- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

Appeal to OAS

The middle-aged man and elderly woman came to Washington looking for justice for the war crimes committed against them in Nicaragua more than 20 years ago under the despotic rule of the Sandinista regime.

Vidal Poveda displayed the bullet wounds in his back and in the stub of his left arm, amputated below the elbow because of the damage done when he was shot by Sandinista soldiers and left for dead.

Irma Willington recounted how Sandinista soldiers raided her family farm at 3 a.m. one day and killed her husband, brother, father and three nephews, burned down their houses and killed all the livestock.

They took their case to the Organization of American States (OAS) earlier this month, after trying for years to get Nicaraguan authorities to prosecute the soldiers.

Mr. Poveda and Mrs. Willington hold Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader in the 1980s, responsible for the attacks against them.

Mr. Ortega is now the front-runner for the Nov. 5 presidential election. He lost the 2001 presidential election to Enrique Bolanos of the Liberal Constitutional Party, which also is the largest party in the 92-seat National Assembly, with 40 seats.

“We want justice,” the Nicaraguans told Embassy Row on a visit to The Washington Times on Wednesday.

They “directly accuse Daniel Ortega for the deaths, disappearances, torture, damage to the physical integrity and moral destruction of the homes,” according to the complaint filed on their behalf by Nicaragua’s independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights.

Their complaints are among five cases the commission presented to the OAS. All have chilling similarities. Soldiers of the Sandinista Popular Army raided villages or farms in 1981 and 1982, rounded up civilians and killed them. They tortured some victims before killing them and forced others to dig their own graves. Soldiers killed two men by spraying them with gasoline and setting them on fire.

In some cases, soldiers accused their victims of being rebels of the Nicaraguan Resistance, also called the Contras.

All of the attacks occurred on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast, the home to the Miskito people, a native population that resisted Sandinista attempts to destroy their traditional ways but rarely joined the armed uprising.

Marcos Carmona, executive secretary of the Nicaraguan human rights commission, Virgilio Flores, the commission’s legal adviser, and Osorno Coleman, a Miskito attorney, said they filed the complaints with the OAS because the Sandinistas have controlled the Nicaraguan courts since they lost power in an election in 1990.

“Ortega has taken control of the court system,” Mr. Carmona said. “We have faith that the OAS will call on the government to investigate the crimes against this community.”

He said they will continue to press their cases even if Mr. Ortega regains the presidency. They will even take their case to Spain, where Spanish law allows international prosecution of suspected war crimes, Mr. Carmona said.

“Human rights are universal,” Mr. Flores added.

Praising Croatia

President Bush this week promoted Croatia’s bid to join NATO by urging the alliance to admit the Balkan nation within two years.

Mr. Bush and Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader discussed the Western military alliance, the European Union and bilateral U.S.-Croatian relations in their White House meeting earlier this week.

“I consider the prime minister a friend,” Mr. Bush told reporters. “I consider Croatia a friend as well.”

Mr. Bush said he will make Croatia’s case at next month’s NATO summit in Riga, Latvia.

“I also believe that it’s in the world’s interest that Croatia join NATO, as well as the European Union,” Mr. Bush said. “And to that end, when I go to Riga, I will make the case that Croatia should be admitted. It seems like a reasonable date would be 2008.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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