In 1979 Nicaragua’s decade long civil war started between the U.S backed contras and the Sandinista revolutionists. Segovia, Nicaragua became on the most prominent battle scenes in this war, proving fatal to hundreds and leaving hundreds more permanently disabled. According to Stephen J. Meyers, today those who remain disabled predominately form part of one of two groups in Nicaragua. First, the Organización de Revolucionarios Deshabilitados(ORD) which consists of ex-Sandinistas with disabilities(mostly from combat). And second, the Asociacion Civil De Discapacitados de la Resistencia Nicaragüense(ADRN) which consists of ex-contra soldiers with disabilities. Beyond the mere fact that these two group once fought against each other, the divide today is the result of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilites(UNCRPD). The ADRN is very vocal about their rights and choose most publicly to identify as “disabled persons” instead of “traitors” due to their role in the civil war. On the other hand, the ORD is seen by the community as “war-heroes” and often chooses not to identify as disabled in order to maintain such a status. However, they understand they in some moments they must “reduce themselves” in order to reap the benefits of the UNCRPD. Together, these two groups mobilize and demand the Nicaraguan government to implement “Ley 763” which is a domestic implementation procedure explicitly based on UNCRPD. The law is highly influenced from the ADRN due to what Meyers calls a “social model.” This model posits that disabilities are conceived as the result of social discriminations that can only be remedied through the promotion of human rights. However, the “social model” creates winners and loser in different subgroups like the Nicaraguan veterans. This model calls for a universal definition of disabilities which can prove harmful to some while benefiting others.
In this article Meyers highlights how differing local political contexts shape the identities of different groups of persons with disabilities, using the veterans of Nicaragua as a case study. The author focuses on the interpretation of universal human rights treaties at the grassroots level. Over the course of a three year period, Meyers gathers data and interviews disabled veterans of Segovia’s seven different local disability associations. His goal is to explain how this universality can be harmful, especially to different subgroups in third world countries.
This is a very important article as it references the difficulty of implementing “universal human rights” in indigenous groups. Not only that, but it identifies the ways in which combatants are also deserving of human rights protections even if they themselves perpetrated them before. In Nicaragua the Somoza regime was notoriously known for its brutal terror tactics, today those veterans live with countless disabilities wrought in the heat of battle. In the media this has also been hard to accept in due to differing political ideologies.
Image: The ORD uploaded this photo to their website and can be seen lobbying the leader of Bancada Sandinista for passage of a new disability law. This is one of the main groups Meyers focuses on and it reflects how the group chooses to work with other Sandinista sympathizers.