Nicaragua Assembly Restores Some Suspended Legal Rights

Times Staff Writer

The Sandinista-dominated National Assembly approved a decree Wednesday restoring some legal rights that had been suspended under an official state of emergency.

Six centrist and leftist parties demanded Tuesday in a joint statement that the state of emergency be lifted completely and all civil guarantees be restored.

Instead, the ruling Sandinista Front’s assembly members passed a new emergency decree that restores only some procedural rights, including the right to judicial appeal, the right of a defendant not to testify against himself and the right to a trial by jury for some crimes.

The new decree also restores the right of habeas corpus except in crimes “against state security and public order.”


Under the decree, however, many civil guarantees continue to be suspended. They include the right to be taken before judicial authorities within 24 hours of being arrested, the right to a speedy and public trial, freedom of movement within the country, freedom to enter and leave the country, the right to privacy, freedom from search without warrant, freedom of expression, the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, the right to strike, and the right to form labor unions, community groups and other organizations.

The revolutionary Sandinista government imposed the state of emergency in 1982, saying it was needed because of a guerrilla war being waged against it by U.S.-supported rebels. Last year, several civil guarantees were restored during campaigning for national elections, which the Sandinistas won.

Two weeks ago, President Daniel Ortega announced a decree to broaden the state of emergency, suspending guarantees that had been restored for last year’s elections.

Ortega said the renewed restrictions on freedom were needed because of “the U.S. government’s criminal and aggressive policy” toward Nicaragua. He said “agents of imperialism” in Nicaraguan political parties, news media and church organizations were trying to destabilize the government.


Most political parties, including some that support the revolution, objected to that decree. But the decree passed by the Sandinista majority in the National Assembly Wednesday includes most restrictions on freedom that the previous decree contained.

The Sandinistas have 61 of the 96 seats in the assembly, which was elected last year to draft a constitution.