Nicaragua: IACHR urges to guarantee the life and integrity of arbitrarily detained persons and their immediate release

June 11, 2024

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Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI)

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) express their concern for the grave situation of persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in Nicaragua, and urge that their lives and integrity be guaranteed, as well as their immediate release.

As of April 30, 2024, at least 128 people are arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in the context of the human rights crisis that began in 2018, according to information from the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners of Nicaragua (a collective made up of different civil society organizations). Of these, more than 30 people have precautionary or provisional measures granted by the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR Court).

In this regard, the IACHR's Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) continuously receives information on the deplorable conditions of detention in Nicaragua, including unsanitary cells; lack of access to drinking water; insufficient and unhealthy food; lack of timely and specialized medical care and medicines. In addition, there are persistent reports of cruel and inhumane treatment by prison officials and aggressions by common prisoners against those identified as "political prisoners".

According to the report, this context and the prolonged detention is causing the severe deterioration of the physical and mental health of the detainees, especially the elderly, as well as those with chronic or pre-existing prison illnesses, placing their lives and physical integrity at serious risk.

In the "La Esperanza" Integral Penitentiary for Women (EPIM), the conditions for women are even more severe due to reports of prolonged isolation, intimidation, aggression, threats and constant interrogation by prison authorities, as well as the lack of access to differentiated health, hygiene and cleanliness supplies. For example, Fátima Mejía Ruiz did not receive post-natal health care after giving birth prior to her detention.

A pattern of arbitrary restrictions on the authorization of visits and the delivery of parcels, food and drinking water persists, which keeps their families in anxiety and uncertainty. Notable cases include Jaime Navarrete Blandón, detained in 2019, as well as the members of the evangelical church "Puerta de la Montaña", detained in December 2023, whose health condition is unknown.

Likewise, the IACHR and its RELE are concerned about the absence of official information on the whereabouts of Freddy Quezada, Carlos Bojorge and Brooklyn Rivera since their arrests, which could constitute forced disappearances in light of international law. They urge the State to provide information on their situation and to guarantee their right to life in compliance with the protection measures ordered by the IACHR and the IACHR Court.

Moreover, access to justice, due process guarantees and the right to defense continue to be affected, in a context of the complete absence of an impartial and independent justice system and the violation of the principle of separation of powers. There are numerous violations including the restriction of access to files, the denial of the processing of appeals, harassment and threats against legal representatives, the conduct of judicial proceedings virtually and without the presence of legal defense and, in general, the instrumentalization of criminal law to criminalize the full exercise of the right to freedom of religion, assembly, expression and those that are part of the civic space.

In this context, in 2024, RELE has documented illegal searches and arbitrary detentions against journalists, artists and academics. On May 19, 2024, it received information about the detention of journalist Orlando Chávez Esquivel, director of the news program El Metropolitano, in León, along with his brothers, who were released after 20 hours of detention. That same day, professor and writer Pedro Alfonso Morales Ruiz was detained in Telica in retaliation for his participation in a book presentation. Nicaraguan journalist Víctor Ticay has been in prison for more than a year after being convicted of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and propagation of false news, after broadcasting a religious celebration.

The IACHR and RELE urge the State to release all persons arbitrarily detained, especially those detained since the onset of the crisis in 2018. They also urge the cessation of judicial persecution and repression against different actors of civil society, both in the physical and digital environment, including journalists, human rights defenders, activists, artists, academics, political opponents and members of religious communities.

The IACHR is a principal, 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 is mandated 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. 132/24

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