Arbitrary detentions continue as Nicaragua announces decision to withdraw from OAS

Banner reading "Freedom for political prisoners" at press conference of Nicaraguan exiles to denounce the electoral process. San José, Costa Rica. 7 November 2021, REUTERS/Mayela Lopez.

After the Organisation of American States (OAS) adopted a resolution condemning Nicaragua’s elections on 12th November 2021, the country announced it would withdraw from the organisation. The OAS’ resolution said that the 7th November elections were “not free, fair or transparent and lack democratic legitimacy” and instructed the organisation’s Permanent Council to assess the country’s situation and take “appropriate action.”

In a press conference, Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister lashed out at the OAS and said his office had sent a communication to the OAS Secretary-General informing him of the decision to leave the organisation. The withdrawal would be formalised two years after this notification.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) responded saying they “regretted” this decision, but underscored that the Commission will continue to monitor human rights in Nicaragua. The IACHR also condemned the human rights violations reported in the general elections. These included reports of increased police pressure, acts of harassment, raids, threats, and arbitrary arrests against opposition leaders, human rights activists, members of civil society organisations, and journalists in several departments around the country. According to the IACHR, between 5th and 7th November 2021 at least 23 individuals were arbitrarily arrested in nine departments, without arrest warrants and without providing information to the detainees’ families.

Urnas Abiertas, a civil society electoral observatory, registered more than 200 acts of political violence and acts of electoral coercion on election day. By their estimates, voter turnout may have been as low as 20% - far below what was reported by official bodies.


Arbitrary detentions continue

On 6th November 2021, human rights defender Evelyn Pinto Centeno was kidnapped and detained in her home in Managua. According to a report by La Prensa, her family members have confirmed that she is under arrest as they have provided her clean clothing to the police and collected her worn clothes – but they have not had any information on her health or the charges against her. The defender is 62 years old and has chronical medical conditions such as hypertension, which has led civil society to express concern about her health in detention and call for her urgent release.

On 9th November 2021, activist and journalism student Samantha Padilla was kidnapped and detained when she was traveling from Masaya to Managua. Padilla is a member of opposition group Unidad Azul y Blanco (UNAB). As reported by IM-Defensoras, she was in a car that was intercepted by armed individuals dressed in civilian clothing. The group did not present an arrest warrant and detained only Padilla among a group of journalism students. Her mother found out that she was being held in a police station after searching several stations for her daughter. According to the feminist group, no information was initially provided on the detention. On 18th November 2021, news outlet La Prensa reported that the young activist had been charged under Law 1055 for alleged treason against “Nicaraguan society and State.”

On 23rd November 2021, Edder Muñoz, member of opposition coalition Alianza Cívica (Civic Alliance) and former political prisoner, was detained by police and members of paramilitary groups. Video footage from the arrest shows police officers outside the activist’s house. This was Muñoz’s third arrest – he was released in 2019 under the Amnesty Law after being detained for his political activity in 2018. On 26th November 2021, the Public Prosecutor’s Office accused Muñoz of drug trafficking and illegal arms possession. Members of his family who were present during the arrest said the police fabricated evidence for the arrest.

In a statement, the Civic Alliance denounced that in November 2021, six of their members were violently detained without arrest warrants. They have all faced trumped-up charges in judicial proceedings lacking due process guarantees. During their trials, the organisation said, false witnesses were presented and the court did not allow the presence of a defence lawyer.

On 22nd November 2021, former OAS ambassador Edgard Parrales was arrested near his home in Managua. Parrales has been openly critical of the Ortega regime, recently giving statements to the press in which he decried the government’s decision to withdraw from the OAS. He was Nicaragua’s representative to the regional organisation during Ortega’s first presidential term in the 1980s. Vilma Nuñez of human rights group Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) said that Parrales was taken by two people dressed in civilian clothing. His daughter also denounced that their family house was raided on 23rd November 2021. Parrales is 79 years old and has medical conditions that require specific treatment. CENIDH said they had received information that his health situation was extremely fragile, but that a request from lawyers to meet with Parrales to verify his current condition was being delayed by authorities.

Nicaragua ignores Inter-American Court decisions

On 22nd November 2021, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the State of Nicaragua in “contempt” of its obligations for refusing to comply with the provisional measures of the Court in favour of political prisoners. The Court highlighted that the continued detention of 21 beneficiaries of provisional measures granted by the body, and the legal proceedings against them, show evidence of criminalisation and harassment. This will be communicated to the OAS General Assembly, the Court said.

According to CENIDH, Nicaragua’s non-compliance is unprecedented and “means that in the face of the failure of the State of Nicaragua to comply with the resolution of the Inter-American Court, the OAS General Assembly itself will have to intervene and force them to comply.”


Journalist Vladimir Vásquez with digital media Confidencial said that he fled to Costa Rica after Nicaraguan authorities prevented him from traveling and took his passport in September 2021. In an article about his exile, Vásquez said he had planned a trip to the United States, but at the airport immigration authorities told him he had travel restrictions, questioned him about his work as a journalist and withheld his passport. He said he was questioned about the news media Confidencial and about his writing on political prisoners. The journalist left the airport, sold all his belongings and decided to ask for asylum in Costa Rica.

On 18th November 2021, the home of journalist Elba Ileana Molina with Canal 10 was vandalised with threatening messages. The messages left on Molina’s house indicate that she is being monitored and threaten to “surprise” her and her family. The journalist said that earlier in November, right before the presidential election, her car windows were broken by unidentified attackers.