MANAGUA – Nicaragua’s National Assembly legislature, controlled by the ruling Sandinista faction, approved this Saturday as an urgent matter an Amnesty Law that will absolve of all responsibility those who committed crimes during the crisis that broke out more than a year ago and left hundreds of people dead or under arrest, and tens of thousands in exile.
The initiative, proposed by the Sandinistas who hold an absolute majority in the National Assembly, provides “wide-ranging amnesty for all who took part in the incidents across national territory from April 18, 2018, until now.”
The amnesty extends to individuals who have not been investigated, who are currently being investigated, who are involved in court procedures to determine their guilt, and to those who are serving sentences.
Consequently, the law says, the authorities will not begin new investigative procedures, must close the administrative procedures initiated and shut down court cases already underway, as well as revoke sentences.
Therefore, people deprived of their freedom when the law was enacted must obtain their freedom immediately.
The authorities will cancel the criminal records of all individuals who benefit from the amnesty.
The regulation covers all political crimes and associated common crimes, except those regulated by international treaties that Nicaragua has signed.
Those benefiting from the law must abstain from perpetrating new criminal acts that represent repetitive behavior.
Failure to observe the principle of non-repetition brings as a consequence the revocation of the benefits established by this law.
The bill was rejected by opposition lawmakers on grounds that it does not do justice to the victims killed or injured in protests against the Daniel Ortega regime that began because of some unpopular social security reforms.
Another reason is because the law is based on the official thesis that anti-government demonstrations must be treated as attempted coups against the president.
According to the opposition, what the regime is trying to do with this amnesty is to free “his people” from all legal accusations, among whom were mentioned the National Police and armed civilians who by the force of arms cleared away the road blockades installed by the opposition between May and July last year to put pressure on the government.
According to the report by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), an affiliate of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the principal cause of the violence that left hundreds dead was the Ortega regime, which in mid-2019 used police and militia groups bearing weapons of war to attack civilians.
The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, came out against this law, saying that “the government has the duty to give an accounting and guarantee justice for the victims.”
“Amnesty for serious violations of human rights is prohibited by international law. That creates impunity, which can lead to more violations,” the high commissioner said.
For its part, the Penal Action group, made up of attorneys who defend political prisoners, warned that this law “creates impunity,” judicial insecurity, and limits the individual rights and guarantees of detained members of the opposition.
From 1985 to date, 14 amnesty laws have been approved in Nicaragua, 10 of them during the first Sandinista government (1979-1990).
The crisis in Nicaragua has left at least 325 dead, according to the IACHR, though local organizations raise the number to 594.The government admits to 199.