Argentinian judge launches probe into Nicaragua abuse allegations

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — An Argentinian judge has opened a criminal investigation into Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario María Murillo to determine whether they are responsible for crimes against humanity.

Federal Judge Ariel Lijo launched the investigation Wednesday at the request of prosecutor Eduardo Taiano after two lawyers filed a criminal complaint against the Nicaraguan leaders.

Taiano said the Argentine judiciary is within its rights to investigate human rights violations that have taken place in another country, as the Argentine Constitution recognizes the principle of universal jurisdiction.

As a first step, Lijo sent a request for information to the Nicaraguan judiciary asking for details about the existence of open cases related to alleged illegal detentions and disappearances of people, a judicial official told The Associated Press. aware of the case. anonymity as the investigation is still at the preliminary stage.

This is not the first time that the Argentine justice investigates allegations of human rights violations in another country by invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction.

An Argentine court opened an investigation in 2010 into allegations of human rights abuses during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) as well as under Francisco Franco’s regime and the two years between the dictator’s death in 1975 and the first democratic elections. More recently, an Argentinian court gave the green light in 2021 to an investigation into allegations of human rights abuses against the predominantly Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar.

In his request for an investigation, Taiano specifically targeted Ortega and his wife, who is also the country’s vice president, as well as “those within state or semi-official structures” who may be responsible for dictating executions and persecutions “for political and/or religious reasons.

Ortega’s government has stepped up the persecution of its political opponents and is using the courts to charge their family members with criminal activity, according to human rights organizations.

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country following persecution following massive protests in April 2018 that led to arrests and long prison sentences.

Argentina’s legal action follows a complaint filed by two lawyers, Darío Richarte and Diego Pirota, based on a report about the detention of Rolando Álvarez, the Bishop of Matagalpa under house arrest. Little is known about his health.

The complaint pointed out that the situation of the Bishop’s detention is in the context of a systematic attack against the civilian population and mentions investigations pointing to abuses by the Ortega government. The investigations were carried out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, the Center for Legal and Social Studies and the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights.

Taiano said Argentina’s judiciary could open an investigation into the Nicaraguan government because of international commitments that “establish the duty of national courts to investigate on behalf of the international community.”

The prosecutor also pointed out that the International Criminal Court would not be able to try the alleged crimes because Nicaragua has not ratified the Rome Statute.

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