Group Alleges Abuses of Civilians by Contras
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Nicaraguan Contra guerrillas have killed, injured or otherwise abused hundreds of civilians in the past six months, says a private group’s report released Wednesday by a U.S. congressman and a Roman Catholic bishop.
Three Nicaraguans who lost one or both their legs in the October 1986 explosion of a land mine were on hand as the report was released by Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit.
″With us today are really only three of the many thousands of victims who have been afflicted by the war in Central America,″ Bonior said.
He said U.S. aid to the Contras fighting the Sandinista government must be shut off as ″the first step towards peace in Central America.″
The report, prepared by a private human rights group called Witness for Peace, said 79 Niaraguan civilians were killed and many more were kidnapped, raped or wounded by the Contras between July 1986 and this January.
″The Nicaraguan Contras continue to commit unspeakable crimes against ordinary Nicaraguan civilians - such as the man, woman and child who are here with us today,″ Gumbleton said. ″Again and again, the (Reagan) administration has at the same time denied that the Contras are committing human rights abuses, and then promised they would be abolished.″
The three amputees present at the news conference were Amancio Sanchez, 31, who lost his right leg; his 7-year-old daughter Elda, who lost her right leg, and his sister-in law, Carmen Picado, 19, who lost both her legs.
Sanchez, pastor of the Pentecostal Christian Mission Church in the village of Pantasma, and his family were among 51 passengers on a civilian transport truck that ran over a land mine on a highway in the Jinotega province. Six people were killed and 43 injured.
″The war does not benefit anyone,″ Sanchez said, speaking through a translator. ″What we all want is peace.″
A Georgia-based group called Jubilee Partners is organizing a campaign to provide artificial limbs to about 2,000 Nicaraguan victims on both sides of the conflict, and plans to help Sanchez and his daughter and sister-in-law, it was announced at the news conference.
Ernesto Palazio, Washington representative of the Contras’ United Nicaraguan Opposition, said he hadn’t reviewed the report, but that it was biased because Witness for Peace is a pro-Sandinista organization.
He said that while there have been isolated, unsanctioned instances in which civilians were abused by Contra supporters, ″it is not the policy of the resistance movement to tolerate violations of human rights.″
The State Department last week issued a report on human rights around the world that listed allegations of atrocities committed by the Contras, but said most were unsubstantiated charges by the Sandinista government.