'They treat us inhumanely', said campesino leader Medardo Mairena from prison

Association

Harassment and attacks against human rights defenders and social leaders in Nicaragua continue. As a result, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted precautionary measures to protect the rights of more than a hundred people "who are at serious and urgent risk of irreparable harm to their human rights". 

As reported on the Monitor, authorities continue to arbitrarily detain activists and accuse them of terrorism, organised crime, and similar offences. For example, seven student leaders were accused on 1st September of terrorism and murder in relation to the death of Christian Cardenas on 20th April during a protest where the National University in Leon was burned and Cardenas died inside the building. 

Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos reported several attacks against women activists that occurred over the last month. Azahálea Solís feminist lawyer, has been subjected to a defamation campaign in social media and has received threats from pro-government groups. In addition, Solís reported that armed men have been surrounding her home recently. 

On 11th September 2018, Amaya Eva Coppens, activists with Movimiento  Estudiantil 19 de Abril (19th of April Student Movement) was arbitrarily detained by masked members of paramilitary groups and police officers. She is being held in El Chipote prison and is accused of kidnapping, illegal possession of firearms and terrorism. In addition, on 23rd September 2018, student leader Jonathan Francisco Lopez was arrested in Managua without a judicial warrant. 

The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of People Deprived of Liberty of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visited Nicaragua between 18th and 20th September to "analyze the conditions in which people deprived of their liberty over incidents associated with the protests that began on April 18 are being held". According to public statements, "as of September 18, some 184 men and 17 women—a total of 204 detainees were being held by the National Penitentiary System over incidents associated with the protests that began on April 18. Of the 204 detainees, seven have been sentenced and 197 are in pretrial detention." Reports from civil society however, suggest that the number of detained persons is over 300. 

According to testimonies, detainees' conditions do not comply with international standards, including unsanitary facilities and poor medical attention. In addition, the Commission identified restrictions to the relatives of the prisoners to visit them, give them water and basic cleaning supplies.

As reported previously, Medardo Mairena, Coordinator of the National Council in Defense of Land, Lake and Sovereignty and Pedro Joaquín Mena Amador, were arrested at the airport. The activist sent a letter to media describing their detention conditions: 

"In the penitentiary system, we are in maximum security jails where the cells are in bad conditions, there is no electricity, restrooms are damaged. Windows that are supposed to allow air to enter are closed. It is like being baked in an oven and we are isolated from everyone else. Us campesino leaders are in the Modelo gallery 300, in the place known as “little hell”. We are 20 prisoners in the same conditions, we are sick, and they don’t allow a doctor to visit us. Thanks to god, I’m feeling better but it is only because of god. Here we have mosquitoes, cockroaches, scorpions. They don’t allow us to get out of the cells even for taking sun. They took my friend Pedro Mena’s Medication, he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and he always carries his treatment in his bag because he needs to take a daily pill. They treat us inhumanely."

Peaceful Assembly

The criminalisation of protests continue in Nicaragua. On 23rd September 2018, a peaceful protest was brutally repressed by the police and pro-government armed groups. 16 year old Matt Andres Romero was killed during the protest. Romero's relatives accused pro-governments groups of the assassination. 5 other people were injured in that protest, two with gun wounds. 

On 28th September 2018, it was reported that the national police declared demonstrations illegal and a threat to "peace and security". The police statement said

"The National Police reiterates that in the face of any alteration and/or threat to tranquility, work, life, and the rights of individuals, families and communities, the people and organizations that summon these illegal demonstrations, will be responsible and will respond to justice, as they tried to promote criminal, destructive and criminal actions". (Translate form Spanish)

Expression

On 8th September, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the persecution and censorship of the Nicaraguan media by Daniel Ortega’s government. This serious violation of the freedom of expression has also been condemned by the Inter-American Press Association.

Carlos Alberto Pastora Rossier, who is the manager of Channel 10, has denounced the abuses of the Nicaraguan government including serious threats and pressure to give up the editorial control of Acción 10 news. The channel he represents is being audited by the Financial Analysis Unit of Nicaragua and he was also banned from leaving the country.

The journalist Winston Potosme, producer of the program Café con Voz, was wounded in his arm by a bullet while covering the 23rd September protest. Potosme reported to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) that armed groups were responsible for the attack, and there was no “crossfire” as the police reported.

Freelance journalist Carl David Goette-Luciak has been subjected to online harassment, including the dissemination on social media or his home address. CPJ issued a statement saying:

"Doxxing and calling for violence against a journalist are unacceptable acts of intimidation, and Nicaraguan authorities must take immediate steps to find those responsible for the threats against Carl David Goette-Luciak and ensure that they face justice."

Nicaragua is currently on the Monitor's Watch List of countries where there is an urgent, immediate and developing threat to civic space. If you have information to share on the situation, please get in touch. Click here to find our contact details.