social Protests in Nicaragua’” of the 21st of June, the report by Amnesty International “Shoot To Kill: Nicaragua's Strategy To Repress Protest” of the 29th of May, as well as reports by local human rights groups such as CENIDH, CPDH and ANPDH, all evidence-supported findings have coincided there are systematic and large-scale, State-led armed attacks on unarmed civilians, particularly gross violations that include: murder and intentional use of lethal force, particularly of children, adolescents, youth and crowds of peaceful protestors, by National Police and progovernment paramilitary groups, including the use of snipers and extra-judicial executions; arbitrary imprisonment and illegal detentions; enforced disappearances and abductions; torture and inhumane treatment; denial of health care to critically injured victims; restrictions to freedom of expression, communication and freedom of the press; stigmatization, threats, attacks, criminalization and imprisonment of human rights defenders, members of the media, students, Catholic Church bishops and priests, and National Dialogue members; intentional attacks against hospitals, churches and other religious buildings, universities and other educational centers, as well as improvised medical and food collection centers; State-sponsored para-police and paramilitary forces armed by and acting with Police forces, both tacitly and often times escorted and accompanied in joint operations of “cleansing” with the National Police. All crimes that, given their scale, widespread, coordinated and intensifying nature, amount to crimes against humanity.
In this context, it is of particular importance to note that the current President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN), sent an urgent motion to congress to reform the Law of the National Police in 2014 (Law 872), in a controversial and widely criticized move seen by experts as further concentration of powers in the hands of the President. The new law removed the Ministry of Interior from the chain of command and placed the Police under the direct control of the President, naming him the Supreme Chief of the National Police of Nicaragua. In view of the sustained campaign of aggression carried out by the Police and its paramilitary forces for three uninterrupted months, the scale and coordination of the attacks in various cities simultaneously, and his own declarations as well those of his wife and Vice-President, Rosario Murillo, directing these “Cleansing Operations”, he is the only one with faculties under the new law to direct, approve or control these operations. Hence, it is imperative that both Mr. Ortega and Mrs. Murillo – who in the day-to-day functions as the de facto President and has been the main voice inciting violence and persecution of government opposers–, be investigated to determine their criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity and other violations of international law.
Other noteworthy regime loyalists who are alleged to have led and/or coordinated the attacks and whose criminal responsibilities in the massacres and violations should be investigated are: Ms. Aminta Granera, Director General of the National Police until 27th of April (and who has not been since rumors of her resignation circulated); Mr. Francisco Diaz, General Commissioner and de facto leader of the National Police (and Mr. Ortega’s in-law), and who has been sanctioned under the U.S. Magnitsky Law for leading the Police to commit gross violations of human rights; Mr. Luis Alberto Perez, Mayor Commissioner of the Police and Chief of the National Direction of Judicial Assistance, the detention centers where torture and inhumane treatment have been alleged to have taken place; Mr. Ramon Avellan, General Commissioner and Police Chief for the city of Masaya; the Police Chiefs of Managua, Leon, Carazo, RAAS and other departments and cities where the biggest massacres have happened; Mr. Fidel Moreno, General Secretary of the Municipality of Managua, who is alleged to have organized, financed and led Sandinista Youth paramilitaries, and who has been sanctioned under the U.S. Magnitsky Law for these crimes; Ms. Sonia Castro, Health Minister, alleged to have directed public hospitals, clinics, personnel and ambulances to systematically deny medical assistance to demonstrators and victims of violence; Mr. Gustavo Porras, President of the National Assembly, for his public calls of attack and incitement of violence that led to the Mother’s Day Massacre, for his complicity with the regime in failing to comply with the Constitutional imperative of investigation, suspension of immunity and impeachment of the President following evidence of crimes and grave offences by the President (Article 130, 131 and 149 of the Nicaragua Constitution), as well as aiding and abetting the repression by passing urgent laws to criminalize protests as terrorism and the entry of foreign troops, in the Sandinista controlled congress; Ms. Ana Julia Guido Ochoa, Prosecutor General, for fabricating charges and accusations against demonstrators and human rights defenders to criminalize protesters as ”terrorists” and “members of organized crime”, and not processing a single complaint filed by victims and local human rights organizations against police and paramilitaries;and other persons responsible that further investigations might indicate.
It is therefore crucial for the UN Security Council to examine the possibility of referring the case of Nicaragua and the abovementioned individuals to the International Criminal Court (ICC), instructing it to initiate Preliminary Examinations and investigate crimes against humanity perpetrated on the civilian population by the Ortega regime. Given that Nicaragua is a not a State Party of the Rome Statute, the UN Security Council would have to refer the case to the ICC Prosecutor pursuant to a resolution adopted under chapter VII of the UN Charter and Article 13 of the Rome Statute, to grant it jurisdiction.
5. Peacekeeping or Military Observers: Asses the possibility of establishing a peacekeeping mission to the country or dispatching military observers to help reduce tensions and escalating violence, to guide and oversee disarmament processes, and establish security conditions in which peaceful negotiations may be sought and the protection of civilians can be guaranteed.
6. Special Envoy: Assess the possibility of appointing a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the UN to Nicaragua, to contribute to negotiations and peace talks at the highest level, to broker a cessation of aggression or ceasefire and support mediation in the framework of the National Dialogue and other platforms, to coordinate all political and humanitarian efforts and initiatives on the ground, and periodically inform the SG and the Security Council.
7. Mediation Support: So far, the OHCHR has been granted access to the country, but the UN at large could provide further support with its vast expertise in conflict prevention and resolution with its other agencies and programs (e.g. DPA, UNDP, to name a few) to specifically provide methodological guidance, tools and techniques on mediation to support the National Dialogue and strengthen the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua’s crucial role and capacities as the Dialogue mediator.
These actions would complement other National Dialogue efforts and regional initiatives in the framework of the OAS, to push for judicial and democratic reforms, including calls for Mr. Ortega to step down and celebrate early elections, but which have stalled due to the intensifying violence, the deployment of armed pro-government groups in progressively greater number, their increasing brutality and aggression, including against members of the Dialogue itself, and the unwillingness to commit a cessation of aggression or proposals for elections by the government.
We hope you will consider this request and its suggestions and assist us in achieving a peaceful, just and sustained resolution for the crisis in Nicaragua.
After the signatures are collected this petition will be addressed to His Excellency Mr. António Guterres Secretary-General United Nations New York
 Press briefing notes on Nicaragua, Mali and Kashmir, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, Geneva, 17 July 2018.
 Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), Permanent Commission of Human Rights of Nicaragua (CPDH), Nicaraguan Association Pro Human Rights (ANPDH).
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