IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Submits a Request to the Inter-American Court for Provisional Protection Measures for 17 People Who Are Being Deprived of Their Freedom and Are at Extreme Risk in Nicaragua

May 15, 2019

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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mrivero@oas.org

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) adopt provisional measures to protect the rights of 17 people who are being deprived of their freedom in Nicaragua and are at extreme risk of suffering irreparable harm. According to information that the IACHR’s Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) has received from victims’ family members, legal representatives, and civil society organizations, the risk factors facing the 17 people being deprived of their freedom have worsened.

The people in question include student leaders, social leaders, campesinos (peasant farmers), journalists, and human rights defenders, some of whom are described by their families and sectors of Nicaraguan society as “political prisoners.” They have played a high profile, leadership role in the protests against the measures being implemented by the current Nicaraguan administration since April 2018.

The events that underlie this request for provisional measures are described in detail in the brief that was sent to the IA Court. The request was submitted on behalf of the following people:

- Kevin Rodrigo Espinoza Gutiérrez, a student and member of the student movement. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in Mr. Espinoza Gutiérrez’s favor through Resolution 35/2018 of May 21, 2018, after finding that he had been subjected to intimidation and death threats, among other things, after taking part in student demonstrations. The IACHR has been informed that after being deprived of his freedom, he was allegedly assaulted, did not receive specialist medical attention, and has had restrictions placed on visits from family members.

- Cristhian Rodrigo Fajardo Caballero, an activist with Movement for Nicaragua and vice coordinator of the April 19 Movement in Masaya. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in Mr. Fajardo Caballero’s favor through Resolution 56/2018 of July 25, 2018, after finding that he had been subjected to intimidation, threats, and armed assault after taking part in demonstrations. The IACHR has been informed that since being deprived of his freedom, he has allegedly had limited access to food, is being held in unsanitary conditions, has not received specialist medical attention, and is being held in conditions that jeopardize his rights.

- Yubrank Miguel Suazo Herrera, member of the Movimiento 19 de abril in Masaya. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in Mr. Suazo Herrera’s favor through Resolution 56/2018 of May 25, 2018, after finding that he had allegedly been attacked by police officers and so-called shock groups for having taken part in public demonstrations. The IACHR has been informed that after being deprived of his freedom, he has allegedly been subjected to treatment intended to “drive him mad”, has recently been subjected to aggressions described as "torture” by his family, and is being held in severely restrictive, maximum security conditions.

- Edwin José Carcache Dávila, who actively participated in the student movement. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in Mr. Carcache Dávila’s favor through Resolution 74/2018 of September 27, 2018, after finding that he had been subjected to death threats and assaults by so-called shock groups. The IACHR has been informed that since being deprived of his freedom, he has allegedly been held in severely restrictive, unsanitary conditions; is receiving inappropriate food, which could cause gastric illness; and has allegedly been beaten at least once while being deprived of his freedom.

- Medardo Mairena Sequeira and Mario Lener Fonseca Díaz, representatives of the Campesino Movement. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in Mr. Mairena Sequeira and Mr. Fonseca Díaz’s favor through Resolution 80/2018 of October 15, 2018, after finding that they had been subjected to threats, monitoring, and a smear campaign against them. Medardo Mairena allegedly received treatment that he described as “torture” while being held at El Chipote penitentiary. The IACHR has been informed that since being deprived of their freedom, they are being held in small, dark, unventilated spaces with no natural light and are also receiving insufficient food. One of the two was reportedly stung by a scorpion, which they could not see in the dark, and did not receive appropriate medical attention following this.

- Ricardo Baltodano, a relative of Mónica López Baltodano, legal advisor to the University Coordinator for Democracy and Justice. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in Mr. Baltodano’s favor through Resolution 73/2018 of September 27, 2018, after assessing his predicament, taking into account different events including threats, monitoring, and shots fired at the house where members of Mónica López Baltodano’s family live. The IACHR has been informed that since being deprived of his freedom, he has been held in severe conditions of detention that have allegedly caused him to suffer a nervous breakdown and say that he will commit suicide if these conditions continue. He has not received the specialist medical attention he needs for the conditions he suffers from.

- Jaime Ramon Ampie Toledo, Julio José Ampie Machado, and Reynaldo Lira Luquez, members of the Permanent Human Rights Commission of Nicaragua (CPDH). The three have allegedly been assaulted and threatened in connection with their work to support peaceful demonstrations in different parts of the country and the campesinos and young people protesting at roadblocks and universities. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in their favor through Resolution 46/2018 of July 2, 2018. The IACHR has been informed that since being deprived of their freedom, they have been held in deplorable conditions, have been threatened by officials, have had limitations placed on family visits, and have not received specialist medical attention.

- Miguel Mora Barberena, director of 100% Noticias channel. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in favor of Mr. Mora Barberena on December 13, 2018, through Resolution 90/2018 of December 13, 2018, after finding that he had faced various risks in connection with his role as a journalist and his reports on aggression toward demonstrators and students. The IACHR has been informed that since being deprived of his freedom, he has allegedly been held in precarious maximum security conditions that included a prolonged period without access to natural light; restrictions have been placed on family visits; and has lost a large amount of weight after going on a hunger strike, which may affect his health.

- Lucia Pineda Ubau, head of the newsroom at the 100% Noticias channel. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in Ms. Pineda Ubau’s favor through Resolution 5/2019 of February 11, 2019, after evaluating her role reporting on state repression against demonstrators through her television program. Since being deprived of her freedom at El Chipote penitentiary, she has allegedly been subjected to several hours of interrogation and “psychological torture”; has been made to sleep on the floor; and was forbidden from receiving food supplies or family visits during the first month of her detention. The IACHR has also been informed that since being deprived of her freedom she has been held in continuous solitary confinement in highly restrictive conditions; has not received specialist medical attention; and has had severe limitations placed on meeting her family and legal representative.

- Amaya Eva Coppens Zamora, Olesia Auxiliadora Muñoz Pavón, Tania Verónica Muñoz Pavón, María Adilia Peralta Serrato, and Irlanda Undina Jeréz Barrera: Amaya Coppens is part of the student movement and took part in different protests. She and the other women mentioned above are being held in La Esperanza penitentiary. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in their favor through Resolution 84/2018 of November 11, 2018, after finding that they had been subjected to physical and psychological aggression by prison guards and are not receiving medical attention. The IACHR has been informed that since being deprived of their freedom, this aggression has allegedly continued. They have also reportedly had limitations placed on receiving visits, food, and exposure to sunlight; they have been photographed and recorded for publication in progovernment media; and they have not received appropriate medical attention.

Despite the IACHR’s repeated attempts to obtain information from the state of Nicaragua regarding the precautionary measures that have been granted and in which it requested protection for these people, it has not received any responses indicating that effective, appropriate measures have been taken to mitigate the risks they face. The IACHR is particularly concerned because these are people being held in state custody and are entirely controlled by the state.

The circumstances surrounding these 17 cases are consistent with MESENI’s findings on the pattern of selected criminalization targeting people who have been identified as dissidents, the aim of which is to prevent social protest from continuing and hamper the spread of information and opinions on these protests, government repression of them, and other government decisions.

These people are being held in La Esperanza and La Modelo prisons in substandard, unsanitary conditions that include severely high temperatures that cause them difficulty breathing and skin conditions; insect infestations; dark, unventilated cells; no electricity; and interrupted access to drinking water. Likewise, according to the information the IACHR has received, the 17 detainees are allegedly not receiving sufficient or appropriate food, which has caused gastric illness, in some cases, nor do they have access to specialist medical attention for the conditions and illnesses that several of them suffer.

Although it is difficult to obtain information on what is taking place within the detention centers, there is public knowledge of the physical aggression that inmates have been subjected to and of the severe limitations on their receiving visits from relatives and lawyers, all of which reflects the harsh, selective nature of the treatment they are experiencing. The IACHR informed the IA Court that it has learned that some of the proposed beneficiaries of these precautionary measures have been seen in public wearing handcuffs and shackles. It was also informed that in some cases, detainees are forced to perform 50 squats wearing shackles before they are allowed to leave or re-enter their cells. This adds to existing reports of physical and psychological aggression in some detention centers, as transpired in March 2018, when the IACHR learned of the severe repression taking place at La Modelo penitentiary, which included severe blows to one of the proposed beneficiaries, who was allegedly hung by his feet with shackles on and had his faced sprayed with pepper spray.

The IACHR deems that these circumstances—which add to existing evidence of arbitrary detention, the use of ambiguous criminal definitions, and alleged violations of due process—point to a relationship between the arrest of these 17 people and an intention to silence them through reprisals. The aim of these actions is to send a message to other people who are demonstrating or protesting against the current administration’s actions. Given these circumstances, the IACHR wishes to draw the IA Court’s attention to the current circumstances in Nicaragua, in which people are being seriously exposed to irreparable damage to their rights.

Consequently, the IACHR request that the Inter-American Court adopt provisional measures and require the state of Nicaragua to take the following actions:

a) that it adopt the necessary steps to guarantee the well-being, life, and personal integrity of the people that have been identified in this press release;

b) that it take the necessary steps to provide these people with immediate access to the specialized medical attention they need to ascertain if they are suffering from any medical conditions and then to determine what care they need and ensure that they do indeed receive this;

(c) given the fact that these people’s lives and personal integrity are at greater risk due to their being deprived of their freedom, and given the need to safeguard these rights, the authorities in question must implement alternatives to detention that comply with the relevant international standards; and

(d) they must agree on any measures to be taken with the beneficiaries and their representatives.

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. 117/19