Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report “People Who Have Been Deprived of Their Liberty in Nicaragua During the Human Rights Crisis That Began on April 18, 2018”

December 2, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has published a new report, “People Who Have Been Deprived of Their Liberty During the Human Rights Crisis in Nicaragua That Began on April 18, 2018,” and announced the launch of a microsite containing its main findings and recommendations to the State of Nicaragua.

The IACHR emphasized that the report is mainly built around the voices of victims who have spoken out against the seriousness of their experiences, the dynamics of their arrests, the conditions in which they were deprived of their liberty, the lack of response from the Nicaraguan justice system, and the effects these circumstances have had on their personal and family lives. The IACHR expressed its appreciation for these testimonies, which constitute a much-needed instance of accusation and demonstrate the courage of the Nicaraguan people and their commitment to preventing the grave violations they have suffered from being repeated.

The report is divided into seven chapters. The introduction contains the overall findings of the report and the methodology used to create it, while chapter 2 describes arrests during the human rights crisis. It also analyzes patterns in how these arbitrary detentions took place, the ways they were carried out, those responsible for them, and how these arrests have affected human rights.

In the course of drafting the report, the IACHR established that 1,614 people were arbitrarily deprived of their freedom for having taken part in or expressed their support for the social demonstrations that began in April 2018. To this end, a record-keeping system was created on the basis of partial information provided by the State, data collected by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI-Nicaragua), figures and analyses provided by international organizations, information obtained by civil society organizations, and victims’ testimonies. However, the IACHR wishes to stress that this number would appear to be no more than a fraction of the total number of victims, which is difficult to ascertain due to the absence of official information and other factors relating to the dynamics of arbitrary detention.

Chapter 3 of the report analyses the serious conditions to which people who are deprived of their freedom have been subjected at both National Police Force and National Penitentiary System facilities. It also describes how these people were used as pawns in “exchanges” and “negotiations” to stoke the uncertainty and anguish their families were experiencing, inhibit any form of social protest, and influence the actions of the opposition and civil society. The IACHR has also identified how women have been particularly affected by the circumstances and has noted common patterns in cases of sexual violence that may constitute acts of torture and/or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, suggesting that these acts were committed as an additional tool for punishment, repression, and humiliation, especially when the victims were identified as leaders or as having assisted people who were injured in the demonstrations. Chapter 4 discusses how the Nicaraguan justice system has facilitated and endorsed judicial persecution and criminalization during the human rights crisis. Chapter 5 analyses the ongoing, systematic effects on the rights of the relatives of people who have been deprived of their freedom, and the serious predicament in which people who are released from prison find themselves due to the lack of information on their legal status and the harassment, threats, raids, stigmatization, and permanent surveillance they continue to endure. Chapter 6 addresses the rights of people who are deprived of their freedom vis-à-vis the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, chapter 7 puts forward the IACHR’s conclusions and makes a series of recommendations to the Nicaraguan State.

In view of the ongoing practice of arbitrary detention and the fact that the country has become a police state in which spaces for democratic participation have been shut down, the IACHR urges Nicaragua to comply with the recommendations made in the report and re-establish the rule of law and the effective enjoyment of human rights. It also wishes to express that it is ready and willing to provide the State with technical assistance to achieve these ends.

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. 287/20