Nicaragua strips 94 political opponents of citizenship

Analysts, legal experts and human rights groups condemn the move, which they say violates international law.

Nicaragua has stripped 94 political opponents of their citizenship, including prominent writers, activists and journalists.

The 94 people were “traitors” and would have their properties confiscated, Appeals Court Justice Ernesto Rodríguez Mejía said in a statement on Wednesday.

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

Most of those named fled Nicaragua when President Daniel Ortega began arresting opponents two years ago and Mejía said they had been declared “fugitives”. There was no mention of what might happen to those named who are still in Nicaragua.

Analysts, legal experts and human rights groups say the move violates international law and is unprecedented – at least in the Western Hemisphere – in terms of scale and impact.

Alvaro Navarro, a journalist stripped of his nationality, was defiant.

“I am Nicaraguan by the grace of God… if they think they’re going to bring me to my knees, they are tangled. Long live Nicaragua!” Navarro wrote on Twitter.

The move comes days after Ortega freed 222 political prisoners and put them on flights to the United States.

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

Thousands have fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces violently put down mass anti-government protests in 2018.

In the run-up to Ortega’s reelection in November 2021, Nicaraguan authorities arrested seven potential opposition presidential candidates to clear the field. The government also has closed hundreds of non-governmental groups Ortega accused of taking foreign funding and using it to destabilise his government.

Peter Spiro, an international law professor at Temple University, and others say stripping away citizenship in this context violates a treaty adopted in 1961 by countries in the United Nations, including Nicaragua, which sets clear rules meant to prevent statelessness.

The treaty states governments cannot “deprive any person or group of persons of their nationality on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds”.

Spiro noted there are some circumstances when governments can terminate citizenship, such as ending nationality for someone who acquires citizenship in another country when the first nation prohibits dual citizenship. But, he said, ending citizenship is not allowed when it is used as a political weapon.

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

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