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A riot police officer embraces his weapon during a protest against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government in Managua, Nicaragua August 30, 2018.REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas(reuters_tickers)
By Oswaldo Rivas
MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaragua's government has ordered the expulsion of a United Nations human rights delegation, shortly after the body released a scathing report condemning repression and abuses committed by President Daniel Ortega's administration.
In a letter dated Aug. 30 addressed to Marlene Alejos, the regional representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Foreign Minister Denis Moncada ended an invitation to the U.N. delegation, effective that day.
"Given that the reasons, causes and conditions that gave rise to this invitation have ceased," wrote Moncada, "this Ministry announces that it concludes the invitation and finalises the visit as of August 30."
The letter was released by the UNHCHR and posted on the regional U.Sl website.
Over 300 people have been killed and at least 2,000 injured in crack-downs by police and armed groups on protests that began in April over government plans to cut welfare benefits. That soon escalated into broader opposition against Ortega.
The U.N. delegation had been invited, the letter asserted, to accompany the Truth and Security Commission created "to secure and dismantle the barricades," which protesters had thrown up at street corners and highways, Moncada wrote.
The regional office of the UNHCHR said in a statement on Friday it would "continue its work of monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in Nicaragua remotely."
On Wednesday, the U.N. delegation released a report documenting human rights violations between April 18 and Aug. 18, including the disproportionate use of force and extrajudicial killings by the Nicaraguan police, disappearances, widespread arbitrary detentions and instances of torture and sexual violence in detention centres.
It asserted that Nicaragua's government had turned a blind eye while armed mobs rounded up protesters, some of whom were later raped with rifles and tortured in detention.
In a 33-page rebuttal on Wednesday, Nicaragua said the U.N. Human Rights Office report issued in Geneva had ignored that the real aim of the protests was violence aimed at overthrowing a democratically elected government.
The Nicaraguan government did not immediately reply on Friday to request for comment.
But speaking to a rally of supporters on Thursday, Ortega alluded to the U.N. report, saying, "nobody wants international organizations because they become instruments of the powerful, those who impose their polemics of death on the peoples of planet Earth."
Human rights advocates in Nicaragua condemned the removal of the U.N. delegation.
"This signifies an expulsion because they haven't finished their work in the country," said Marlin Sierra, executive director of the Nicaraguan Center of Human Rights (CENIDH).
(Reporting by Delphine Schrank & Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Delphine Schrank; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Dan Grebler)