US sanctions Nicaraguan judges who removed dissident citizenship

The sanctions come as President Daniel Ortega’s administration faces persistent accusations of gagging dissent.

The United States has announced sanctions against three Nicaraguan judges for their role in stripping hundreds of activists and political dissidents of their citizenship as the Nicaraguan government is accused of suppressing the opposition.

In a press release on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the judges had helped facilitate “government repression” and the removal of the citizenship of more than 300 Nicaraguans.

“The United States is taking further action to hold accountable those responsible for the repressive actions of the Nicaraguan regime,” Blinken said in a press statement.

The government of Nicaragua, led by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, has been criticized by the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for using the judiciary to attack political opponents.

“We will continue to use available diplomatic and economic tools to promote accountability for the abuses committed by the Ortega-Murillo regime,” Blinken added.

In February, Nicaragua released 222 political prisoners and sent them into exile in the US. Lawmakers then voted to revoke their citizenship and threatened to render them stateless.

A week later, a Nicaraguan court also revoked the citizenship of 94 exiled dissidents in a move condemned as illegal by the UN refugee agency.

The sanctions target Nicaraguan judges Nadia Camila Tardencilla Rodriguez, Ernesto Leonel Rodriguez Mejia and Octavio Ernesto Rothschuh Andino, whom Blinken called “directly responsible” for the controversial decision that left “many of these individuals stateless.”

On Tuesday, Amnesty International released a report saying that the Ortega government has attempted to consolidate power in a variety of ways, including “excessive use of force, use of criminal law to unfairly criminalize activists and dissidents, attacks on civil society and forced exile”. .

The report was released on the fifth anniversary of nationwide protests in Nicaragua in 2018, as citizens took to the streets to demonstrate against austerity measures and social security cuts.

The government responded to those demonstrations with a deadly crackdown that left hundreds of people dead.

The report says the government has since found ways to “expand and reinvent” patterns of repression and remove critical voices – including independent media, civil society groups and political opponents – from the public sphere.

The Nicaraguan government also withdrew its endorsement from the European Union’s ambassador to the country on Tuesday, following a statement the EU expressed concern about the rule of law in Nicaragua.