Washington DC, Geneva, San José and Managua, August 3, 2022.- In a press conference convened for the purpose of analyzing the Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture (CAT) for the State of Nicaragua issued on July 29 , representatives of Nicaraguan and international human rights organizations, denounced that in the Central American country human rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment have been systematically violated since 2008.
Nicaragua has “unavoidable obligations” in terms of prevention of torture
Tania Agosti, Legal Advisor in Geneva for the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) recalled that, on July 14, the CAT summoned the State of Nicaragua to appear for review within the framework of the Convention against torture, and “not only did it not attend, but, in an unprecedented episode, it accused the lack of impartiality and objectivity of the Committee to question its reports and interfere in its laws” .
Agosti assured that the lack of commitment of the State of Nicaragua to comply with its international obligations occurs in a context in which it is accused of “implementing a policy of arbitrary arrests against any type of opposition and while at least 190 people are reported deprived of liberty for political reasons, in inhumane conditions where there are clear indications of torture and violence.”
For Olga Guzmán, Principal Human Rights Advisor for Latin America of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), this scenario is “very bleak” , since the State of Nicaragua is not only reluctant to abide by the recommendations of this Committee, but also accept visits from other United Nations bodies and the Inter-American Human Rights System.
For his part, Juan Pablo Vegas, member of the United Nations Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture and Rapporteur for Nicaragua, remarked that Nicaragua has “unavoidable obligations” in terms of prevention of torture and its lack of cooperation is part of a pattern of repeated behavior, however, “it is not the first time that the United Nations (UN) has run into a government that is reluctant to cooperate”. For this reason, the UN must do everything in its power “to mitigate the tremendous loneliness and apprehension that (…) human rights defenders in Nicaragua feel today, as well as to contribute to improving the conditions of persons deprived of liberty in this sister country, in accordance with international standards.”
Finally, he called on the Nicaraguan government to reconsider its position regarding human rights defenders and the international systems for the promotion and protection of human rights, and urged them to “let them work for the good of the women and men of Nicaragua who want, neither more nor less, than to exercise their rights as they are entitled”.
Lack of impartiality of the Criminal Justice System
Alexandra Salazar, Coordinator of the Legal Defense Unit (UDJ), explained that the “obvious non-compliance of the State”, the partiality of the Criminal Justice System (National Police, Prosecutor’s Office, Judicial Power, and Penitentiary System) and the Attorney General’s Office for the Defense of Human Rights, and the repressive intent aimed at violating the rights of Nicaraguan citizens, has been demonstrated before the CAT.
These institutions have exercised systematic practices of torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment through the application of preventive detention, solitary confinement and punishment in a generalized manner against persons deprived of liberty for political reasons, and for terms greater than the maximum allowed in Nicaraguan legislation.
Juan Carlos Arce, lawyer for the Nicaraguan Never Again Human Rights Collective, recalled that the Committee expressed “serious concerns and recommendations to the State regarding the administration of justice and violations of indigenous peoples.” The reports received by the CAT indicate violent attacks against members of indigenous peoples and people of African descent, some resulting in death; nevertheless, there is an alleged reluctance on the part of the authorities to investigate the facts, as well as attempts to criminalize and stigmatize the defense organizations that work to protect their rights.
Government of Nicaragua exercises patriarchal and sexist violence
Karina Sánchez from the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras) affirmed that ” the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo systematically exercises sexist and patriarchal violence”,particularly towards women who have raised their voices to denounce the multiple violations of human rights committed by the regime.
Sánchez highlighted that the Committee expressed concern about the high incidence of assaults and acts of sexual violence in cases of women deprived of their liberty for political reasons and about the incarceration of trans women in centers for men. In this sense, the CAT urged the State to adopt measures to cease the acts of repression and violence against human rights defenders, and to promptly, independently and exhaustively investigate the acts of excessive use of force, torture and mistreatment in the framework of the protests that began in April 2018.
The Center for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Nicaraguan Human Rights Collective Never Again, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), the Mesoamerican Initiative for Women Defenders (IM-Defensoras), the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality); the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM), the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the Legal Defense Unit (UDJ) and the Registry Unit (UDR) thank the efforts of human rights defenders and members of the Committee against Torture that, despite the adverse conditions and the lack of cooperation from the State, continue to monitor, document and denounce the serious human rights violations committed in Nicaragua.
Once again, we call on the State of Nicaragua to comply with its international human rights obligations, particularly with the recommendations provided by the CAT. It is imperative that the State proceed with the immediate and unconditional release of persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons and that, while this happens, it guarantees that acts of torture cease and that detention conditions are provided in accordance with international standards.
Likewise, the State must guarantee the impartiality of the Criminal Justice System and the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, since only in this way can credibility be ensured in the investigations of human rights violations committed against persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons, indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, women, and other populations in situations of vulnerability.
Finally, we invite the international community to respond forcefully and use all the resources at its disposal to hold the State of Nicaragua accountable for the human rights violations committed since April 2018, and to cease arbitrary detentions and acts of torture that they currently carry out.