Nicaragua: IACHR and OHCHR Urge the State of Nicaragua to Release Monsignor Rolando Álvarez and Guarantee His Human Rights

August 18, 2023

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Washington, D.C. / Panama City - One year after the arbitrary detention of Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for Central America and the Caribbean (UN Human Rights) condemned the continuing violations of his human rights, such as the lack of access to medical care and essential medicines, the solitary confinement he has been subjected to since his detention at La Modelo prison, and the limited family visits that he has been allowed.

This treatment runs counter to the international human rights obligations that Nicaragua assumed when it ratified the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly with regard to guaranteeing the rights to due process, liberty, and personal integrity.

Monsignor Rolando Alvarez was arrested on August 19, 2022, after being confined for more than 15 days with other people belonging to the Catholic Church, without access to food or water. He was arrested violently by the police without a warrant and was placed under house arrest. On December 13, 2022, he was brought before the courts of Managua for the first time, where he was charged with conspiracy to undermine national integrity and spreading false news to the detriment of the State and Nicaraguan society.

On February 10, 2023, the day after he refused to be deported to the United States by the Nicaraguan Government along with 222 others, Monsignor Alvarez was sentenced without trial or due process to 26 years in prison, disqualification from holding public office, and loss of citizenship for life, including Nicaraguan nationality (the latter two penalties are not provided for in Nicaraguan law). He was convicted of the crimes of attacking national integrity, spreading false news, and aggravated obstruction of functions, disobedience, and contempt of authority. He was also labeled a "traitor to the homeland." He was then transferred to La Modelo prison, where he has since been held incommunicado.

On March 25, 2023, Monsignor Alvarez received the only visit from his relatives that he has been permitted, which revealed the deterioration of his health and the inhumane prison conditions in which he is being held.

On April 13, 2023, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued precautionary measures in favor of Monsignor Álvarez, after deeming him to be at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to his human rights. On June 28, 2023, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights granted him provisional measures at the request of the IACHR and asked the State to report on his situation and release him immediately.

Since 2022, both the IACHR and the OHCHR have documented increased persecution against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua through arbitrary detentions, the imprisonment and expulsion of priests and nuns from the country without guarantees of due process, and the expropriation of their property without the right to an administrative or judicial remedy, in contravention of international norms protecting religious freedom and nondiscrimination on religious grounds.

To date, at least 44 members of the Catholic Church have been arbitrarily expelled from the country, and 8 priests are still being detained, 6 in the penitentiary system and 2 in prison seminary. Several schools and universities with ties to the Catholic Church have been seized. On August 9, 2023, the Government decided to freeze the bank accounts and seize the real estate of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in Managua, which is owned by a Catholic community. On August 15, the Judiciary ordered the seizure of all movable and immovable property and bank accounts of the UCA, arguing that the Center for Studies functioned as a "center of terrorism, organizing criminal groups." As of this date, all academic and administrative activities have been suspended, affecting the right to education, academic freedom, freedom of expression and work of countless Nicaraguans.

Likewise, information has been received on cases of repression and persecution against other religions. For example, the police have broken up Protestant worship services on six occasions, and at least four pastors have reportedly been prevented from entering the country. The State has also shut down nonprofit organizations and confiscated an evangelical Christian university.

The American Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognize the right of all people to freedom of conscience and religion, which entails the freedom to profess and manifest one's religion or belief, individually or with others, in public or in private. In this regard, the IACHR and the OHCHR emphasized that an open, free, and plural civic space is an essential condition for guaranteeing that people have the freedom to profess, manifest, and practice their religion or belief without discrimination.

After five years of systematic human rights violations, the two organizations urged the Government of Nicaragua to refrain from taking actions against religious freedom and to fulfill its international obligations by immediately releasing Monsignor Rolando Álvarez and all others arbitrarily deprived of their freedom.

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.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) is part of the United Nations Secretariat. It was created by the General Assembly through Resolution 48/141 of 1993, which details its mandate. Led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it is mandated to promote and protect human rights for all.

No. 184/23

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