July 19th: Nothing to Celebrate
On July 19th of 1979, Nicaragua wrote a transcendental page in their history, that quickly affected the reality of all the Americas. That day, the revolutionary resistance against the ferocious dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, finally put an end to decades of political authoritarianism, repression, restrictions on liberties, and systematic violations of human rights. July 19th was pronounced as a symbolic day of dignity, justice, and the fight for the rights of a people that no longer wanted to live under oppression. Today, 39 years later, Nicaragua shudders and weeps before the grave violations of human rights, a product of the barbarism and repression of the police forces and the vigilante groups related to the government. Today, the ideals of justice and dignity, just like almost forty years ago, continue to be defended by Nicaraguans against a government that has long abandoned them. This past 18th of April, peaceful protests against the approval of a social security reform began in Nicaragua, and they were severely repressed. Despite the fact that the government repealed the reform, the protests continued, now with claims related to the deterioration of democracy. It should be noted that, since the year 2000 reforms were put into place to consolidate the concentration of power in the governing party, which has caused there to be no independent institutions capable of fully guaranteeing the human rights of the population. Violence and repression have increased since then, and Nicaragua is currently facing a human rights and political crisis that has left more than 300 people dead and around 1,500 people injured, the majority at the hands of the police and vigilantes related to the government. The context of the aggressions, threats, and criminalization under which human rights defenders and peasant movements realize their labor should be noted. This is the case of Medardo Mairena, a peasant leader and member of the Civic Alliance, who was detained this past July 13, accused of crimes of terrorism and the assassination of four police officers. Yesterday, July 18, leader Irlanda Jérez was detained, after finishing a press conference in which she was participating. Situations like this demonstrate the governmental strategy aimed at limiting the work of journalists, human rights defenders, students, and civil society organizations that risk their lives and personal integrities to defend democracy and human rights. This grave situation has been documented and exposed on different occasions by international bodies, like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), among others. The arduous labor of these bodies has proven that there is a context of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, restrictions on freedom of expression and access to healthcare, as well as sponsors of excessive force and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatments, among others. Most recently, forced disappearances prejudicing social leaders have become evident. These acts have generated the rejection of international organizations in distinct multilateral spaces like the Organization of American States, that yesterday July 18th released a resolution that condemned the acts of violence and repression against the people of Nicaragua on behalf of the police and vigilante groups and demanding that the State identify those responsible as well as to dismantle these groups. The government of Nicaragua, despite the arrival of international human rights mechanisms, like the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI, by its Spanish acronym) or the confirmation of an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its Spanish acronym) to accompany the investigations on the violent acts, has developed a strategy aiming to sow terror in the population, with the objective of ending the legitimate social protests. Despite the efforts of the government to hide the reality of the situation and to generate a distorted view of the grave violations of human rights, many organizations and international and national collectives have raised their voices to denounce what is happening. The State of Nicaragua, under the basis of its international obligations has the obligation of taking the necessary measures to prevent the grave violations of human rights and as well as to identify, judge, and sanction those responsible. We have no doubt that the violations and abuses of the population, on behalf of government officials, related political sectors and violent groups, must face processes of justice, truth, and reparation as have occurred in other cases across the region. For example, in Guatemala, Argentina, and Peru those responsible for the grave violations of human rights committed in the context of dictatorship were processed. It is our firm belief that in the case of Nicaragua impunity will not win and sooner or later justice for the victims and their families will become a reality. On this 19th of July, on which there is nothing to celebrate, we express our close accompaniment and our voices to the victims and families who search for justice, we express our admiration and firm compromise with the people and organizations who fight for a democratic Nicaragua, free of violence and that guarantees human rights without any discrimination. Marcía Aguiluz Soto, Program Director for Central America and Mexico, CEJIL José Ignacio Gómez García Project Officer, CEJIL