PRONOUNCEMENT: Negotiations in Nicaragua must prioritize respect for all human rights

Washington, D.C. March 22, 2019. The Nicaraguan government and the Civic Alliance for Democracy and Justice resumed negotiations yesterday and agreed to discuss the following issues to ensure a fair and democratic solution to the ongoing human rights crisis that the country has been facing since April of last year: the release of political prisoners; the strengthening of constitutional rights and guarantees; the implementation of electoral reforms; the assurance of truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition; and the development of mechanisms to implement the agreements.

According to a joint statement published yesterday, the Nicaraguan authorities committed themselves to “release within a period of no more than ninety days all persons arrested and detained in the context of the events that occurred as of April 18, 2018, in accordance with the country’s legal procedures.”

The Pro-Liberation Committee of Nicaraguan Political Prisoners registers at least 802 people who are deprived of liberty in different prisons throughout the country, in police stations, or under house arrest. All of them were detained and many are being prosecuted for having participated in the demonstrations that demanded the end of governmental repression, justice for the victims of human rights violations that occurred in this context of repression, and reforms to democratize public institutions.

Although the Nicaraguan government had insisted that political prisoners were “common criminals” who committed crimes as part of a supposed coup d’état, the Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada accepted yesterday that authorities will release “all the persons that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) has identified as political prisoners,” according to a letter sent to Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

During eleven months of crisis, Nicaraguan prisons have been denounced as torture centers and places where prisoners are subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment, discrimination, sexual violence, insufficient or inexistent medical attention and constant harassment.

In addition to this, in the last eleven months the repression of anti-government protests has resulted in at least 325 people dead, more than 2,000 injured, and around 50,000 people who had to leave the country as refugees, according to information from the IACHR and the United Nations.

Race and Equality considers that the negotiations that the Nicaraguan Government and the Civic Alliance have resumed can represent a significant advance in the search for a peaceful solution to the crisis that the country is experiencing. However, for this to occur, the agreements must be implemented with respect for human rights, especially the rights to truth, justice, and reparations for the victims of the serious violations of human rights incurred by the State of Nicaragua.

The agreements reached in this negotiation should not allow for impunity for crimes committed by police forces and parastatal groups or ordered by the highest authorities, as documented by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, for its initials in Spanish).

We consider it necessary to restore legal status to the nine organizations of civil society that have been denied their right to exercise rights and incur obligations since December. These organizations, as well as the companies linked to the journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, must also have the goods and assets that were illegally occupied by the authorities restored.

Likewise, we consider it urgent that all persons in Nicaragua are able to express themselves and demonstrate freely. Journalists and independent media must be able to exercise their right to inform and broadcast without fear of reprisals from power.

Finally, Race and Equality considers that the release of political prisoners should be done without delay and simultaneously with the annulment of all judicial processes against them so that these imprisoned citizens, student leaders, peasants, journalists, human rights defenders, men and women can immediately recover their total freedom and continue with their work.

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