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World News

Bishop of Winchester joins UK Parliamentarians warning of clampdown on democracy in Nicaragua

by Donna Birrell

The Bishop of Winchester is among UK Parliamentarians and Christians who are warning of a clampdown on democracy in Nicaragua.

The Nicaragua Inquiry included leading parliamentarians working on human rights, including Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen who authored the Truro Independent Review into the Persecution of Christians, Christian peer Lord Alton of Liverpool and Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The Nicaragua Report - The Silencing of Democracy in Nicaragua was convened by Lord Alton who said democracy was being “eroded piece by piece.” It was launched under the auspices of three All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) and considered the politically motivated targeting of the media, religious leaders and anyone opposing the Ortega regime.

Since President Daniel Ortega came to power in 2007 he has jailed and persecuted those opposed to his authority and anyone critical of the Nicaraguan government, including the Catholic Church. In 2018, he accused church leaders of attempting to overthrow the government when they acted as mediators after deadly protests broke out that left more than 300 people dead.

The report includes the voices of those targeted by the regime while investigating extrajudicial executions; arbitrary detentions; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; arbitrary deprivation of nationality; and violation of the right to remain in one’s country.

Lord Alton said: “This report makes it very clear that anyone critical of the Ortega regime will be targeted. With every attack on political opposition, journalists, human rights defenders, and religious leaders, democracy is being eroded piece by piece. This silencing of democracy in Nicaragua is manifested in atrocities that are classified by international experts, including the UN Group of Experts on Nicaragua, as crimes against humanity and need to be addressed as such.”

Human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger said: “We must now engage the UK Government and States globally to act against these human rights violations in Nicaragua, particularly those perpetrated so aggressively against the Catholic Church, the educational institutions and the independent media.”

The parliamentary groups involved are the APPGs on Central America, International Freedom of Religion and Belief, and International Law, Justice, and Accountability.

 The APPGs are made up of cross-party parliamentarians, including from the government and opposition parties, from both houses, with expertise and interest in these areas.

 Other Parliamentarians involved include Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws KC, Baroness Hooper and the MPs Mark Menzies and Brendan O’Hara.

The inquiry received contributions from over 13 lived experience witnesses and experts, providing evidence in person or online, and a further 60 individuals and organisations provided written submissions.

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