IACHR Takes to Inter-American Court of Human Rights Case Concerning Unlawful Deprivation of Liberty and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment in Nicaragua

May 10, 2024

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on March 1, 2024, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 13,926, with regard to Nicaragua. This case concerns the arbitrary and unlawful imprisonment of Jason Puracal and his subjection to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment while he was deprived of liberty, as well as violations of due process in the criminal proceedings that led to his deportation.

US citizen Jason Puracal was arrested without a court warrant in Nicaragua in 2010. He was taken to Nicaraguan prisons like El Chipote and La Modelo, where he suffered inhuman conditions of detention including dark, overcrowded cells and a lack of adequate medical care to treat his asthma. Puracal's family filed multiple complaints to denounce these conditions. The public prosecutor charged Puracal with organized crime and drug trafficking. However, once he had been convicted, the Court of Appeals annulled his trial and ordered his release from prison. Later, migration authorities ordered his deportation.

In Merits Report 389/22, the IACHR assessed Puracal's arrest and found that it had been unlawful and had lacked solid legal grounds. The Commission also found that his right to be notified of the reasons for his arrest and his right to access consular assistance had been violated. The IACHR further found that Puracal had been held in pretrial detention for a long time without an adequate assessment of whether that was necessary of proportionate, and that this had entailed violations of his rights to personal liberty and to the presumption of innocence.

Concerning Puracal's conditions of detention, the IACHR found that he had been subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that the State had failed to adequately investigate. The Commission also found flaws in criminal proceedings, including a lack of access to an adequate defense and restrictions in communications with his lawyer. The IACHR noted that, by unlawfully seizing Puracal's property, the State had violated his rights to privacy and property, as well as his right to freedom of movement and residence during the deportation process. All these rights violations also affected Puracal's family.

The IACHR concluded that the State of Nicaragua was liable for violations of the rights to personal integrity, personal liberty, a fair trial, honor and dignity, private property, freedom of movement and residence, and judicial protection, held in Articles 5, 7, 8, 11, 21, 22, and 25 of the American Convention, concerning the obligations held in Articles 1.1 and 2 of that instrument. The IACHR further concluded that the State of Nicaragua had failed to comply with its obligations according to Article 6 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, with regard to Jason Puracal and his family.

The Commission therefore recommended that the State adopt the following redress measures:

  1. Provide comprehensive reparations—both material and immaterial—for all human rights violations
  2. Provide any physical and mental healthcare necessary for Jason Puracal's rehabilitation, should he request it, in agreement with him
  3. Conduct a thorough, diligent, timely, and effective investigation to establish any instances of cruel treatment and to punish its perpetrators and masterminds
  4. Take prevention measures, including training programs, to prevent future instances of torture and inhuman treatment and to ensure adequate investigation of all allegations of abuse, particularly in penitentiary facilities
  5. Take non-recurrence measures, including a review of legislation concerning the use of pretrial detention in cases of serious crimes linked to drugs or money laundering

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. 098/24

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