IACHR Condemns the Serious Escalation of Repression in Nicaragua

June 18, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the serious escalation of repression in Nicaragua in recent days. The IACHR urges the State of Nicaragua to stop repression and, in particular, to free anyone who has been arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

On June 9, the Commission condemned the intense recent escalation of repression against individuals and organizations who oppose the Nicaraguan government or defend human rights, and against independent media. The Commission particularly condemned the arrests and criminalization of Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, Arturo Cruz Sequeira, Félix Maradiaga, and Juan Sebastián Chamorro García, who had publicly announced their presidential candidacies ahead of the general election that is scheduled for November.

The IACHR further expressed concern about the recent arrests and criminalization of the following political leaders and human rights defenders over the period June 8–14: Violeta Granera Padilla, José Adán Aguerri Chamorro, José Bernard Pallais Arana, Dora M. Téllez, Ana Vijil, Suyen Barahone, Hugo Torres, Víctor Hugo Tinoco, and Tamara Dávila (who is also a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the Commission). The IACHR has also been informed of the arrest of Banpro manager Luis Alberto Rivas Anduray on June 15.

According to public information provided by the State, all these cases except the one involving Cristiana Chamorro (who is being accused of money laundering) are linked to violations of Act 1055, on the defense of "the people's rights to independence, sovereignty, and self-determination for peace." All suspects (except for Cristiana Chamorro) are being investigated for allegedly "undermining independence, sovereignty, and self-determination, inciting foreign interference in domestic affairs, requesting military interventions, using funds received from foreign powers to perform acts of terrorism and destabilization, suggesting and managing economic, commercial, and financial blockades against the country and its institutions, demanding, highlighting, and applauding the imposition of sanctions against the State of Nicaragua and its citizens, and harming the nation's superior interests."

Further, through its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI, by its Spanish acronym), the Commission has received information and testimonies that point to the disproportionate use of force by officers of the National Police during arrests. In most cases, homes were raided, allegedly without the relevant court warrants.

The families of the victims and civil society organizations have also expressed their concern about the lack of information concerning these individuals' health conditions and concerning where they are being held. The IACHR warns, for instance, that the whereabouts of Félix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastián Chamorro remain unknown since June 8. Some relatives of the various detainees have periodically gone to the State-run detention center known as El Chipote to check on their loved ones' whereabouts and to provide them with food and basic supplies.

The IACHR has been informed of the authorities' refusal to provide information, and even about their restrictions and outright rejections of family efforts to provide food for these detainees. In some cases, the authorities have only allowed the provision of liquid food and have failed to confirm whether it has been delivered to the intended recipient and whether that specific individual is even being held at that site. Reports received on José Pallais' health are particularly worrying, because he is said to be in delicate condition.

Based on the information it has received, the IACHR warns that the State is not protecting the right of suspects to adequate legal counsel. Detainees are allegedly not being granted access to their lawyers and legal representatives, and most of them are being held incommunicado. The IACHR has also been told that these individuals are being subjected to "secret" hearings, held at various court facilities in Managua without the presence of their legal representatives. The IACHR has further been informed of the rejection of the writs of habeas corpus that have been filed in these cases.

Since the current crisis started in 2018, the situation of human rights in Nicaragua has continued to worsen, in a context of widespread impunity and constant violations of the rule of law. To date, the State's violent response has led to the deaths of at least 328 people and left more than 2,000 people injured; more than 100,000 Nicaraguans have migrated to other countries, most of them seeking international protection; and more than 1,600 individuals have been illegally and arbitrarily deprived of liberty at various points during the crisis. According to the Political Prisoner Recognition Mechanism managed by Nicaraguan civil society, more than 124 individuals remain in arbitrary detention at this time.

The Commission calls on the Nicaraguan State to immediately end persecution and arbitrary detentions, to immediately release all individuals who remain in detention in the context of the crisis that started in 2018, to protect these individuals' personal safety and integrity, and to restore safeguards for the full enjoyment of civil and political rights. The Commission notes resolution CP/RES 1175, passed on June 15, 2021, by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, which condemns this intensification of repression in Nicaragua and urges the State to act to ensure free and fair elections in the country, by ending the conditions that currently do not make free and fair elections possible.

Finally, the IACHR—as the regional body responsible for the protection of human rights—stresses its ongoing commitment to monitoring the situation in Nicaragua, in order to protect individual lives and integrity, defend victims of human rights violations, and enforce freedom of expression for the Nicaraguan people.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 152/21