IACHR Urges State of Nicaragua to End Repression Against Roman Catholic Church

September 15, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – Given constant attacks against the Roman Catholic Church and its members in Nicaragua, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the State to stop repressing religious freedom and persecuting the Roman Catholic Church, and to release all individuals who have been arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

According to the available reports, priest Osman José Amador, a member of the Estelí diocese and a former director of the organization Cáritas Estelí, was arrested on September 8, 2023, by officers of the State who used force to that effect. So far, no reasons have been provided for the arrest, and the priest's legal status and whereabouts remain unknown.

The IACHR notes with concern that eight priests are currently deprived of liberty in Nicaragua. They include Matagalpa Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who is reportedly being held in appalling conditions of detention, incommunicado, and in a situation that is affecting his health, as seen by his family in their visit on March 25. Priests Eugenio Rodríguez Benavides and Leonardo Guevara Gutiérrez are allegedly also being deprived of liberty and subjected to investigation for their work in Cáritas Estelí.

The IACHR has been warning since 2022 about the worsening persecution of the Roman Catholic Church in a context where civic and democratic platforms are being shut down. There are many instances of arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, and expulsion from Nicaragua of priests and nuns without due process, as well as cases of churchpersons who have had their property confiscated. In May 2023, the Nicaraguan State froze the bank accounts of at least three of the Roman Catholic Church's nine diocese in the country, for allegations of crimes linked to money laundering and "treason."

The IACHR stresses that the American Convention on Human Rights recognizes the right of all people to freedom of conscience and religion, which entails the "freedom to profess or disseminate one's religion or beliefs, either individually or together with others, in public or in private."

The IACHR has stressed that open, free, and plural civic platforms are essential to ensure that all individuals have the freedom to profess, express, and practice their religion or beliefs without discrimination. This is particularly important in a country like Nicaragua, where most people are Roman Catholics and where State policies to suppress civic platforms have also had an impact on religious freedom.

The Commission urges the State of Nicaragua to stop repressing religious freedom and persecuting the Roman Catholic Church, and to release all individuals who are being arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

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. 218/23

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