LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Members of the British Parliament are calling on the Government to take “more proactive actions to address the atrocities” committed by the Nicaragua government.

In a report called “The Silencing of Democracy in Nicaragua” this week, three All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) – the APPGs on Central America, International Freedom of Religion and Belief, and International Law, Justice, and Accountability – said democracy is being eroded “piece by piece” in the Central American country.

Speaking on April 3, David Alton – a member of the House of Lords – spoke of the “ever-growing targeting of anyone critical of the Nicaraguan government, including, opposition leaders, human rights defenders, journalists and religious leaders.”

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega took power in 2007, he is known to jail and persecute challengers to his authority. In 2018, Ortega accused church leaders of attempting to overthrow the government when they acted as mediators after deadly protests broke out that left more than 300 people dead.

A crackdown on the Catholic faith in recent years has intensified, with the arrests of several priests, expulsion of missionaries, shut down of Catholic radio stations, and the closing of a Catholic university.

RELATED: Bishop who spent over a year in a Nicaraguan jail released with 18 others

“Our report makes it very clear that anyone critical of the Ortega regime ends up as a target,” Alton said.

“This silencing of democracy in Nicaragua is manifested in atrocities that are classified by international experts, including the UN Group of Experts on Nicaragua, as crimes against humanity. They need to be addressed as such,” he continued.

He said the new report set out to collect evidence but also to identify practical and meaningful steps that can be taken by the UK Government, and other countries, “to push this issue up the international agenda.”

Since 2020, the UK has designated 14 Nicaraguan politicians and senior officials including Vice President Rosario Murillo, two Directors General of the National Police and the President of the National Assembly under our Nicaragua sanctions regime for violating human rights, repressing civil society and undermining democratic principles and institutions.

Alton said throughout February and March, the parliamentarians held several oral hearings and took evidence online and in person from witnesses and experts at the Houses of Parliament.

Bianca Jagger, the first witness to the Inquiry, said: “When you look at the crimes against humanity the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo are perpetrating in Nicaragua, you will realize, that their regime is probably one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world.”

The Nicaraguan-born former actress is the founder of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.

RELATED: Nicaragua proposes suspending Vatican ties after comments

“The Ortega-Murillo regime’s crackdown on civil society in Nicaragua is a key component of their efforts to achieve absolute control of the country. This is more than a mere erosion of freedom; it is a deliberate destruction of the pillars that sustain a democratic society. Almost 4,000 NGOs have been dismantled, stripped of their legal status, and most were confiscated – this includes the International Red Cross (ICRC), CARITAS and OYANKA, which supports victims of domestic violence and recently the Boy Scouts,” she said.

“Three fundamental pillars of Nicaraguan democracy – the Catholic Church, the independent media, and the educational institutions – have been trampled by the Ortega-Murillo regime. The regime has effectively eliminated all forms of pluralism in the country,” Jagger added.

Carlos Fernando Chamorro said under the “de facto police state,” there is no freedom of assembly or association, nor freedom of religion in Nicaragua.

“In 2021, the regime erased the possibility of holding free elections, and since 2022 and 2023 it has increased its relentless persecution against civil society, shutting down more than 3800 non-governmental organizations,” he said.

The report recommends the UK government conduct criminal investigations into senior officials in the Nicaraguan government under the principle of universal jurisdiction; explore the options of bringing proceedings, unilaterally or jointly with other countries, against Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice; bring the imposition of Magnitsky sanctions against all those responsible for human rights violations in Nicaragua, and encourage the uptake of these sanctions in coordination with other states, including the United States.

The report also recommends the provision of support and technical assistance for persons who have been victims of serious human rights violations in Nicaragua.

RELATED: Leader of US bishops condemns crackdown on church in Nicaragua

It also calls for a more detailed examination of the ties between Nicaragua, Russia and China, “identifying the risks involved, including the implications of foreign investment used to aid and abet human rights violations in the country.”

Alton said that since the parliamentarians concluded their draft, there have been reports that Russia will now train Ortega’s police and develop an intelligence and espionage system in Nicaragua with anew training center for “security and internal order” entirely run by the Russian Interior Ministry.

“We hope that our report The Silencing of Democracy in Nicaragua – which focuses on  politically motivated targeting of the media, religious leaders, and the opposition in Nicaragua – whilst by no means definitive or the last word – will encourage those who have suffered so grievously at the hands of the Ortega regime and encourage policy makers and governments to consider what more they can themselves do, and not to be mesmerized into indifference by the regime’s relentless propaganda campaign,” he said.

Follow Charles Collins on X: @CharlesinRome