NicaNotes: When Nicaragua Took Germany to Court, the Media Put Nicaragua in the Dock

By John Perry

[This article was first published in FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).]

(John Perry is based in Masaya, Nicaragua, and writes for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, London Review of Books, FAIR, Covert Action Magazine and others.)

Carlos Argüello (right), Nicaragua’s representative to the World Court at The Hague, also argued Nicaragua’s case against the United States in 1984. (Photo:

When Nicaragua accused Germany of aiding and abetting Israel’s genocide in Gaza at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last month, readers of corporate media might have seriously wondered whether Nicaragua’s case had any legitimacy.

The case targeted Germany as the second biggest supplier of arms to Israel, because the US, Israel’s biggest supplier, does not accept the court’s jurisdiction on this issue. The object (as Nicaragua’s lawyer explained) was to create a precedent with wider application – that countries must take responsibility for the consequences of their arms sales to avoid them being used in breach of international law.

Many in corporate media took a more jaundiced view. The Financial Times led by telling readers, “The authoritarian government of Nicaragua accused Germany of ‘facilitating genocide’ in Gaza at the opening of a politically charged case.” The second paragraph in a New York Times article cited “experts” who saw it “as a cynical move by a totalitarian government to bolster its profile and distract attention from its own worsening record of repression.” The Guardian qualified its comment piece by remarking that “Nicaragua is hardly a poster child when it comes to respect for human rights.”

Double standards are evident here. If the US government were to do what it has failed to do so far, and condemn Israel’s genocidal violence, Western corporate media would not remind readers of US crimes against humanity, such as the Abu Ghraib tortures, extraordinary renditions or the hundreds imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo. It’s hard to imagine Washington would be accused of “hypocrisy” (Guardian) for calling out Israel’s crimes. Any condemnation of Israel by the US or one of its Western allies would be taken at face value—in clear contrast to the media’s treatment of such action by an official enemy country like Nicaragua.

Of establishment media, Spain’s El Pais was perhaps the most vitriolic in its portrayal of Nicaragua. Its piece on the court case was headlined “The Worst Version of Nicaragua Against the Best Version of Germany.” “The third international court case on the Gaza war pits a regime accused of crimes against humanity against a strong and legitimate democracy,” the piece explained. “It may be a noble cause, but its champion couldn’t be worse.”

The paper commented rather oddly that Germany was “at its finest” arguing the case, and that its “defense against Nicaragua’s charges is solid and its legitimacy as a democratic state is unassailable”—a comment presumably intended to contrast its legitimacy with “the Nicaraguan dictatorship.”

In addition to its article cited above, the New York Times had a report more focused on the case itself. However, it was CNN and Al Jazeera that stood out as covering the case on its own merits rather than being distracted by animosity toward Nicaragua.

The negative presentation in much of the media was repeated when, later in April, they headlined that Nicaragua’s request had been “rejected” by the ICJ, with the New York Times again remembering to insert a derogatory comment about Nicaragua’s action being “hypocritical.” These follow-up reports largely overlooked the impact the case had on Germany’s ability to further arm Israel during its continued assault on Gaza.

Nicaraguan ‘Nazis’

Corporate media had been gifted their criticisms of Nicaragua by a report published at the end of February by the UN Human Rights Council. A “group of human rights experts on Nicaragua” (the “GHREN”) had produced its second report on the country. Its first, last year, had accused Nicaragua’s government of crimes against humanity, leading to this eyebrow-raising New York Times headline: “Nicaragua’s ‘Nazis’: Stunned Investigators Cite Hitler’s Germany.” The GHREN’s leader, German lawyer Jan-Michael Simon, had indeed likened the current Sandinista government to the Nazis. Times reporter Frances Robles quoted Simon:

“The weaponizing of the justice system against political opponents in the way that is done in Nicaragua is exactly what the Nazi regime did,” Jan-Michael Simon, who led the team of U.N.-appointed criminal justice experts, said in an interview. “People massively stripped of their nationality and being expelled out of the country: This is exactly what the Nazis did too,” he added.

It’s quite an accusation, given that the Nazis established over 44,000 incarceration camps of various types and killed some 17 million people. Robles gave few numbers regarding the crimes Nicaragua is accused of, but did mention 40 extrajudicial killings in 2018 attributed to state and allied actors and noted that the Ortega government had in 2023 “stripped the citizenship from 300 Nicaraguans who a judge called ‘traitors to the homeland.’”

Robles also quoted Juan Sebastián Chamorro, a member of a Nicaraguan oligarchic family who are among the Sandinista government’s fiercest opponents; Chamorro claimed there was evidence of “more than 350 people who were assassinated.” Even if true, this would seem to be a serious stretch from “exactly what the Nazis did.”

Like most Western reporters, Robles—who also wrote the recent ICJ piece for the Times—gave no attention to the criticisms of the GHREN’s work by human rights specialists who argued that the GHREN did not examine all the evidence made available to it and interviewed only opposition sources. For example, former UN independent expert Alfred de Zayas castigated its first report in his book The Human Rights Industry, calling it a “political pamphlet” intended to destabilize Nicaragua’s government.

Even if one takes the GHREN account at face value, the Gaza genocide is at least 100 times worse in terms of numbers of fatalities, quite apart from other horrendous elements, such as deliberate starvation, indiscriminate bombing, destruction of hospitals and much more. It’s unclear why the accusations against Nicaragua should delegitimize the case against Germany.

Hague History

Many media reports did mention Nicaragua’s long history of support for Palestine—which undermines the accusation of cynicism underlying the case—but few noted the Latin American country’s history of success at The Hague. As Carlos Argüello, the Nicaraguan ambassador to the Netherlands who took the lead at the ICJ, pointed out, Nicaragua has more experience at The Hague than most countries, including Germany.

This began with Nicaragua’s pioneer case against the US filed in 1984, which it won in 1986. The Court ordered reparations for the damage done to Nicaragua by the US-funded Contra war and the mining of its ports with the amount to be determined in future proceedings. Nicaragua presented its demands in 1988, but the US refused to take part in the discussions. Compensation (that was never paid) was estimated at US$12 billion.

One notable exception to that historical erasure came from Robles at the Times, who did refer to the 1984 case. But the point was clearly not to remind readers of US crimes or to demonstrate that Nicaragua is an actor to be taken seriously in the realm of international law. The two academics she quoted both served to portray the current case as merely “cynical.”

The first academic, Mateo Jarquín, Robles quoted as saying that the Sandinista government has “a long track record…of using global bodies like the ICJ to carve out space for itself internationally—to build legitimacy and resist diplomatic isolation.” Robles didn’t disclose Jarquín’s second surname, Chamorro. Like her source in the earlier article, he is a member of the family that includes several government opponents.

Robles also quoted Manuel Orozco, a former Nicaraguan working at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, whose major funders include the US Agency for International Development and the International Republican Institute, notorious for their role in promoting regime change, including in Nicaragua. Orozco told Robles that “Nicaragua lacks the moral and political authority to speak or advocate for human rights, much less on matters of genocide.”

“Effectively siding with Germany”

On April 30, the ICJ declined to grant Nicaragua its requested provisional measures against Germany, including requiring the cessation of arms deliveries to Israel.

Headlining this outcome, the Associated Press said the court was “effectively siding with Germany.” The outlet did, however, continue by explaining that the court had “declined to throw out the case altogether, as Germany had requested” and will hear arguments from both sides, with a resolution not likely to come for years.

That was better than NPR’s report, which only mentioned that the court was proceeding with the case in its final paragraph.

But German lawyer and professor Stefan Talmon clarified that the court’s ruling “severely limits Germany’s ability to transfer arms to Israel.” “The court’s order was widely interpreted as a victory for Germany,” Talmon commented, adding that, “A closer examination of the order, however, points to the opposite.” He concluded that although the ICJ did not generally ban the provision of arms to Israel, it did impose significant restrictions on it by emphasizing Germany’s obligation to “avoid the risk that such arms might be used to violate the [Genocide and Geneva] Conventions.”

And Talmon pointed out that the court appeared to make its decision that an order to halt war weapons shipments was unnecessary based on Germany’s claim that it had already stopped doing so. “By expressly emphasizing that, ‘at present’, circumstances did not require the indication of provisional measures, the Court made it clear that it could indicate such measures in the future,” Talmon wrote.

Establishment media, seemingly distracted by the “hypocrisy” of Nicaragua challenging a country whose “legitimacy as a democratic state is unassailable,” mostly failed to notice that its legal efforts were therefore at least partially successful. They forced Germany to back down from its unstinting support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, and alerted German politicians to the fact that they are at risk of being held accountable under international law if they transfer any further war weapons.

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By Nan McCurdy

Hundreds of Women Receive Low-Interest Housing
On May 30, the Managua Mayor’s Office handed over 100 houses to women in the Caminos del Río Urbanization located in Sabana Grande as part of the Bismark Martinez housing program. The delivery was made on Mother’s Day, May 30, with each participant receiving a red rose and her new home. Each family said they were proud and urged other families to have faith, hope, and patience that very soon they will be part of this solidarity program. Vice Mayor Enrique Armas said that in Managua housing has been provided in several different projects, such as Villa Jerusalén where 2,150 families now have their homes, in Villa Santiago the figure is 1,000 homes and in Vista del Xolotlán, 80. With this delivery of 100 houses in Caminos del Río,1,328 families now have homes in this urbanization. In Managua, the Bismark Martinez program has provided more than 7,644 houses to the same number of families. See photos: (La Primerisima, 30 May 2024)

Sandinista Government Endorses Peace Plan
The Nicaraguan government has announced that it supports US President Biden’s proposal for peace in Palestine and has released the following statement: “The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity of the Nicaraguan People-President has learned about the new road map proposal presented by the President of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden, to work for an agreement to reach peace in Palestine. We have also learned of the support of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Qatar for this road map, which we have analyzed in depth and which we consider a good contribution to the negotiations held between Israel and Hamas with the purpose of reaching solutions for the Palestinian people, for the families of Gaza and for the hostages and their families. This agreement establishes the possibility of reaching a permanent ceasefire that will bring peace to the people and the region. The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity of the Nicaraguan People-President recognizes the effort that this proposal reflects and trusts in the successful work of the delegations and sponsors, so that we can all see the necessary, indispensable and unpostponable end to a war that has cost so much. We fully support these efforts and salute the proposing countries and the participating delegations, trusting in the wisdom, heart and reason committed to this constructive initiative for the common good. As always, our demand for respect and peace, for the Palestinian people, and for the peoples of the world.
Managua, Nicaragua, June 2, 2024.” (La Primerisima, 1 June 2024)

Fitch Ratings Raises Nicaragua’s Credit Rating
On May 30 the Central Bank reported that the international risk rating agency Fitch Ratings, raised the credit rating of the Government of Nicaragua from “B-” to “B”, with a stable outlook. According to the rating agency, the improvement in the credit rating of the Government of Nicaragua reflects the implementation of prudent economic policies, supporting surpluses in both the fiscal and external current accounts, and the accumulation of financial buffers. This has placed the country in a better position to handle adverse economic consequences. A large external current account surplus has allowed for a significant accumulation of international reserves. The fiscal surplus is driving the reduction of government debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which puts the country in a better position to face external challenges. Nicaragua’s economic growth accelerated in 2023, consolidating its recovery from the problems of previous years. Private consumption has been the main engine of growth, driven by credit expansion and a significant increase in remittances. This rating action comes in the context of Fitch Ratings’ annual review of Nicaragua’s sovereign rating. Here is the link to the Fitch Ratings press release: (TN8TV, 30 May 2024)

Nicaragua’s Leaders Wish Success to Mexico’s New President 
President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo recognized the triumph of Claudia Sheinbaum as President of Mexico and released the following greeting to the president-elect:

Managua, June 2, 2024

Dr. Claudia Sheinbaum

President Elect of the United Mexican States

Respected colleague Claudia:

On behalf of our people and government, and of course, on behalf of the heroic Nicaraguan women, we congratulate you on your historic victory today June 2nd, which makes you the first woman President of your country. We are sure that your seriousness, firmness and demonstrated love for Mexico and its families will be decisive factors for your success, that is, for the new triumphs of the Mexican people. With admiration and recognition, we wish you the best, and of course, we reiterate our willingness to work together, in all fields, for dignity, respect, sovereignty and the right to peace, security, culture and life in our countries. United by history, hope and the conviction of mutual respect, we reiterate our Mesoamerican brotherhood in values and vigor that we know how to appreciate. Success, Madam President, in the new world of solidarity and common good that we are building.

Daniel Ortega Saavedra, Rosario Murillo
(La Primerisima, 3 June 2024)

Nicaragua Free of Hoof-and-Mouth & Mad Cow Disease
On May 30, the World Organization for Animal Health (OMSA) ratified that Nicaragua is free of the worst diseases affecting cattle, such as hoof-and-mouth disease and mad cow disease. OMSA is an international organization that establishes sanitary guidelines for commercial exchange, through the elaboration of sanitary norms. It meets annually on a regional and global basis to follow up on the sanitary status of its member states. During the general session of OMSA delegates, which concluded its five-day annual assembly in Paris, Nicaragua received the ratification of its official sanitary statuses certifying it as a country of negligible risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) and as a country free of hoof-and-mouth disease without vaccination. The Nicaraguan delegation, made up of Ricardo Somarriba, Executive Director of the Institute for Agricultural Protection and Health (IPSA) and Wilmer Juárez, Director of Animal Health, reiterated the Sandinista government’s commitment to maintain these international health statuses. (La Primerisima, 30 May 2024)

More than 150,000 Vaccinated during Youth, Divine Treasure Campaign
The Ministry of Health has reported that 152,563 adolescents were vaccinated against Covid-19, influenza, and tetanus during the Youth, Divine Treasure Campaign. Also, according to the latest report, 100,596 received educational talks on healthy nutrition habits and the importance of physical exercise in the development of their bodies and 93,976 adolescents were tested for HIV. 85,349 young people participated in counseling sessions on the use of contraception methods and family planning; 84,682 received breast check-ups, pap smears and general medical attention. 70,963 heard educational talks on the dangers of the use of tobacco, drugs, energy drinks, and exercise stimulants. The report adds that 57,401 exchanged experiences on the best use of social networks for the protection and promotion of health, the best use of free time, and effective ways to prevent violence. (La Primerisima, 31 May 2024)

New Road between Estelí and El Sauce Ready
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI) has announced that on June 5 the second stage of the Estelí-El Aceituno-El Sauce highway, 16 kilometers long, will be inaugurated. With this second stage, the MTI concludes a 40-kilometer alternate route connecting the departments of León and Estelí, benefiting 157,000 inhabitants and integrating the best highway network in Central America, which has been developed in the last 17 years. MTI stated that this new highway, built by the Sandinista Government, will guarantee fast, agile and safe transit, will boost economic activities, improve regional connectivity, stimulate agricultural production, promote tourism, and facilitate access to the social benefits provided by the Government to all Nicaraguans. See photos: (La Primerisima, 3 June 2024)