Nicaragua: Political opposition stripped of citizenship

Protest on International Women’s Day, 2015. The text reads, “The world needs to know what is happening in Nicaragua”. Photo: Catrin Söderberg.

On Wednesday, 94 people from the opposition were stripped of their Nicaraguan citizenship. The government targeted human rights defenders, politicians, journalists, and even students. This is an extension of when they last week forced 222 political prisoners into exile. President Daniel Ortega is getting rid of all critical voices from the country, violating international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, has for several years made all credible opposition and human rights work in the country impossible through threats, harassment, and arbitrary detentions. Before the elections in 2021, all opposition candidates were jailed to ensure that Daniel Ortega stayed in power. Since then, his crackdown on dissidents and human rights defenders has only increased in strength.

Statelessness deprives people of basic human rights

Stripping a person of their citizenship is a grave human rights violation. Being a citizen is the core pillar of all human rights. A stateless person is being denied their civil and political rights and might have difficulties getting access to human rights such as education, healthcare, employment, and freedom of movement. The actions of Daniel Ortega set a dangerous precedent.

“Daniel Ortega is clearly attempting to get rid of all those who dare stand up against his regime. And other authoritarian regimes might follow in his footsteps,” says Erik Jennische, Head of the Latin America Department at Civil Rights Defenders.

Rendering a person stateless clearly violates Article 15 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also violates a UN treaty adopted in 1961, which sets clear rules meant to prevent statelessness. According to the treaty signed by Nicaragua, governments cannot “deprive any person or group of persons of their nationality on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds.”

Sweden and the EU must act – this is how

The Swedish government, as the current president of the EU, needs to act swiftly.

“First, respect for human rights is an ‘essential element’ of the Association Agreement between the EU and six countries in Central America, among them Nicaragua. The fact that respect for human rights holds this status in the agreement means that there are very concrete steps a party to the agreement should take if another party violates human rights. The Swedish governments should therefore initiate such a process immediately.”

“The second step the Swedish government needs to take is to bring up the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Nicaragua on the Union’s agenda for the EU-CELAC summit in July,” says Erik Jennische.

(CELAC: Community of Latin American and Caribbean States)

“The Swedish government must convince the EU to put pressure on the Nicaraguan government to release all political prisoners and guarantee the right of all Nicaraguans to return to their home country. Furthermore, it must ensure that those responsible for massive human rights violations are held accountable and demand that the Nicaraguan government creates conditions for democratic elections to all levels of government,” says Erik Jennische.