Documents on Democracy

Issue Date October 2018
Volume 29
Issue 4
Page Numbers 181-85
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On August 29, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report detailing the numerous human-rights violations that have been carried out by Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega’s regime since widespread protests broke out in April 2018. The OHCHR’s report is excerpted below. (For a full version of this text, see….)

Based on the findings of this report, the High Commissioner for Human Rights makes the following recommendations:

To the Government of Nicaragua:

1. Put an immediate end to harassment, intimidation, stigmatization, criminalization (including through the use of counter-terrorism legislation) and other types of reprisals in relation to participation in the protests, including against demonstrators, human rights defenders, political opponents, journalists and others.

2. Immediately dismantle and disarm pro-Government armed elements and protect the population from attacks and other illegal and violent actions from such groups.

3. Ensure that independent, impartial, effective, thorough and transparent investigations be promptly conducted into all allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses that have occurred since 18 April, especially extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary or unlawful arrests and detentions; ensure that criminal investigations comprise all those who perpetrated, directly or indirectly, ordered, supported or tolerated such acts, including the chain of command of relevant authorities. These acts should not remain without sanction.

4. Halt all unlawful arrests and release all persons who have been arbitrarily detained; ensure that the due process rights of all persons being prosecuted are respected and that any criminal charges brought against them are in line with the principles of legality, proportionality and individual liability. [End Page 181]

5. Ensure that accurate and up-to-date information on individuals deprived of their liberty and on the location of detention is publicly available; that people are promptly informed of the reasons for their arrest, have access to a lawyer of their choice, are brought promptly before a judge and are guaranteed their right to a fair trial.

6. Ensure the right to freedoms of peaceful assembly is fully respected through the proper management of public gatherings, in line with applicable international human rights norms and standards.

7. Take urgent measures to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, refraining from any undue interference, pressure or influence.

8. Resume the National Dialogue in a meaningful and inclusive way to reach agreements based on human rights and democratic principles.

9. End and penalize public stigmatizing of those critical of the Government’s policies and actions.

10. Grant OHCHR direct and unfettered access to the whole country, including to places of detention, in accordance with the High Commissioner’s mandate and standard practices of engagement and technical cooperation with authorities and civil society. . . .

To the Human Rights Council and the broader international community:

15. Monitor the developments in Nicaragua, consider taking measures to prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation and encourage the General Assembly to do the same. Such measures could include the creation of an International Commission of Inquiry or a hybrid (national – international) Truth Commission to ensure access to truth, justice and reparation for victims.

16. Call on Nicaragua to abide by its international human rights obligations and to fulfil its voluntary commitments and pledges, including in the context of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the Human Rights Council, and to fully cooperate with human rights bodies and mechanisms.


Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned on February 15 following three years of protests and unrest during which government security forces killed more than a thousand demonstrators. On April 2, Abiy Ahmed was selected by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front to replace Hailemariam. In his inaugural address, Abiy promised democractic reforms and greater openness. His remarks are excerpted below. (For a full version of this text, see

We Ethiopians need democracy, freedom and liberty, and indeed we deserve it.

Democracy is not a foreign concept to us. We have democracy enshrined [End Page 182] in our traditional systems. Even during the time when democracy was not known to many societies and nations, we have governed ourselves by the Gada system and lived an exemplary life. And still now, more than any other nation in the world, we believe that democracy is a matter of survival to us.

Democracy cannot be realized in the absence of rights. The rights of people to express opinions, to organize themselves, to engage in effective dialogue, and to participate in the governance system must be fully realized. Democracy is inherent in our humanity, and it is not for any government to bestow rights upon people as it sees fit. All the human and democratic rights declared in our constitution, especially the right to self-expression, the right to be organized, and the right to participate in government activities must be respected. Our role as a government is to ensure that the constitution has life beyond print.

What we need to understand is that democratization as a process demands being open to different views. We will continue to respect the rights of citizens, the right to question, criticize, and hold public servants accountable. Our binding principle must be the sovereignty of the people.

. . . It is the obligation of the government to respect and ensure the rule of law. Throughout our struggle to maintain the rule of law, we have to bear in mind that what our people are looking for is not the mere presence of law; rather it is the realization of justice. The people do not want a law that is unconnected with justice, but a law that is molded by and stands with justice. It is the will of the people to see independent law-enforcement institutions that are loyal to justice and that work ardently for the rights of the people.

The law can uphold our inherent human dignity only if it can treat all of us on equal terms. In this regard, we are ready to make all necessary reforms for liberty and justice to be cultivated, for the rule of law to be realized, and thus for democracy to flourish.

Justice is the foundation for peace, and peace is not the mere absence of conflict. Rather it is the active pursuit of finding common ground. Peace is a journey that we all take together with a common understanding and will—it is a guarantee of our unity.


On March 23, Martín Vizcarra became president of Peru following the resignation of former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski amid bribery and corruption scandals. Three weeks later, the Eighth Summit of the Americas, devoted to the theme “Democratic Governance Against Corruption,” convened in Lima. Excerpts from President Vizcarra’s April 13 remarks at the Summit appear below. (For a full version of this text, see[End Page 183]

The Heads of State and Government of the Hemisphere have decided to assemble here today with the aim of adopting concrete commitments to strengthen democratic governance and fight corruption, an ill that has held up our peoples’ development for decades and cut short the life plans and dreams of millions of citizens.

It is particularly meaningful for us that this Summit is being held in Peru at a time when we are beginning to recover from a political crisis. Exactly three weeks ago today I took over the presidency of the Republic in complex circumstances not unrelated to the issue that we are here to address, a crisis that made it abundantly clear that in Peru, like the rest of the region, corruption has enormous repercussions on governance, economic growth, and the citizens’ quality of life. However, at the same time, the events today in our country are a demonstration of the capacity that we Peruvians have to take on difficulties and move forward. As governors, our challenge is to meet the clamor for transparency and fight corruption. We must restore the public’s confidence in institutions, so that we can live in a more just society and rebuild Peruvian pride. And that is a challenge that we share with all of you.

We know all too well that corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to development and effective enjoyment of human rights. It is a problem that generates enormous losses and prevents us from efficiently seeing to our countries’ most urgent needs in the areas of education, healthcare, housing, and infrastructure. . . .

In a society beleaguered by corruption, it is the poorest who are most defenseless against that scourge. That perverse reality increases inequality and deepens social divides, eroding the social pact, democratic governance, and, thus, the rule of law. . . .

A real hope is emerging against this panorama. These days most members of the public are not indifferent to corruption; on the contrary, it is one of things they care most about. Recent studies show that seven in ten people in the Hemisphere are in favor of anticorruption measures. There is our base for bringing about meaningful change in favor of development for the peoples of the Americas, who are urgently calling for it. We must not live with corruption as if it were normal or inevitable because there is a lot that each one of us can do to tackle this scourge head-on.

The Lima Commitment “Democratic Governance Against Corruption” will be the foundation that underpins our efforts. At the Summit that brings us here today we will take concrete steps to boost transparency and access to information, strengthen civil society participation in monitoring government performance, and consolidate respect for freedom of expression and whistleblower protection.

We will also move forward with other preventive measures, such as strengthening education in democratic and civic values, so that our citizens can know their rights and defend them. In our fight against [End Page 184] corruption, women’s empowerment will also be a crosscutting plank of our policies.

In addition, we will implement concrete measures to increase transparency in public works and political-party finance, as well as seeking a greater commitment from the private sector in the fight against corruption. The Lima Commitment will also allow us to advance with sharing information and legal evidence, as well as enhancing asset recovery initiatives.

I exhort you to redouble the efforts to build a Hemisphere where citizens come first. We owe it to them. We owe it to their hopes, we owe it to their dreams, and we have a responsibility to build a healthy society where they can exercise their rights and have the chance to fulfill those dreams.


Iván Duque was the victor in Colombia’s first presidential election since the end of the 53-year war between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (For more about Colombia’s elections, see the article by Laura Gamboa on pp. 54–64.) Duque’s August 7 inaugural address is excerpted below. (For a full version of this text, see

Today a new generation comes to the presidency of Colombia, motivated by service and not by the vain exercise of power, committed to the future and without anchors in the prejudices of the past, inspired by social justice and security as the foundation of our liberties, and dedicated to promoting understanding, teamwork and building consensus.

I want to govern Colombia with unbreakable values and principles, overcoming the divisions of left and right, . . . I want to govern Colombia with the spirit of building, never of destroying.

I want a Colombia where we can all build peace, where those fallacious divisions between friends and enemies of peace end, because we all want it. . . . Colombians, peace must be built by all and for that we must be clear about the importance of having a culture of legality based on the rule of law. Only a society where security and justice guarantee the application of the law manages to defeat violence.

We will enforce the Inter-American Democratic Charter, we will promote the freedom of the people of the region and we will denounce in multilateral forums, with other countries, the dictatorships that aim to subdue their citizens. We will do it with words and arguments, without any warlike attitude. . . .

Let’s not let anything distract us from the path of union. No more divisions of left and right: we are Colombia; no more false divisions between neoliberals and socialists: we are Colombia; no more divisions between tendencies: we are Colombia. [End Page 185]


Copyright © 2018 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press