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UMass Amherst Political Science 121 World Politics Fall 2021

Unit 4 Paper Assignment


Write a 450-500 word paper about one of the following human rights stories using what you know about
actor interests, institutions, actor interactions to identify 1) who is claiming that the government involved
is violating what particular human rights, what international level treaties and organizations they mention
as providing standards for evaluating the government’s action and 2) what arguments the accused
government uses in efforts to persuade others that it is acting reasonably in the situation and 3) how
credible that government’s claims look to governments in the region which take human rights seriously.

1. Pre-Election Repression in Nicaragua

2. Use of Force to Break Up Demonstrations in Eswatini

3. Local Elections in the Republic of Georgia

When preparing your paper, include all citations as footnotes; format the footnotes according to the APA
guide section on how to prepare the list of references, adding the page numbers at the end. Footnotes do
not count in the word limit. Put all citation details in the footnotes; no need for a separate list of
references page.

Submit your paper on Moodle no later than 5 pm on Friday, November 12th.

News Story Summaries

1. Pre-Election Repression in Nicaragua

In February 2019, the Civic Alliance articulated four demands relating to the widespread 2018
protests: release of 770 political prisoners, restoration of media freedoms, electoral reform and
the holding of early elections, and justice for the families of the protesters who were killed in the
crackdown. But the opposition struggled to find leadership and achieve cohesion. This proved to
be a serious impediment; Ortega’s efforts since 2007 to eliminate potential political opponents
had been effective.

New protests flared up in March, and the regime again responded with force. Four months later,
the National Assembly enacted legislation that provided amnesty to protesters who had been
arrested and gave immunity to turba and parapolice members who had engaged in violence. The
latter provision was widely condemned by human rights groups and rejected by the opposition.

The regime intensified its crackdown on independent news media in the fall of 2019. In
September, El Nuevo Diario, the nation’s second largest newspaper, shut down its operations in
response to government pressure. The following month, the regime seized control of 100%
Noticias TV, claiming it had encouraged violence during the uprising. Most of the remaining
major media outlets in Nicaragua are owned by members of the Ortega family and its allies.

[assembled from multiple sources]

UMass Amherst Political Science 121 Unit Paper 4 Instructions and Stories Fall 2021 page 2

The protests eventually died down again, but the nation’s economy was in shambles. Tourism
dried up and private investment declined sharply in response to the political instability. The
economy continued to contract in 2019 by 5.7 percent. By March of the following year, more
than 100,000 Nicaraguans – including many of its best and brightest – had fled the country.

The first known case of COVID-19 in Nicaragua surfaced in mid-March of 2020. Fearing that
taking steps to contain the disease’s spread would harm the economy and further undermine its
hold on power, the Ortega government immediately began hiding evidence of additional cases,
and public statements by regime officials downplayed the severity of the pandemic.

The government announced early on that there would be no quarantines or restrictions on public
life. Nicaraguan were told to continue living their normal lives by attending sporting events,
religious gatherings, and other public meetings. Mask wearing was strongly discouraged, and
medical personnel were forbidden from wearing them, ostensibly to avoid scaring their patients.
The authorities also actively encouraged people to continue to interact with loved ones with hugs
and kisses.

As the coronavirus outbreak unfolded, political tensions in Nicaragua continued to fester. In late
February of 2020, seven anti-Ortega opposition groups that had formed following the 2018
uprising announced that they were banding together to form a broad alliance known as the
National Coalition. Among them were the Civic Alliance and Blue and White National Unity,
another opposition group formed in response to the 2018 turmoil. The National Coalition was not
intended to be a political party, although it included several, but rather a movement geared
toward restoring democratic governance, eradicating corruption, and ensuring that human rights
were protected.

The international community also increased external pressure on the Ortega-Murillo government.
Both the United States and the European Union imposed targeted sanctions on high-ranking
officials for their roles in the crackdown. In June 2020, the U.N. Human Rights Council
approved a resolution condemning Nicaragua’s human rights violations. Four months later, the
OAS approved a measure calling on Nicaraguan authorities “to fully respect the constitutional
order, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to hold free and fair national, presidential
and legislative elections in Nicaragua.”

The Ortega-Murillo [Vice President Muillo is Ortega’s wife] regime instead opted to move in
exactly the opposite direction. The National Assembly enacted a series of new laws that
effectively criminalized political dissent. The first of these was touted as a “law for the
regulation of foreign agents.” It requires Nicaraguans working for international companies or
organizations to register with the Interior Ministry as foreign agents and provide the government
with monthly reports of their income and spending. Such individuals are prohibited from
providing financing (or fundraising) for any political group or organization within Nicaragua,
and the law also bars them from running for office.

Another law enacted that fall, the Special Cyber Crimes Law, mandated prison time for anyone
who engages in “the publication or dissemination of false (or) distorted information, likely to
spread anxiety, anguish or fear.” Such broad language gives the government the authority to

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arrest anyone who uses the internet or social media in a way that the regime deems
objectionable. In December, the National Assembly approved legislation that gives Ortega the
authority to declare any individual he chooses as a terrorist or “traitor to the homeland” and bar
them from seeking public office.

With the enactment of these draconian laws, one might think that the regime would feel secure in
its hold on power. Yet despite these steps, Ortega appears determined to leave nothing to chance
when it comes to the 2021 election. He has sought to eliminate any risk of an opposition
candidate stepping forward to mount a popular challenge to him in November. Because the
FSLN controls the nation’s electoral machinery, there is virtually no chance that Ortega could
actually lose, but a strong opposition candidate could conceivably amass enough popular support
to challenge the official result, possibly setting off a new wave of protests and unrest.

To ensure that such an outcome is avoided, Ortega’s regime began arresting potential opposition
candidates on trumped up charges since spring. Christiana Chamorro, daughter of former
president Violeta Chamorro and a likely 2021 presidential candidate herself, was placed under
house arrest by the authorities on June 3 and charged with money laundering. Another potential
candidate, Arturo Cruz, was detained two days later on charges that he was “conspiring against
Nicaraguan society.” Ten more opposition figures were arrested over the following two weeks,
mostly based on allegations of terrorism, treason, or crimes against the state. Most have been
held incommunicado at undisclosed locations without the benefit of counsel.

At the start of 2021, Ortega and his allies named a new Supreme Electoral Council (CSE),
comprising seven magistrates and three substitutes, all of whom are Ortega-aligned. The new
CSE pushed up coalition registration deadlines, creating chaos in the opposition’s internal
brokering process. Then, the council rejected the registration of the party the opposition planned
on using as its electoral vehicle.

While the opposition was still devising a strategy, authorities made a number of high-profile
arrests of critics of the Ortega regime. From May to July, the police raided homes, newsrooms,
and offices without warrants, of individuals the government alleged had violated Nicaragua’s
treason laws. The police put numerous opposition politicians, journalists, and activists in jail or
under house arrest. This included seven presidential contenders, including Cristina Chamorro
and Juan Sebastián Chamorro, the children of the former president.

While many of the most prominent opposition candidates have been arrested or exiled, there are
six parties aside from the FSLN that are formally registered in the election: the Constitutionalist
Liberal Party (PLC), the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance
(ALN), the Nicaraguan Christian Path (CCN), the Alliance for the Republic (Apre), and Yapti
Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka (Yatama). The first five of these parties are small, right-wing
parties, while Yatama is an indigenous party based on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast. Of the six, the
PLC has the largest presence in the National Assembly, with 14 of the 92 seats.

It is unlikely that any of these parties will achieve a strong share of the vote. Many opposition
figures are suspicious as to what these parties do to be permissible political actors to the FSLN.
“They are practically satellites of the Sandinista Front … that have no roots in the population.

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Even if they campaigned, it would be useless for these parties,” said Edgard Parrales, a law
professor at the Autonomous University of Nicaragua.

Campaigning for the election kicked off September 23, however, the CSE is imposing
restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The court has asked candidates to campaign
mostly virtually, banned rallies of more than 200 people, and mandated that campaign events not
exceed 90 minutes.

These restrictions contrast with Nicaragua’s standard approach to the pandemic as a public
health crisis. The country did not go into lockdown and Ortega himself hosted large events in
2020. But Ortega is also known for prolonged, mysterious absences from public life. He kicked
off his campaign on October 4 in a private ceremony that was broadcast on television and radio,
but it remains to be seen how much campaigning he will personally do.

Under electoral reforms passed in May, the Nicaraguan National Police are in charge of
authorizing political campaign activities in public spaces and ensuring that candidates adhere to
CSE’s regulations. In the past, the National Police have been criticized for their aggressive
suppression of political expression, especially during 2018 protests when their actions left 328
dead and thousands in prison.

Still, Nicaraguans will have to be cautious participating in the campaign, as the country
continues to battle the pandemic. The exact details on Nicaragua’s coronavirus scenario are hard
to confirm the government claims that just 201 citizens have died and only 13,206 have been
infected. The independent organization Citizens Observatory, however, puts the numbers at
4,500 deaths and at least 25,150 cases. The government has attacked health professionals who
question their figures, labelling their actions “health terrorism” and forcing many of them into

Since these protests, there has been further repression. The National Assembly passed legislation
that curtails political freedoms, such as the October 2020 Foreign Agents Law, which requires
organizations that receive money from non-domestic sources to register as foreign agents. The
government has also used raids and lawsuits to suppress the press’ ability to operate.

But one actor who remains active is the Catholic Church, a historically powerful and
independent entity in the country and one that has served as a buffer in times of political
polarization. In the 2018 protests, the Catholic Church played a major role as a critic. One of its
bishops, Leopoldo Brenes, was the mediator of the failed National Dialogue. During this period,
there were numerous attacks against Church property. Subsequently, the Catholic Church has
continued to criticize the Ortega regime. In his campaign launch in September, Ortega called
bishops “terrorists.”

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2. Use of Force to Break Up Demonstrations in Eswatini

Eswatini:* No Justice for June Protester Killings: New Reports of Attacks by Security Forces
[*previously known as Swaziland in English]

Human Rights Watch 2 Nov 2012 https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/11/02/eswatini-no-justice-

Eswatini authorities should ensure accountability for their security forces’ crackdown on
protesters in June 2021, Human Rights Watch said today. Despite concerns, including by the
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, that Eswatini security
forces used live ammunition and engaged in “disproportionate and unnecessary use of force,” as
far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine, no member of the security forces has
been held accountable.

A report published on October 29 by the Eswatini Commission on Human Rights and Public
Administration says that at least 46 people died during the June protests; 245 people had gunshot
injuries; 22 people multiple gunshot injuries; and 118 people had unspecified injuries. Victims
told the commission that they were shot by members of the Eswatini armed forces. While the
report covers protests in June, the protests have continued, together with reports of excessive use
of force by Eswatini security forces, Human Rights Watch found.

“The Eswatini government should urgently agree to an independent, international investigation
into all of the killings and any other human rights violations resulting from excessive use of
force,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Human
Rights Commission said it faced constraints and was unable to cover all the alleged human rights
violations during the June protests.”

Human Rights Watch found that on October 20, Eswatini police fired live ammunition and
teargas into a bus full of people traveling to the capital, Mbabane, to protest the incarceration of
two pro-democracy members of parliament. According to witnesses, some of the bus passengers
were injured and had to be hospitalized, the rest were turned back and prevented from going into
the city center.

A public transport driver told Human Rights Watch that on the same day, he was shot in the legs
by a uniformed member of the police at point blank range in Mbabane. The driver was not
involved in the protests. Human Rights Watch spoke to a 17-year-old student who said the police
shot him in October causing severe injuries that left him paralyzed. No arrests have been made in
relation to these shootings.

The commission recommended that the Eswatini government should “initiate an independent,
thorough, credible, transparent and impartial investigation by experts with relevant skills and
knowledge into allegations of human rights violations and abuses and to bring those responsible
to justice.”

The commission also called on the government to “ensure the full exercise of the right to

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peaceful assembly and protest, in accordance with the Eswatini’s Constitution and international
obligations; and use all appropriate means to ensure that these rights can be exercised freely and
securely, including by making sure that the safety of demonstrators is guaranteed.”

International human rights law, including as set out in the African Charter on Human and
Peoples’ Rights, guarantees the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and prohibits
excessive use of force by state officials. As spelled out by the United Nations Basic Principles on
the Use of Force and Firearms, security forces may use force only in proportion to the
seriousness of the offense, and the intentional use of lethal force is permitted only when strictly
unavoidable to protect life.

The Eswatini Minister of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) and the eldest
daughter of King Mswati III, Princess Sikhanyiso, denied that the Eswatini security forces used
excessive force and alleged that unknown mercenaries invaded the country in uniform
masquerading as the country’s soldiers and police to kill the people. However, the Eswatini
Commission on Human Rights found no evidence to substantiate Princess Sikhanyiso’s claims
and there are no recorded arrests of any mercenaries in Eswatini.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which deployed special envoys to
Eswatini in October, said on October 23 that King Mswati, Africa’s last absolute monarch had
agreed to national dialogue following the protests. Justice and accountability for security forces
violations should be central to any dialogue process, Human Rights Watch said.

Several activists told Human Rights Watch in telephone interviews in October that they were
disappointed with SADC efforts in Eswatini. They said that the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights should press for access to Eswatini for independent
international observers to assess the human rights situation. Some local activists said that
neighboring countries should exert targeted pressure on the king and other Eswatini authorities to
allow a full investigation and accountability for the attacks on protesters or face regional
isolation or other sanctions.

“Neighbors and the international community should not ignore the festering Eswatini crisis,”
Mavhinga said. “Targeted and effective regional pressure is needed to press Eswatini to address
justice, accountability, and respect for the human rights of all Eswatini people.”

3. Local Elections in the Republic of Georgia

Georgian ruling party wins mayoral elections, opposition cries foul October 31, 2021

MOSCOW, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, won 19 of 20 mayoral
elections including in the capital Tbilisi, electoral authorities said on Sunday, as the opposition
alleged that ballots had been rigged.

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Central Election Commission chief Georgi Kalandarishvili said Saturday’s voting had been
competitive, free and transparent, while independent election monitor Transparency International
said it had identified up to 150 violations, ranging from minor to relatively serious.

Denouncing the vote, the head of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party, Nika
Melia, called on supporters to gather in Tbilisi on Sunday to agree a response.

“No one should have the illusion that they can get away with rigged, violent and insulting
elections,” Melia, who ran for office in the capital, was quoted as saying by the RIA news

Around 2,000 to 3,000 protesters rallied in the centre of Tbilisi later on Sunday and Melia
announced plans to stage a larger protest on Nov. 7, Russian new agencies reported.

There was no immediate response to Melia’s allegations from Georgian Dream, but the ruling
party rejected claims of foul play at the previous local election held on Oct. 2.

Election Commission chief Kalandarishvili said several incidents at polling stations, the nature
of which he did not specify, had not had an impact on the results, Interfax said.

His commission would review complaints over the voting process in coming days, he added.

Saturday’s elections included second round run-offs to elect mayors in 20 municipalities
including four major cities – Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti and Rustavi.

The only race won by UNM was in Tsalenjikha, a small town in western Georgia, Russian news
agencies cited the Election Commission as saying.

The first round of mayoral elections was held on Oct. 2 during a set of nationwide local elections
that Georgian Dream also won.

Georgia, a country of around 3.9 million, has faced a political standoff since a disputed election
last year, which prompted the UNM to boycott the parliament for months.

The party was founded by former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who was arrested in October
after he flew in from exile. He declared a hunger strike on Oct. 1 that his allies have urged him to
call off, fearing for his health.

[A later statement from OSCE observers said that “The persistent practice of representatives of
observer organizations acting as party supporters, at ties interfering with the process, and groups
of individuals potentially influencing voters outside some polling stations were of concern.”

Writing by Maxim Rodionov; Editing by Tom Balmforth, John Stonestreet and Giles Elgood

  • Instructions
  • News Story Summaries
    • 1. Pre-Election Repression in Nicaragua
    • 2. Use of Force to Break Up Demonstrations in Eswatini
    • 3. Local Elections in the Republic of Georgia