Crimes against humanity in Nicaragua

Human Rights Expert Jan-Michael Simon submits report

March 06, 2023

Widespread human rights violations that amount to crimes against humanity are being committed against civilians by Nicaragua’s government for political reasons, said the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua, chaired by Max Planck senior researcher Jan-Michael Simon.

The alleged abuses – which include extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, arbitrary deprivation of nationality and of the right to remain in one's own country – are not an isolated phenomenon but the product of the deliberate dismantling of democratic institutions and destruction of civic and democratic space, according to the report.

"These violations and abuses are being perpetrated in a widespread and systematic manner for political reasons, constituting the crimes against humanity of murder, imprisonment, torture, including sexual violence, deportation, and politically motivated persecution,” independent expert Jan-Michael Simon stated in a press conference of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “The Nicaraguan population lives in fear of the actions that the government itself may take against them.”

"The high government authorities have managed to instrumentalize the executive, legislative, judicial, and electoral branches to develop and implement a legal framework aimed at repressing the exercise of fundamental freedoms and persecuting opposing persons,” Simon added. “The objective is to eliminate, by different means, any opposition in the country.”

The report identified a pattern of extrajudicial executions carried out by agents of the National Police and members of pro-government armed groups who acted in a joint and coordinated manner during protests that took place between April 18 and September 23, 2018. The government obstructed any investigation in connection with these and other deaths.

The report also revealed that agents of the police and the National Penitentiary System and members of pro-government armed groups committed acts of physical and psychological torture, including sexual and gender-based violence, in the context of the apprehension, interrogation, and detention of opponents.

In addition, the report found that the government has used arbitrary detention as a tool to silence critics. Many arrests were characterized by excessive use of force by the police and violence at the hands of pro-government armed groups; many people were detained without warrants and held incommunicado.

The report calls for the international community to impose sanctions on the institutions and individuals involved. 

  • Informe del Grupo de Expertos en Derechos Humanos sobre Nicaragua”. Read the full report here.

The German researcher Jan-Michael Simon was appointed Chair of the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua by the President of the UN Human Rights Council in May 2022. The Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua is an independent body mandated by the UN Human Rights Council and tasked with conducting thorough and independent investigations into all alleged human rights violations and abuses committed in Nicaragua since April 2018.

Legal scholar Jan-Michael Simon is a senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law in Freiburg, Germany. His research is devoted to human rights, transitional justice, criminal justice reforms, and corruption. He has over 25 years of experience in matters of crime and justice in Latin America, having worked towards establishing accountability mechanisms in conjunction with human rights violations and impunity particularly in Central America.


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