MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) – Eighteen Nicaraguans who say they have suffered torture and abuse at the hands of their country’s security forces have testified this week before a panel of lawyers and psychologists, determined not to allow the pandemic to continue delaying their search for Justice.
With these statements over several days in San José, Costa Rica, they seek to prepare a claim to be presented in regional and international courts.
The alleged abuses took place during protests against the Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega between April and August 2018. Police and plainclothes officers brutally repressed what Ortega described as an attempted coup.
The victims submitted video statements of what experts call systematic sexual abuse in order to terrorize inmates. These included repeated rapes, amputations of fingers, and psychological torture.
The so-called Tribunal of Conscience was organized by the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress in Costa Rica, where some 80,000 Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers reside who say they have suffered abuse at the hands of their country’s authorities.
The panel said in its final report on Friday that “there is no doubt that the state of Nicaragua committed a crime of torture through the sexual abuse and rape of women and men while they were in the custody of the country’s police and para-police forces. ”.
The testimonies presented to the panel could not be independently verified as the victims were not identified by name, but they were very similar to the abuses described to The Associated Press by victims in 2018 and those documented by rights organizations. humans.
“This cannot remain a simple complaint,” said Roberto Samcam, a retired Nicaraguan army major now exiled in Guatemala and who was the panel’s expert on the chain of command. “We are documenting each case in depth to proceed to a trial, possibly before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).”
The protests in Nicaragua began in April 2018, when retirees demonstrated against changes to the pension system. When they were violently repressed, the students took to the streets and made other claims against the government.
Barricades mounted by protesters practically paralyzed the country for months, until they were dismantled by police and groups loyal to the government. Participants say the persecution continues two years later. At least 328 people died at the hands of the repression, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The prisoners used to be locked up in a prison in Managua known as El Chipote.
“We witnessed how they raped the girls,” said one victim, who in addition to the sexual assaults witnessed the amputation of fingers.
Another said she was seized by paramilitaries on a highway and when they found homemade explosives in her bag, they assaulted her.
“They started punching and kicking me,” he said. “They threw me to the ground and two of the three hooded men raped me. While some raped me, the other pointed the gun at me. I felt like I wanted to die ”.
According to another victim, the only captive who was raped suffered a miscarriage due to the beating.
Others spoke of broken jaws, teeth and noses. They told them they would kill their families and forced them to watch their friends torture.
“The practice of rape in Nicaragua by state agents constituted torture,” said Soraya Long, former director of the Center for Justice and International Law who served as the panel’s advisory psychologist.
The Nicaraguan government did not respond to requests for comment.
Samcam, the retired official, said that several government officials participated in the abuses.
“There is a list of high authorities who were directly involved in these crimes: police chiefs, government officials, mayors and political secretaries from the Sandinista Front party who participated in these crimes,” he said.