Ortega Continues Crackdown on Civic Groups, Expels International Red Cross from Nicaragua

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By Marco Echevarria

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported on Monday the closure of its offices in Nicaragua – at the request of the Nicaraguan authorities, which puts an end to the humanitarian work being done by the organization in the country.

The ICRC regional delegation for Mexico and Central America reiterates its readiness to resume its dialogue and humanitarian action in Nicaragua, ICRC said.

In 2018, the ICRC was authorized by the regime to open a mission in the country, focused on exclusively humanitarian objectives, such as visits to political prisoners at the request of their relatives.

In January 2019, ICRC established a permanent mission in Managua, and in March 2019 the ICRC and the Nicaraguan government formalized an agreement to visit detainees, the organization said.

The modus operandi of the ICRC visits was to work quietly and in confidentiality, as Thomas Ess, then head of the ICRC mission in Nicaragua and who was subsequently expelled from the country, explained in 2021, so they rarely spoke about the status of political prisoners.

No access to the Chipote and with expelled head of mission

In March of this year it was known that, although the international organization had authorization from the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo to visit persons deprived of their liberty in the different prison systems and prisons of the country since 2019, from June 2021 longer

Also, in March 2022 Thomas Ess, head of mission of ICRC, was expelled from the country through a letter, where the Government of Nicaragua notifies that it decided to withdraw the approval of our head of mission in Managua, the Red Cross communications coordinator for Mexico and Central America informed this Journal.

Ess told this Journal at that time that the expulsion took us by surprise, that they were unaware of the reasons and confirmed their commitment to continue humanitarian work in Nicaragua.

The only remaining international body

ICRC was the only international body that had been able to enter the various prisons and to ascertain the situation of Nicaraguan prisoners. With its expulsion, there is no international body documenting the conditions under which the Ortega regime maintains political prisoners.

Their action, as they recalled on Monday, has focused in recent three major areas of work on three major areas of work: supporting the Nicaraguan Red Cross; preventing and addressing humanitarian consequences of deprivation of liberty; and training activities on international humanitarian law, the legal framework applicable to the tasks in which the armed and security forces participate, and international human rights law.

However, on 10 May, the National Assembly annulled the law that created the Nicaraguan as an association, in retaliation to the subsidiaries that refused to participate in the repression against the civil protests of 2018. And he ordered his property confiscated. Instead, Orteguismo created a new Nicaraguan Red Cross – as an autonomous and decentralized entity attached to the Ministry of Health, that is now in the hands of the Minsa.

As in more than 80 countries, the work being done by ICRC has an exclusively humanitarian purpose, and is strictly adhered to the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Through direct action and bilateral and confidential dialogue with authorities, people affected by humanitarian consequences, and other key interlocutors, ICRC is working on the promotion of life-friendly and human dignity environments, ICRC said.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in La PrensaNi