IACHR Grants Precautionary Measures in Favor of Cristiana María Chamorro Barrios, Walter Antonio Gómez Silva, Marcos Antonio Fletes Casco, and Lourdes Arróliga in Nicaragua

June 28, 2021

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Washington, D.C. — On June 24, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted Resolution 49/2021, through which it granted precautionary measures in favor of Cristiana María Chamorro Barrios, Walter Antonio Gómez Silva, Marcos Antonio Fletes Casco, and Lourdes Arróliga. According to the petition, Cristiana María Chamorro Barrios and the other three beneficiaries are allegedly being persecuted and harassed due to the possibility of Ms. Chamorro Barrios participating as a candidate in the presidential elections. This persecution has included being deprived of their freedom without information their location and conditions of detention being known. In response, the IACHR deemed that the situation meets, prima facie, the requirements of gravity, urgency, and risk of irreparable damage set out in Article 25 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure.

The beneficiaries are former members of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, which has been publishing reports since 2018 that compile and list acts of aggression targeting people exercising their right to freedom of the press and information. In February 2021, the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation decided to shut down its activities in response to changes in domestic legislation that it deemed might lead to violations of the human rights of its members. According to the petition, in January 2021, news began to circulate that Ms. Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, who was then the president of the foundation, would be running for office in the upcoming presidential elections. From then on, she became the target of social media smear campaigns, including threats from third parties.

On May 28, 2021, Walter Antonio Gómez Silva and Marcos Antonio Fletes Casco were detained as part of an investigation into the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, but the State did not provide information on the location in which the detainees were being held, nor had they been allowed contact with their relatives or lawyers, according to the most recent information received. On June 2, 2021, State authorities reportedly raided the house of Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, where she is allegedly being held in incomunicado detention, unable to leave the house, under full-time surveillance by police officers who remain inside the property. On this point, the IACHR noted that the inability of the detainees' relatives and lawyers to make contact with them may increase their vulnerability, in that they are defenseless should incidents or circumstances arise that might jeopardize their rights to life or personal integrity.

Likewise, the IACHR took into account the current circumstances in Nicaragua, which are being monitored by the IACHR's Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), and the fact that people who have spoken out against the repressive actions of the current government are in a particularly vulnerable situation. According to the information provided, the intimidation and harassment to which these individuals are being subjected owes largely to the fact that they were formerly members of a foundation whose work focused on defending the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Other information that the IACHR has received points to the existence of acts of harassment and aggression against leaders of the opposition in Nicaragua who publicly announced their intentions to run for office in the general election scheduled for November 7, 2021.

With regard to Lourdes Arróliga, the IACHR concluded that she might also be at risk, as she is experiencing similar circumstances to the rest of the beneficiaries, is under police surveillance at her home and workplace, and has reportedly received threats recently.

The IACHR noted the State's response and warned that beyond arguing that the petitioners' allegations lacked credibility, it did not provide evidence to refute them. Furthermore, it did not provide information on the whereabouts of Mr. Gómez Silva and Mr. Fletes Casco, the circumstances in which they are being deprived of their freedom, or whether their conditions of detention meet the applicable international standards. The State did not provide information on the measures implemented to guarantee the protection of Ms. Chamorro Barrios's rights. The IACHR noted that regardless of the reasons for which a person is deprived of his or her liberty, the State has the obligation to ensure his or her rights to life and personal integrity. It also noted that although a request for information on Ms. Arróliga's situation was issued, the State has not responded.

Consequently, in accordance with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR requested that the state of Nicaragua a) take the necessary measures to guarantee the right to life and personal integrity of Cristiana María Chamorro Barrios, Walter Antonio Gómez Silva, Marcos Antonio Fletes Casco, and Lourdes Arróliga. In particular, the State must guarantee that its agents respect the beneficiaries' rights in accordance with the standards set out in international human rights law and third-party risks. b) adopt the necessary measures to ensure that the conditions in which the beneficiaries are being deprived of their freedom conform to the relevant international standards; c) agree on any measures to be adopted in consultation with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and d) report on the actions it implements to investigate the events that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure so as to prevent them from being repeated.

The IACHR's granting of this precautionary measure and its adoption by the State does not entail a prejudgment on any petition that may eventually be filed before the inter-American system to allege that the rights protected by any applicable instruments have been violated.

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

No. 161/21