Human rights organizations urgently condemn the recent wave of repression launched against opposition figures, presidential candidates, journalists, business leaders, and former civil society leaders 144 days ahead of the country’s general elections.
In May of this year, the government of President Daniel Ortega, acting through the Public Ministry, initiated an investigation against presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro Barrios and two former employees of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, Walter Gómez and Marcos Fletes. The three are accused of supposed “money laundering” related to the Foundation’s finances between 2015 and 2019.
Journalists and civil society groups such as the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) reject this investigation as “part of a fierce campaign of persecution against independent journalism and an attack against civil and political rights.” Prosecutors have summoned and interrogated dozens of journalists, media executives, and business leaders connected to the Foundation.
The night of May 25, Marcos Fletes and Walter Gómez, respectively the Foundation’s former accountant and financial administrator, were violently detained by police and paramilitary forces.
On June 1, the Public Ministry requested that presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro Barrios be ruled ineligible for public office; that the Univision journalist Maria Lilly Delgado be prevented from leaving the country; and that two more former Foundation employees, Guillermo Medrano and María Lourdes Arróliga, have their movements restricted so that they could be called as witnesses. Medrano and Arróliga’s lawyers, however, warn of the possibility that the two may come to be treated as suspects.
The next day, a judge ordered Cristiana Chamorro Barrios’ detention and a search of her house, which was executed by dozens of officers and lasted over five hours. Since then, Chamorro Barrios has been held incommunicado under house arrest.
On June 5, presidential candidate Arturo Cruz was arbitrarily detained at the Managua airport for actions classified as “betrayal of the homeland” under the controversial Law #1055, the “Law for the Defense of the People’s Rights to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-determination for Peace.”
On June 7, presidential hopeful Félix Maradiaga was summoned before the Public Ministry for “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs,” “soliciting military interventions,” and “using foreign financing to carry out acts of terrorism and destabilization.” After appearing at the Ministry, Maradiaga was intercepted along with his driver and lawyer, who were later released.
The evening of June 7, the National Police raided the homes of presidential candidate Juan Sebastián Chamorro and former president of the Superior Chamber of Private Business (COSEP) José Adán Aguerri. The two men were also detained. Violeta Granera, a member of the Political Council of the National Blue and White Unity (UNAB, a coalition of opposition forces), was placed under house arrest for supposedly “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs” and “soliciting military intervention.”
On June 9, former National Assembly Member José Pallais, a member of the National Coalition (another opposition coalition) was arrested under charges of “damaging independence, sovereignty, and self-determination” by “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs,” “commending sanctions,” and other acts prohibited under Lay #1055.
On the night of June 11, CENIDH and the UNAB reported that Violeta Granera had been taken in an unmarked car from her home to an unknown destination. She resurfaced in custody of the courts. The next night, Tamara Dávila, another member of UNAB’s Political Council and leader of the Unamos party (formerly known as the Sandinista Renovation Movement) was detained.
On June 13, the National Police detained and raided the homes of other Unamos leaders and Sandinista leaders opposed to President Ortega. Among the detainees were Unamos president Suyen Barahona, the well-known Sandinista figure Dora María Téllez, the fighter and Sandinista retired general Hugo Torres; former Sandinista Renovation Movement president Ana Margarita Vijil; and the foreign minister of the first Sandinista government, Victor Hugo Tinoco.
Finally, on June 15, the National Police arrested Luis Rivas Anduray, the Executive President of the Bank of Production (BANPRO, a private bank company), who is now being investigated for supposed violations of Law #1055.
This wave of raids and detentions was carried out without warrants and under unusual conditions, with the majority of the detainees now being held incommunicado and forbidden from meeting with their lawyers.
The organizations that have signed this statement express our serious concern at the use of the Law for the Defense of the People’s Rights to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-determination for Peace, which violates multiple international human rights standards, to penalize and inhibit political opposition. We are also gravely concerned by the use of pre-trial detention orders lasting up to 90 days, a measure made possibly by recent reforms to the Criminal Code. Such detentions violate personal liberty and the right to the presumption of innocence.
We call upon the State of Nicaragua to act in accordance with recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Organization of American States with the goal of ensuring free and fair elections with national and international monitoring on November 7 of this year. We also demand that Nicaraguan authorities immediately cease all repressive actions against their citizens, unconditionally release all political prisoners, and restore the full exercise of their rights. These violations of fundamental rights must not remain in impunity. The Nicaraguan government must also be held accountable at the international level for this repression.
Once again, we call upon the international community to continue monitoring the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua and demanding respect and protection of the Nicaraguan people’s fundamental rights.
Due Process of Law Foundation
Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos – Guatemala (UDEFEGUA)
Center for Justice and International Law
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras)
Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality)
Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT)
Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad
Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos (RIDH)