Nicaragua withdraws citizenship from Ramirez, Belli, 92 opponents

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Nicaragua on Wednesday revoked the citizenship of 94 political opponents, including writers Sergio Ramírez and Gioconda Belli.

Appeal Court Judge Ernesto Rodríguez Mejía read a statement calling the 94 people “traitors” and saying they had lost their Nicaraguan citizenship.

Mejía said her property will be confiscated.

He said those on the list – including rights activist Vilma Núñez, former Sandinista rebel commander Luis Carrión and journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro – were guilty of “spreading false news” and “conspiring to undermine national integrity”.

It was not clear which law the declaration was based on. Nicaragua’s Congress has yet to fully approve a bill that would allow the government to strip people of their citizenship.

Most of those named have fled Nicaragua since President Daniel Ortega began arresting opponents two years ago, and Mejía said they were declared “fugitives.” No mention was made of what might happen to those named who are still in Nicaragua.

The move comes days after Ortega put 222 jailed political leaders, priests, students, activists and other dissidents on a flight to the United States.

Shortly thereafter, Ortega’s government voted to strip the expelled former prisoners of their Nicaraguan citizenship.

Analysts, legal experts and human rights groups call it a political ploy. They claim it also violates international law and say it is unprecedented — at least in the Western Hemisphere — in scale and impact.

Ramirez announced he is living in Spain in 2021 after Ortega’s government tried to arrest him and banned his latest book. The 79-year-old writer was Vice President during Ortega’s first government from 1985 to 1990. But in the mid-1990s he, along with other intellectuals and former guerrillas, distanced himself from Ortega.

Thousands have fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces violently crushed mass anti-government protests in 2018. Ortega says the protests were actually a foreign-backed coup attempt aimed at his ouster and encouraging foreign nations to impose sanctions on members of his family and government.

In the run-up to Ortega’s re-election in November 2021, Nicaraguan authorities arrested seven potential opposition presidential candidates to clear the field. The government has also shut down hundreds of non-governmental groups that Ortega accused of siphoning off foreign funds and thereby destabilizing his government.

Peter J. Spiro, a professor of international law at Temple University, and others say the deprivation of citizenship in this context violates a treaty adopted by United Nations countries, including Nicaragua, in 1961 that lays out clear rules to prevent statelessness.

The treaty states that governments “may not withdraw the citizenship of any person or group of persons on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds”.

Spiro pointed out that there are certain circumstances in which governments can end citizenship, e.g. B. Termination of citizenship for someone who acquires citizenship in another country when the first nation prohibits dual citizenship. But, he said, ending citizenship is not allowed if it is being used as a political weapon.

Spain has offered its citizenship to the 222 exiles, while the US has granted Nicaraguans a two-year temporary protection.

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