U.S. flags arbitrary killings, torture in Ortega's Nicaragua

MANAGUA (Reuters) -The U.S. State Department cited credible reports of arbitrary killings, arrests and torture in Nicaragua, as well as harsh and life-threatening conditions in the country's prisons, in an annual human rights report released on Monday.

Under the increasingly authoritarian regime of President Daniel Ortega, an extended clampdown on dissent has been enforced by security and judicial forces under his control, including the jailing and subsequent expulsion of more than 200 government critics just last month.

The State Department's 2022 human rights report pointed to "numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings."

Ortega's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report described Nicaraguan prison conditions as potentially "life threatening," citing overcrowding, poor sanitation and medical care as well as violence among prisoners.

It also criticized the apparent failure of Ortega officials to investigate crimes allegedly committed by police and other security forces related to anti-government protests that erupted in 2018 and left at least 355 dead.

The unrest of five years ago marked one of the biggest challenges to Ortega's entrenched government, and was met with what rights groups assail as widespread repression across the Central American country.

(Reporting by Ismael Lopez in ManaguaWriting by Valentine HilaireEditing by David Alire Garcia and Matthew Lewis)

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