IACHR Urges State of Nicaragua to Release All People Held in Arbitrary Detention

January 31, 2022

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Washington, D.C.- Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged the State of Nicaragua to release all people being held in arbitrary detention in the context of the crisis that the country is experiencing, guarantee due process and access to adequate legal defense, and cease all harassment against these individuals.

According to information provided by the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua, as of December 31, 2021, 160 people continued to be arbitrarily deprived of their freedom in the context of the human rights crisis that began on April 18, 2018. Of these, 120 are being held at various National Penitentiary System (SPN) facilities, 3 at municipal police delegations, 35 at the Department of Judicial Aid (“El Chipote”), and 2 are under house arrest.

In recent weeks, the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) has received information about the deplorable conditions in which detainees at El Chipote are being held. Most of these individuals are political dissidents and are beneficiaries of protection measures granted by the Inter-American System. On January 4, relatives of those being held spoke out publicly against the persistence of cruel and inhumane treatment; unhealthy conditions of detention; the confiscation of belongings; lack of access to drinking water; insufficient and unhealthy food; and a lack of adequate, timely, specialized medical attention and medicines. These conditions have allegedly caused the detainees’ health to deteriorate severely, especially in the case of older detainees, whose condition is reportedly critical.

The situation of women being deprived of their freedom at El Chipote is of particular concern, as they allegedly continue to suffer reprisals for the leadership role they have been playing in the country. These reprisals have included prolonged isolation, threats, and constant interrogation. On this point, the IACHR noted that the imprisonment of women is especially significant as it can result in gender-specific violations of their rights. Consequently, it calls on the State to adopt the measures needed to ensure that their rights are respected and to act with strict diligence to prevent and eradicate all forms of violence and discrimination against them.

According to the information received by the IACHR, the people being detained at SNP facilities are also being held in deplorable conditions and are receiving differential treatment because they have been identified as dissidents. This includes their being prohibited or restricted from receiving packages or food, unhealthy conditions in cells, mistreatment, the arbitrary application of maximum security regimes, and a lack of adequate, timely medical attention. The IACHR also received information about the critical state of health of some detainees, including student leaders, who are reportedly being held in solitary confinement.

The IACHR urged the Nicaraguan authorities to guarantee dignified treatment and access to adequate medical care, sufficient nutritious food, and healthy conditions of detention for all people in their custody. It emphasized that providing adequate medical care to people being deprived of their freedom is an obligation that derives directly from the State’s duty to guarantee the right to personal integrity, as set out in Articles 1.1 and 5 of the American Convention and Article I of the American Declaration.
The IACHR is also concerned by the reports of intimidating treatment received by the family members of detainees during visits to detention facilities. This treatment includes intimidation by police officers, exhaustive physical searches that in some cases included inappropriate touching and the removal of clothing and underwear. There is also an ongoing climate of intimidation that discourages people from reporting the situation of detainees as this may lead to reprisals against them, including restrictions on future visits. On this point, the relatives of those being detained at SNP facilities reported that they are the targets of raids and permanent surveillance.

In this same context, access to justice and the right to defense continue to be seriously affected by acts such as restrictions on access to files for legal representatives, denial of contact with detainees, refusal to process appeals in courts, and acts of harassment and threats against defense attorneys. Furthermore, the judicial processes for the people being detained at El Chipote have been arbitrarily suspended since October 2021, which is keeping both the detainees themselves and their relatives in a state of uncertainty.

The IACHR urges the State to release all people being held in arbitrary detention in the context of the crisis in Nicaragua and to guarantee due process and access to an adequate legal defense through regular, unrestricted contact between the accused and their legal representatives, and to cease harassment against them.

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. 023/22

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