Human rights group takes on cause of stranded Nicaraguans

Scores of Nicaraguans are stranded in the Cayman Islands.

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission is taking up the cause of Nicaraguan nationals stranded in Cayman and in other countries as suspected cases of violations of human rights.

“The right of return is one of the most basic principles of international law; it is enshrined in the 1948 Geneva Convention,” said Johnathan Duarte, a Nicaraguan-American activist and advisor to the Nicaraguan Opposition. “As a result, we have stepped in and elevated the situation to the Inner-American Human Rights Commission and the Organization of American States.

“They have committed to sending a diplomatic note of protest to the Ortega regime in Managua.”

On Wednesday, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission – an autonomous entity of the Organization of American States – held a virtual meeting, which was streamed live on YouTube. During the meeting, several delegates and representatives denounced Nicaragua’s border closures and called for the IAHRC to hold the Nicaraguan government accountable through regional courts.

“Too often in times of crisis, oppressive governments take advantage of a distracted international community to further undermine human rights in their countries,” said Edward Heartney, the American ambassador to the IAHRC. “During such times, as we’ve seen just today regarding Nicaragua, it’s important the OAS [Organization of American States] and the inter-American Human Rights [Commission] system continues to … make every effort to support civil societies under threat.”

More than 120 Nicaraguans who secured seats aboard a charted Cayman Airways flight in March, which was destined for Managua, Nicaragua, were left jobless and homeless after Nicaragua closed its borders hours before the flight was due to depart.

“The situation that you are seeing in Cayman is just a small sampling of a much larger systemic situation that is going on right now,” said Duarte. “There are approximately 1,000 Nicaraguans …. stranded. From Dubai to the Caribbean, there are folks in Panama, folks in El Salvador, there are folks in Honduras, there are nearly 800 aboard cruise ships.”

On Saturday, 22 June, Nicaragua granted entry to 110 residents, who were stuck on a cruise ship for nearly three months. However, the borders have remain closed, and no other repatriation flights have been allowed to land since.

The Nicaraguan government’s refusal to let stranded nationals return home has sparked outrage across the country and led to days of protest and unrest. In Bluefield, a Nicaraguan city close to the Caribbean coastline, scores of protesters gathered to demand their government reopens the borders.

“We are not only here in a protest for those who are on board [the cruise ships], but also those who are in Grand Cayman, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, and all the Nicaraguans who have the right to enter their country,” said one protestor during an interview which was recorded and later uploaded on the internet. “We are Nicaraguan … we are children of the Nicaraguan land… do not harm us by denying entry to our country.”

In Cayman, the stranded Nicaraguan nationals also staged their own mini-protest in solidarity with their countrymen back home.

“We have more than three months waiting for a response for another repatriation flight to our homeland,” said one of the Nicaraguan protesters in Cayman. “We are out of work and we are here thanks to the good heart of the government and the people of the Cayman Islands who have been supporting us. But, in reality, we want to return to our homeland. It is a constitutional right.”

Duarte said he is now calling on the various governments of the Caribbean to put pressure on Nicaragua to reopen its borders and allow its residents to return.

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