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NICARAGUA: Authorities arbitrarily strip nationality and properties of PEN members, writers, journalists and critics forced into exile

February 21, 2023 IN WIP
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16 February: In a new repressive action, the Nicaraguan authorities led by Daniel Ortega announced the stripping of the citizenship of 94 Nicaraguans this week, including writers Sergio Ramírez and Gioconda Belli, and journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, according to a public statement released on Wednesday 15 February 2022.

We are horrified by the authoritarian actions undertaken by the Nicaraguan government as part of its efforts to maintain a society devoid of any dissenting voices. No authority can silence society. PEN International maintains and reinforces its commitment in support of our fellow Nicaraguan writers, artists, and journalists and our members Gioconda Belli and Sergio Ramírez, who are now suffering levels of repression unheard of in Latin America,’ said Burhan Sonmez, President of PEN International.

The presiding magistrate of the Court of Appeals, Ernesto Rodríguez Mejía, read a statement declaring 94 people as a “traitors,” and saying they had lost their Nicaraguan citizenship. Authorities assured that the accused were found guilty of “spreading false news” and “conspiracy to undermine national integrity”, in addition to declaring them “fugitives”. Most of those targeted with forced statelessness have been forced to live in exile since 2018, due to reprisals and threats of imprisonment, such as writers Gioconda Belli, and Sergio Ramirez and the journalist , Carlos Fernando Chamorro. At least ten other journalists were named in the public statement. The repressive measure comes days after Ortega released and banished 222 political prisoners, including imprisoned writers, journalists, political leaders, priests, students, activists, and other dissidents, on a flight to the United States, also permanently stripping them of their nationality and other rights.

According to the magistrate’s information and public reports, the statement does not make clear on what law the legal actions taken against the individuals are based, and the Nicaraguan Congress has not yet fully approved a bill that would allow the government to strip the individuals of their citizenship. These measures may conflict with the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which Nicaragua is a State Party (Accession in 2013). PEN International categorically condemns these repressive actions against journalists, writers, activists and dissidents. The State of Nicaragua must stop the brutal persecution it has undertaken against all citizens who have expressed legitimate criticism of the government and who peacefully demand the full exercise of their rights. The organisation demands the immediate reinstatement of citizenship and the reversal of convictions of those persecuted for peacefully exercising their right to free expression.

PEN International calls on the international community and governments within the region to strongly condemn the systematic human rights violations taking place in Nicaragua, and to implement all measures within their power to ensure the release of Nicaraguan prisoners of conscience.

It also calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to address this issue in its resolutions on Nicaragua and to investigate and document these grave violations of human rights and international law.

PEN International affirms its work for freedom of expression in Nicaragua through its international network of members in over 100 countries.

Note to editors:

For more information, please contact Alicia Quiñones, Head of The Americas Region, at PEN International, email:

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International