Nicaragua: The government continues deepening its strategies to shut down civic space
Arbitrary detention of Miskitu leader sparks concerns over continued repression
On 29th September 2023, the police arbitrarily and illegally detained Brooklyn Rivera, an indigenous Miskitu leader and a regional member of the House of Representatives, as well as founder member of the Yatama political organisation (Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka, "Children of Mother Earth United").
As reported by Cultural Survival, Rivera was subjected to physical assault and handcuffed in his own home. His whereabouts remained unknown until early October when information surfaced indicating that he was being held at El Chipote detention centre.
On 9th October, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favour of Rivera due to the severe and urgent risk of irreparable harm to his rights. The IACHR found that this case “is not an isolated situation, but rather part of the arbitrary detention, and criminalisation of opponents, and human rights defenders, as well as the subsequent lack of medical attention for persons deprived of liberty for political reasons.”
Finally, the IACHR requested the Nicaraguan government:
- To adopt the necessary measures to determine the situation and whereabouts of Rivera, in order to protect his rights to life and personal integrity.
- To report on the detention conditions in which he is currently held. In particular, report on the place of his detention and allow access to his lawyers and family and the necessary health care.
- To report on the actions taken to investigate the alleged events that led to adopting these measures to prevent such events from recurring.
Opposition arrests surge in Nicaragua: 14% increase in arbitrary detentions in August
From 1st to 31st August 2023, the Mechanism reported 24 cases of arbitrary detentions, which were suspected to be politically motivated. Out of these, the police released five detainees, while at least 15 people are still imprisoned. Since April 2023, at least 79 political prisoners have reportedly been detained. In September 2023, the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua, a group formed by family and human rights activists, reported a 14% increase in arbitrary detentions of government opponents compared to the previous month.
On 8th September 2023, Priest Osman José Amador, a member of the Diocese of Estelí and former director of the organisation Cáritas Estelí, was arbitrarily detained by state agents. As reported by the IACHR, to date there have been no reports on the reasons for his arrest, his legal status or his whereabouts.
Following this, on 15th September, the IACHR expressed concern about the detention of 8 priests in a context of escalating persecution against the Catholic Church in a shrinking civic and democratic space. Among the detained priests, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez is reportedly in deplorable condition, while priests Eugenio Rodríguez Benavides and Leonardo Guevara Gutiérrez are under investigation for their work with Cáritas Estelí.
Since 2022, the IACHR has warned of arbitrary detentions, expulsions and expropriation of assets. In May 2023, the State froze bank accounts of several Catholic dioceses on charges of money laundering and “Treason to the Homeland.”
🔴 Al 31 de agosto del 2023, la cifra de personas presas políticas en #Nicaragua es de 89, de las cuales 79 fueron detenidas a partir de las protestas de abril 2018 y 10 judicializadas previas al ese contexto.— Presas y Presos Políticos Nicaragua (@MPresasPresosNi) September 9, 2023
📂https://t.co/nqurYOOvxZ#SOSNicaragua #LibertadYa #SonInocentes pic.twitter.com/tC1GSsWDm5
Crack down on independent academic institutions
On 29th August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Special Rapporteurship on Freedom of Expression (RELE) and the Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) strongly condemned the arbitrary encroachment upon academic freedom and the erosion of civic space within the country.
These concerns were particularly exacerbated following the government's decision to revoke the legal status of the Central American University (UCA) and the subsequent confiscation of its facilities, as well as the forced eviction of six Jesuit members of the Society of Jesus from their residence.
On 15th August, the Tenth Criminal Court issued a ruling for the seizure of all assets belonging to the UCA. Shortly thereafter, a Ministerial Agreement was formally enacted to revoke the legal status of the university in accordance with the court's warrant. Furthermore, within the Ministerial Agreement, the State granted its approval for the establishment of the Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro National University. It also directed that the National University Council, an institution aligned with the official party and government interests, would be entrusted with all relevant information pertaining to the UCA.
Attacks on press freedom
In its latest quarterly report on violations of press freedom from July to September 2023, the Foundation for Freedom of Expression and Democracy (Fundación por la Libertad de Expresión y Democracia, FLED) and Voices of the South (Voces del Sur) have observed that the persecution, exile and forced departure of reporters continue to increase significantly. Meanwhile, the number of reported cases is decreasing every day for fear of the victims being identified.
FLED also documented 14 alerts that resulted in 20 cases of press freedom violations involving 11 journalists and two media outlets. During the same period, two journalists were forced into exile, and six other professionals also had to leave the country. As of September 2023, FLED has counted at least 223 journalists in exile.
🚨 #INFORME 🇳🇮 #Nicaragua // Entre julio-septiembre 2023 @VDSorg y @FLED_ong documentaron 20 violaciones a la libertad de prensa y 5 casos en los que familias de periodistas exiliados fueron víctimas de asedio policial, amenazas físicas y verbales 🧵— Voces del Sur (@VDSorg) October 10, 2023
↪️ https://t.co/MYvqu1UKTU pic.twitter.com/aqnMNJBn6u