Washington DC, January 9, 2020. On December 30th, the
Nicaraguan government released 91 political prisoners who had been detained in
prisons across the country for anywhere from two to eighteen months. Among the
released were sixteen activists arrested for bringing water to a group of prisoners’
mothers who were staging a hunger strike to demand the release of their
The move was announced as pressure grows in
Nicaragua and internationally for the liberation of political prisoners. The government
allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the Nicaraguan
Human Rights Ombudsman and the Apostolic Nuncio of Nicaragua, Waldemar
Sommertag, to take part in the process.
Political prisoners were transferred to their
homes and placed under house arrest, according to the Nicaraguan authorities. As
a result, they still have judicial proceedings pending against them and
restrictions on their movement.
The 16 activists known as the “water carriers”
denounced on Wednesday that their judicial process was “completely irregular
and marked by a series of restrictions which make it very clear that we
continue to be treated as guilty, although we have not been judged.” Their
trial is scheduled for January 30.
According to data from the Nicaraguan Center
for Human Rights (CENIDH, by its Spanish acronym), among the 91 released, there
are 41 who have already been convicted, 39 who are still being prosecuted and 4
who were detained but never had charges brought against them.
Several former political prisoners have also
reported that since their release, they have been threatened and harassed by
groups linked to the government and police.
The young Belgian-Nicaraguan Amaya Coppens and
her family have suffered several aggressions. On January 1st and 2nd, a group
of men aboard motorcycles threw black oil on the walls of their house in Estelí
and threw stones at their windows. Police have also lurked near the house
constantly since her release.
“The attacks continue on a daily basis. It is
difficult knowing that my family is still victimized, but we are trying to stay
protected as best we can,” Coppens said on Wednesday.
CENIDH requested that the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) examine the possibility of irreparable
damage to the family’s rights to life and physical integrity. CENIDH also
called for the Commission to urge the State of Nicaragua to cease the
“aggressions and harassment by officials and para-police groups” against the
Last December, the IACHR granted precautionary
measures to Amaya and the other 15 young people detained for bringing water to
the protesting mothers, finding that their life and physical integrity were at
risk in the custody of the Judicial Directorate in Managua.
Other former prisoners, including Roberto
Buchting, have reported constant harassment, including the continuous
surveillance of their homes by para-police groups, threats over social media
and even invasions of their homes with the intent to intimidate them.
Still in prison
After an extensive review of the lists of
released persons, CENIDH confirmed that 65 political prisoners are still to be
“Our commitment to the liberation of all people
and all of Nicaragua is firmer than ever. Despite the fact that a group of 91
people was released on December 30th, there are still more than 65 political
prisoners, including Katherine Martínez and the trans activist Mayela Cruz,” said
Race and Equality demands the immediate release of all political
prisoners in Nicaragua, the closure of legal proceedings against them and the
cancellation of their criminal records. We call on the authorities to cease
repression, harassment and persecution against those who were arbitrarily
imprisoned. It is essential that their return home is free from any threat or attack
against them or their families.