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Cablegate: Nicaraguan Supreme Court Closes National Property Appeals

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0238/01 0531743
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221742Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0713
INFO WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUCQSAB/USSOCOM INTEL MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000238

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR WHA/CEN, EEB/IFD/OIA, AND L/CID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ECON PGOV NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUAN SUPREME COURT CLOSES NATIONAL PROPERTY APPEALS
COURT

REF: 08 MANAGUA 1546; 09 MANAGUA 1035

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The Nicaraguan Supreme Court administratively closed the
National Property Appeals Court

on December 20, 2009. The Supreme Court decided to close the
appellate body because it was slow, inefficient, and had a backlog
of casework. The pending cases were transferred to the Managua
Civil Appeals Court. The closing of the court is significant for
two reasons. First, there remain 16 pending U.S. citizen cases
awaiting a hearing. Second, legal experts complain that the
Supreme Court did not have the authority to close the court. They
also note that the Managua Civil Appeals Court already has a
backload of cases. The Supreme Court's action means U.S. citizens
will continue confronting additional challenges in getting a fair
hearing in a judicial system that is highly influenced by outside
political forces.


SUPREME COURT CLOSES NATIONAL PROPERTY APPEALS COURT
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. (U) On December 20, 2009, the Nicaraguan Supreme Court issued an
administrative order to close the National Property Appeals Court.
The National Property Appeals Court was the highest appellate body
for property issues. The Supreme Court decided to close the
National Property Appeals Court because it was slow, inefficient,
and had a backlog of casework. All cases pending adjudication by
the National Property Appeals Court were transferred to the Managua
Civil Appeals Court. The National Property Appeals Court was
established by Law 278 (1997) to address property issues resulting
from actions taken by the first Sandinista Government from
1979-1990. Specifically, the court dealt with cases that arose from
the widespread confiscation of private property and the passage of
Laws 85/1990 and 88/1990, known as the Pi????ata Laws (Ref A), which
legalized the transfer of ownership of private property to
occupants who had physical possession of the land but did not have
title to it.


CLOSURE AFFECTS U.S. CASES AND RULE OF LAW
-------------------------------------------

3. (U) The closing of the appellate court negatively affects 16
U.S. cases awaiting a hearing.

According to Nicaraguan law, the courts hear cases based on the
date that they were filed in the judicial system and then assigned
to judges. Several U.S. claimants have waited more than ten years
for a court decision. During the January 28, Property Working
Group meeting, Government of Nicaragua (GON) officials acknowledged
that they had no information on how the Supreme Court would
transfer cases that were in the National Property Appeals Court to
the Managua Civil Appeals Court, or whether those cases would
receive priority over other cases that were already registered in
the civil appellate court.

4. (SBU) Another issue concerning the closing of the National
Property Appeals Court is that it
appears that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to close
the appellate body. Mauro Ampie, an expert on Nicaraguan
constitutional law, explained that the National Assembly has the
sole authority to close the court by either amending Law 278 or
passing a new law to abolish it. He views the Supreme Court's
action as a clear violation of the Nicaraguan constitution and
another setback for the rule of law here (Ref B).

CIVIL COURTS ALREADY BACKLOGGED
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) Sergio Corrales, a lawyer who specializes in property
law, asserted that the closure of
the National Property Appeals Court will increase the backlog of
cases in the Managua Civil Appeals Court. He said that the
systemic problems in the judicial branch, such as the appointment
of politically-affiliated, incompetent judges and a lack of funding
to provide administrative and legal staff for justices, are the
reasons for the backlog. He opined that closing the National
Property Appeals Court further exacerbates the judicial branch's
difficulty to handle its workload in a timely, professional manner.

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) The closure of the National Property Appeals Court is the
latest example of Sandinista
National Liberation Front judicial activism that usurps the
constitutional responsibility of another branch of government. The
Embassy Property Office has advised U.S. claimants who had pending
cases in the National Property Appeals Court to contact the Supreme
Court or the Managua Civil Appeals Court to follow up on their
cases. Even if the Managua Appeals Court were capable of
registering their cases and adjudicating them in a timely manner,
U.S. citizens will continue confronting challenges in seeking a
fair hearing in a judicial system that is highly influenced by
outside political forces.
CALLAHAN

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