Crackdown on human rights defenders continues in Nicaragua
On 3rd May 2023, Nicaraguan police arrested critics of the regime on accusations of conspiracy, treason, and spreading fake news. Civil society organisations reported that at least 57 people were arbitrarily detained, including human rights defenders, journalists, attorneys and social movement leaders. They were detained for several hours then released on conditional parole.
On 10th May, the National Assembly cancelled the legal status of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and approved the confiscation of its assets. The ICRC is the only international organisation that is able to visit political prisoners in Nicaragua. In March 2022, the Nicaraguan government sent a letter to the organisation, demanding the expulsion of the head of the ICRC mission in the country. In April 2023, the organisation published a report warning of the serious humanitarian conditions in Mexico and Central America, highlighting the Nicaraguan case. On 11th May, the ICRC expressed deep concerns over the expulsion and the implications that this decision may have on the organisation.
On 11th May, the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) suspended at least 25 lawyers and public notaries from exercising their profession. They were previously stripped of their nationality and declared "traitors to the homeland" in February 2023. Those suspended include human rights defenders such as Vilma Núñez and Gonzalo Carrión. Authorities also sanctioned fifteen former political prisoners with the same measure, including activist Ana Margarita Vigil and human rights defender María del Socorro Oviedo.
According to the InterAmerican Press Association, since its last assembly in October 2022, the regime of Ortega-Murillo has intensified attacks on freedom of expression, especially against government critics, and the independent press.
On 13th April 2023, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures to Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, bishop of Matagalpa and his immediate family. The bishop is a vocal critic of the government and faces up to 26 years in prison on politically-motivated persecution. The authorities charged him with treason and spreading false news. Rolando Álvarez is being held incommunicado at the time of writing.
On 19th April, the Ortega-Murillo regime inaugurated the José Coronel Urtecho Cultural Centre in the former La Prensa newspaper premises, which had been confiscated by the authorities. In 2021, the authorities raided La Prensa office, seizing equipment and accusing the newspaper management of money laundering. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR condemned the seizure of the La Prensa property, stating that using pressure on and persecution of the media is a violation of freedom of expression.
#Nicaragua🇳🇮 RELE rechaza la inauguración de un llamado centro cultural en las instalaciones de @laprensa, confiscadas desde 2021; y recuerda que usar el poder estatal para presionar y castigar medios de comunicación atenta contra la #LibertadExpresión. https://t.co/ojyADXaHMF— Relatoría Especial p/la Libertad Expresión (CIDH) (@RELE_CIDH) April 19, 2023