The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nicaragua's Ortega kicks out U.N. investigators after report criticizes his government

A woman flutters a Nicaraguan flag in front of police during an anti-government protest on Thursday in Managua. (INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)

MEXICO CITY — Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has ordered a United Nations human rights team to leave the country, two days after the release of a scathing report that blames Ortega’s government for leading a violent crackdown on protesters.

In a statement Friday, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said its regional team received a letter Thursday from Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry saying it would be the last day for its investigative team in Nicaragua. The letter, signed by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, said the underlying “reasons, causes and conditions” that led Nicaragua to invite the United Nations in the first place no longer existed.

The decision to expel the human rights investigators follows the group’s blistering report about the Ortega government’s role in the violent repression of protesters since demonstrations began in April. More than 300 people have been killed and 2,000 injured in the clashes, according to the United Nations.

The report found that the “overall response of the authorities to the protests” resulted in a “violation of international human rights law.”

“Although some demonstrations turned violent, the majority of protesters were peaceful,” the report said. “In cases where protesters were violent, the use of lethal force by authorities against nonlethal threats and
the reliance on pro-Government armed elements, also violated international human rights law. This response systematically repressed dissent against the Government.”

The protests in April — spurred by changes to social security and the government’s slow response to a forest fire in a nature reserve — quickly swelled into a nationwide movement, with many demonstrators calling for the resignation of Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo.

Ortega responded by deploying riot police along with masked, pro-government paramilitaries to clear roadblocks and protest barricades in many parts of the country. This caused repeated violent clashes over the summer.

Ortega’s government has since reasserted control and hunted down protest leaders, whom the government considers criminals and terrorists. Thousands of people have fled to Costa Rica to seek asylum.

The U.N. human rights team, at Ortega’s invitation, arrived in Nicaragua in mid-June. The 41-page report issued this week documented several human rights violations.

“The systematic persecution and suppression of dissent or perceived opposition by Government authorities and pro-Government groups, compounded with the continuous intimidation by pro-Government armed elements, have resulted in a climate of widespread terror, frustration and despair within the population,” the report said.

The U.N. team plans to continue to follow events in Nicaragua remotely from its regional office in Panama, said Carlos Rodriguez, a spokesman.

From rebel to strongman: How Daniel Ortega became the thing he fought against

‘They took my humanity’: Pro-government paramilitaries terrorize Nicaraguan protesters

‘They are shooting at a church’: Inside the 15-hour siege by Nicaraguan paramilitaries on university students

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