Civil society in Nicaragua faces growing restrictions as political power has become increasingly concentrated in recent years.read more
On 26th October 2018, a group of masked and armed men broke in the cell of women political prisoners and beat 17 of them.
On 26th October 2018, a group of masked and armed men broke into a cell holding women political prisoners and attacked them. Seventeen prisoners were beaten in the assault. According to reports, the main target was Irlanda Jerez, a human rights defender arrested in July 2018 for participating in the protests against the Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega. The attack came after Jerez refused to be taken away by unidentified men for interrogation. There is a strong indication that the attack was a retaliation for her non-compliance. After the attack, the victims were not granted medical attention and the authorities also denied the visit of an international observatory body who wanted to assess their health.
Despite the arrest of many leaders and participants of the protests, acts of repression and retaliation continue in Nicaraguans prisons. Relatives of other prisoners have reported attempts of poisoning, as well as the denial of medical attention or prisoners being held in complete isolation without being allowed outside.
The intense crackdown on protesters and activists continues as the government orchestrates house raids, to find activists and participants of the protests. At least 32 people have been arrested in Ometepe since 7th October 2018 when the National Police started looking for protest leaders. A further 17 people were subsequently arrested on the Day of the Deads commemoration on 1st November.
In a separate development, Luis Poveda was sentenced to 5 years in prison. According to his lawyer, Poveda's only crime was selling Nicaraguan flags during the protests. A judge found him guilty of threatening citizens with a firearm.
In separate developments, on 26th October 2018, Nicaragua expelled three representatives of the Center for Justice and International Law who were supposed to meet with a delegation of the IACHR in the country, showing the State’s lack of commitment with international bodies that monitor the human rights situation. The organisation said:
"Despite the arbitrary actions, they will not intimidate us. Today more than ever we reaffirm our commitment to continue accompanying the Nicaraguan people in their struggle for the restoration of democracy. Their dignity and unwavering conviction inspire us every day. They are not and will not be alone."
#Nicaragua just expelled @cejil's team from the country while attempting to attend a meeting with the @IACHumanRights. Nicaragua is on the #CIVICUSMonitor watch list, which draws attention to countries where there are serious and ongoing threats to civic space. #SOSNicaragua https://t.co/qLBCO2JVff— CIVICUS Monitor (@CIVICUSMonitor) October 26, 2018
The General Directorate of Immigration and Foreigners of Costa Rica reported that it has received approximately 30,000 asylum applications for Nicaraguans. On 15th October 2018, the Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, CENIDH) participated in a demonstration of Nicaraguan youth at the consulate facilities in San Jose, Costa Rica, demanding the release of political prisoners. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) delegation gathered the testimony of 259 people who said that the main cause of fleeing Nicaragua was the siege, the persecution, the criminalisation and the threats face for participating in protests against Daniel Ortega.
The National Police surrounded the Universidad Nacional Agraria on 26th October 2018 after its students held a demonstration outside the facilities, forcing students to take refuge inside the University. On the same day, Professor Humberto Hernández was called to the Camoapa police station after driving his motorcycle with a Nicaraguan flag stating that he "feels imprisoned in his own Nicaragua”.
On 28th October 2018, thousands of people participated in a protest in support to Monseñor Silvio Baez, a priest who has openly crititised the government repression, and protested in the cathedral of Managua, attending with the Nicaraguan flags and crosses with the names of the victims for the repression of the Ortega government. Police patrols surrounded the cathedral but the demonstrators were able to leave by alternative exits.
On 6th November, the CENIDH denounced the police aggression against human rights defenders and members of the organisation who accompanied the families of political prisoners at the hearing in the Judicial Complex of Managua. The activists were cornered by almost 100 riot police and 10 national police patrols. The Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras), published an alert condemning this act of intimidation.
🆘#AlertaDefensoras NICARAGUA / Intimidación, vulneración del derecho a la protesta, libertad de expresión y movilización contra defensoras, familiares de presos políticos e integrantes de @cenidh ▶️https://t.co/VLgCHYZQfA @INDefensoras @ForstMichel @mbachelet #SOSNicaragua pic.twitter.com/MRdJSXcNOu— IM-Defensoras (@IM_Defensoras) November 6, 2018
During the 74th Assembly of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) in Salta, Argentina, the independent press of Nicaragua received the "Grand Prize Freedom of the Press 2018" for the work and courage of its journalists during the siege by Daniel Ortega. The Director of 100% Noticias, Miguel Mora, who represented Nicaraguan journalism, denounced the recent repression of journalists:
"Being a journalist in Nicaragua today is a matter of life and death. (...) We didn’t have to do investigative journalism, just run the high risk of reporting what was happening in front of our eyes." (Translated from Spanish)
In separate developments, on 26th October 2018, political commentator Jaime Arellano reported that several pro- government radio programs, had shared his phone number, causing hundreds of people to send him death threats. In addition, independent journalists were threatened by paramilitaries and policemen in the municipality of San Juan del Río Coco, Madríz. The journalists were interviewing coffee producers about the current political crisis. Finally, on the same day, Leonardo Ortiz, owner of the independent Nueva Radio Atenas de León, was arrested. According to his wife, Azucena Cárcamo, two men on a motorcycle threw a bag with two shotguns in their backyard as a way to incriminate Ortiz.
On 27th October 2018, the government blocked the independent TV channel,100% Noticias and replaced it with channel 6, which is a government-owned channel.The Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Postal Services (Telcor), published two statements saying that 100% Noticias is an illegal company and that its signal must be replaced by channel 6. This decision was rejected by the IACHR and their Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.
Freedom of association is recognised in the Constitution of Nicaragua
Freedom of association is recognised in the Constitution of Nicaragua. Nevertheless, numerous gaps and contradictions in General Law on Non-Profit Legal Persons (law no. 147) allow for the exercise of discretionary authority over CSOs. Legal recognition requires approval by the National Assembly, which is currently dominated by the president’s party – the Sandinista National Liberation Front - and, according to civil society actors, selectively blocks or delays applications. Civil society organisations also face harassment and intimidation. For example, three armed men attempted to break into the offices of the Grupo Estratégico por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico in March 2015.
The Nicaraguan Constitution supports freedom of assembly, and according to the Manual for Individual and Political Rights, gatherings of more than twenty people require prior notice.
The Nicaraguan Constitution supports freedom of assembly, and according to the Manual for Individual and Political Rights, gatherings of more than twenty people require prior notice. Public demonstrations are generally allowed, but police frequently use excessive force against protestors and fail to protect opposition demonstrators against aggressive behaviour by pro-government supporters. According to the local organisation Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH), during 2015 many demonstrations and protests were blocked and in some cases even repressed by security forces and pro-government groups. On 8th March 2016, International Women’s Day, a peaceful demonstration led by women’s organisations calling attention to gender inequalities and violence against women was blocked by anti-riot police despite having the required authorisation.
Freedom of expression is constitutionally recognised, but restrictive media policies have proliferated in recent years.
Freedom of expression is constitutionally recognised, but restrictive media policies have proliferated in recent years. Defamation and libel remain punishable by substantial fines, and the recent reduction in the number of legal cases against journalists is likely due to self-censorship. Unlike radio and print, the television market is dominated by two media conglomerates, one led by a Mexican media mogul which concentrates on entertainment, and the other is controlled by the president’s family and is increasingly used to disseminate government propaganda. The ruling party also owns radio stations and news websites. Critical media outlets and journalists report threats, harassment, and physical violence perpetrated by both government and private actors.There is no direct censorship, but freedom of expression is restricted by a lack of information. Civil society has repeatedly stated that the authorities do not comply with the Access to Information Law of 2007. The president has never held a press conference and communicates instead through cadenas nacionales; -joint broadcast, over various media (usually radio and television), directed at the general population of a state-.The first lady is the only authorised government spokesperson. While independent journalists’ requests for interviews are denied, friendly ones are granted exclusive access to government events and press briefings. Critical media is also financially strangled by the arbitrary allocation of government advertising. No restrictions have thus far been placed on the Internet, which is currently accessed by less than 20% of the population.