IACHR and Its SRESCER Call for Immediate Release of Political Prisoners Being Held in Appalling Conditions in Nicaragua

September 5, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (SRESCER) are concerned about the health and the conditions of detention of political prisoners in Nicaragua. Both institutions call on the State for the immediate release of these individuals.

Through its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and its SRESCER, the IACHR has obtained persistent reports of the severe conditions of detention faced by individuals who are deprived of liberty in various National Prison System facilities, including La Modelo, La Hope, and Waswalí. The allegations mention, among others, a lack of access to healthcare, worsening diseases, insufficient, poor-quality food, and arbitrary isolation and punishment regimes. According to the Mechanism for Recognition of Political Prisoners, more than 190 individuals remained in arbitrary detention in Nicaragua by August 30.

Reports the IACHR has had access to over the past few weeks mention a serious deterioration in the health and physical wellbeing of detainees held at the facility operated by the Judicial Support Department known as El Chipote or Nuevo Chipote. At this facility, inmates are held for long periods in particularly deplorable and unsanitary conditions and often suffer mistreatment, isolation, persistent interrogation, a lack of sufficient, adequate food, and lack of access to timely, appropriate, and specialized medical care.

The IACHR was also informed of private hearings held over the period August 30–September 1, in which 27 political prisoners who were being held at El Chipote were taken before the Managua Appeals Court, allegedly to be informed of their legal status. According to these reports, these hearings were not legally constituted, the affected detainees were not notified of them in advance, and their legal counsel was not in attendance. Media outlets who support the government published photographs of the detainees, calling them "arrested coup-perpetrating criminals, terrorists, and traitors." The photographs showed the physical deterioration and extreme thinness of the affected individuals.

As stated in the Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, individuals who are deprived of liberty have the right to a humane treatment, and to unwavering respect for their dignity and their fundamental rights—particularly their rights to life and personal integrity—and their fundamental liberties—including access to judicial guarantees that are essential to protect their rights and liberties. The IACHR stresses that showing detainees in humiliating settings either in person or through the media might amount to a form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, in the context of the systematic repression patterns faced by political prisoners in Nicaragua.

The State of Nicaragua has the obligation to provide adequate medical care to individuals who are deprived of liberty, an obligation that stems from the right to humane treatment held in Articles 1.1 and 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The State obligation to protect physical integrity, not resort to cruel or inhuman treatment, and respect the dignity that is inherent to all human beings extends to ensuring access to adequate medical care for individuals who are deprived of liberty. The State must also ensure minimum conditions that enable the effective enjoyment by political prisoners of those rights that should never be restricted, like the rights to food and health.

The Commission and its SRESCER demand that Nicaragua take all necessary measures to ensure that detainees have access to adequate healthcare and to sufficient, suitable food, and that the State protect their lives and integrity. The IACHR and its SRESCER ask that independent third parties be allowed to conduct a comprehensive assessment, given that there are no guarantees of the independence of internal medical reports.

The release of all persons who are arbitrarily detained in the context of the current crisis in Nicaragua is urgent. The IACHR and its SRESCER therefore call on the State of Nicaragua to release them, as a first step toward the restoration of the democratic order in the country.

The SRESCER is an autonomous office of the IACHR and was especially created to brace the Commission's compliance with its mandate to promote and protect economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the Americas.

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. 197/22

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