According to new evidence presented by Human Rights Watch, HRW, the situation of political prisoners in Nicaragua is increasingly critical, people of different backgrounds and professions who have been arbitrarily detained by the government and who, according to the report, maintain with restricted communication and in abusive conditions of detention.
Apparently, criticizing the Nicaraguan government pays off in prison or enforced disappearance. This after the arrest of at least 36 critics so far in 2021, people who were part of criminal proceedings without due process and without any type of guarantee. The prosecution accused them of “money laundering” and “conspiracy to undermine national integrity”.
“The speed with which the government of Daniel Ortega carried out this wave of arrests ahead of the presidential elections in November, subjecting its critics to horrific conditions of detention and accusing them of crimes without any basis or due process, reveals that” Ortega has no intention of losing the next election, ”said Human Rights Watch director for the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco.
Human Rights Watch interviews victims
Through telephone interviews carried out since August with 19 people, who had information on 28 of the 36 cases, an attempt was made to clarify the fate and situation of persons deprived of their liberty. The report cites complaints from relatives of detainees, who had to wait months to visit them and warned of insufficient food, prolonged isolation and various interrogations, sometimes daily, without the presence of any lawyer. . It should be remembered that solitary confinement for more than 15 days is considered torture and is prohibited by international criminal law.
“The Ortega government must immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and the international community must step up pressure on the government to increase the cost of its abusive practices,” said Vivanco.
The report says that between May 28 and September 6, President Daniel Ortega’s government implemented a strategy of systematic arrests to facilitate his re-election for a fourth consecutive term in November.
Those arrested include 7 presidential candidates, from opposition parties, and 29 outspoken critics of the government, including politicians, journalists, human rights defenders, students, community leaders, among others. 4 of them are under house arrest, and 32 of them were detained at the Directorate of Legal Aid, known as “El Chipote”, where the torture of critics of Ortega has been reported in the past.
“Request military interventions”, “organize with funding from foreign powers to commit acts of terrorism and destabilization”, “demand, exalt and applaud the imposition of sanctions against the State of Nicaragua and its citizens”, as well as “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs” are the alleged charges by which the Nicaraguan government has tried to justify these abuses of authority and these attacks on democracy.
Through a reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Nicaraguan prosecutors are empowered to detain civilians for 90 days without the need to lay a charge, which has been used by the authorities to justify their arbitrary detentions.
The charge for which many detractors were prosecuted during the public hearings is that of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity”, whereby the government denied the accused the possibility of having a lawyer for a while. the process. and deny defenders access to court documents.
The charge for which many critics were prosecuted during the public hearings is that of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity”, through which the government prevented the accused from having the possibility of having a lawyer during the process, and he refused access to the defenders. to court documents.
According to HRW, when reviewing the allegations, “prosecutors have generally failed to identify any actions to substantiate the charges against the defendants. The acts mentioned were frequently behaviors protected by international human rights standards on freedom of expression and should not be criminalized ”.
Likewise, in the documents consulted, “prosecutors have justified serious accusations of undermining Nicaraguan national integrity, relying exclusively on allegations that the defendants gave interviews to the media, shared WhatsApp messages, participated in meetings or signed letters expressing support for sanctions against Nicaraguan officials, called for free elections or demanded international condemnation of government abuses ”.
According to Nicaraguan human rights organizations, more than 100 people critical of the government have been arrested and remain in abusive detention conditions, some of them suffering from chronic illnesses to which the government is not paying attention. .
No due process
According to the HRW report, in most of the cases analyzed, detainees were denied the right to meet with the lawyer of their choice, while decisions regarding their cases were made behind closed doors, which goes to the point of view. against Nicaraguan law.
“Until August 30, the authorities kept most of the detainees incommunicado, without family visits or the possibility of meeting their lawyers, in violation of the provisions of the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure of Nicaragua. The detainees were held incommunicado for 8 to 92 days. Despite multiple appeals filed by the defense, the authorities did not disclose information on the fate or conditions of detention of most of these people, ”the report concludes.
To read the full report, click here