WASHINGTON -- Both sides in the Nicaraguan civil war are guilty of violating human rights, but the U.S.-backed Contras are responsible for most of the abuses, says a new report by a human rights group.
In its report the Washington Office on Latin America cited 139 cases of attacks against Nicaraguan civilians last year involving assassination, kidnapping, rape, mutiliation and torture.
Of the total, 118 were committed by the Contras, who are trying to overthrow Managua's Sandinista government, and 21 by members of the Nicaraguan armed forces, said the report released Wednesday.
Two House members said President Reagan should withdraw his request for aid to the Contras until the allegations can be further investigated.
Reagan, however, in his second day of meetings with lawmakers, continued efforts to win congressional approval of his request for $100 million for the Contras -- $70 million of it to be spent on military hardware.
The WOLA report concluded the 'preponderance of the evidence indicates the continuation of a systematic pattern of gross violations by Contra forces.'
The presence of Contras in a given locale 'seemed to give rise to a pattern of indiscriminate attacks against civilian targets,' while violations by government troops 'appear to be relatively isolated cases of abuses of authority and breaches of military discipline. There was no evidence that violations were condoned by superiors,' the report said.
WOLA is a human rights group sponsored by several religious organizations. Its report was based on eyewitness accounts given to a 26-member team consisting primarily of American citizens, including several clergymen, and supervised by Mary Dutcher, a former Missouri assistant attorney general.
Dutcher told a news conference the report does not claim to be 'statistically exhaustive' but 'is representative of the conduct of the war' in Nicaragua.
Reps. Peter Kostmayer, D-Pa., and James Jeffords, R-Vt., critics of U.S. policy toward Nicaragua, said the administration should investigate the reported abuses by Contras 'and inform Congress of its conclusions before a decision is made on the aid request.'
The two lawmakers released a letter they wrote to Secretary of State George Shultz noting the 'disparity in number and types of abuses' committed by the Contras and by government troops.
'While we condemn the political harassment, suspension of civil rights and violations of human rights perpetrated by the Sandinista government, we believe that what appears to be a systematic campaign of brutality against civilians by the Contra forces is cause for greater alarm,' they said.