Washington D.C., November 7, 2022.- The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (CCPR), made extensive observations on the fourth periodic report submitted by Nicaragua, analyzed in the review on October 19, 2022.
The Committee issued 17 recommendations on different topics, among them: the independence of the Judiciary, deaths due to police violence, the situation of prisoners in Nicaraguan jails, freedom of expression, violence against women, the situation of indigenous peoples and freedom of association.
On this last point, the Committee said that the State of Nicaragua should “refrain from canceling the legal personalities of civil society organizations, including human rights organizations, opposition groups and professional associations; among these medical associations, universities and entities linked to the Catholic Church; for legitimately exercising their rights and take all necessary measures to restore these organizations and restore their property.”
From 2018 to the beginning of November 2022, the Committee recorded the closure of 1880 non-governmental organizations in Nicaragua, many of them unable to submit the required documentation due to obstacles encountered at the Ministry of the Interior following the approval of the Special Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents in October 2020.
“Refrain from imposing solitary confinement” on detainees.
The Committee has recalled that the families of persons deprived of liberty for political reasons have expressed that among those held in the Judicial Auxiliary Direction, known as “El Chipote”, there are those who suffer from chronic illnesses that do not receive the specialized health care they require. For 73 days, the people in this detention center have not received any visits from their relatives and no information is known on their conditions.
According to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, there are at least 50 people detained in “El Chipote”.
The Committee said that the State should “refrain from imposing solitary confinement, except in the most exceptional circumstances and for strictly limited periods, when it is objectively justifiable and proportionate”, according to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules).
The Committee also expressed concern about the level of overcrowding in prisons such as “La Modelo” or the women’s prison “La Esperanza”, as well as what it considers a “deficient health care” in prisons such as “El Chipote”. In addition, it recommended strict supervision of visiting procedures, “ensuring that invasive searches are only carried out in exceptional cases, in the least intrusive manner possible and with full respect for the dignity of the person and his or her gender identity”.
This recommendation arises from allegations that family members of persons deprived of liberty for political reasons are subjected to invasive searches and improper touching when visits are authorized in detention centers.
These practices that violate human rights have also been carried out against minors, who have been prevented from frequent visits to their relatives in prison for long periods of time and, in general, have not been allowed any communication whatsoever.
Prosecution of perpetrators of torture and deaths in prisons.
The Committee was also concerned about the constant allegations of torture that have been reported in Nicaragua, both at the time of arrest and in prisons and detention centers.
In addition, it recommended that “all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and deaths in detention” be investigated promptly, thoroughly, effectively, independently and impartially.
The later, because since the arbitrary detentions that have occurred in Nicaragua since April 2018, two deaths of persons in detention were recorded; Eddy Montes, a U.S. citizen who died of a gunshot wound in circumstances not yet investigated by the Nicaraguan authorities, and Hugo Torres, who died in February 2022 in circumstances still unclear arising from the lack of assistance to his health and the conditions of detention.
The Committee’s recommendation is that these investigations should be conducted in accordance with the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol), “as well as (investigations) of all acts of violence committed by police and prison officials during detention, in police stations and in places of deprivation of liberty, ensuring that the perpetrators are prosecuted and duly punished if found guilty and that the victims receive full reparation”.
Investigate cases of violence against women
Taking into account that in Nicaragua, according to statistics from women’s advocacy organizations, more than 42 girls and women have been victims of femicides from January to August 2022, 15 of these cases remain in impunity within the country, the Committee also recommended to the State of Nicaragua that investigations of cases of violence against women be guaranteed “quickly and effectively”, and that the perpetrators of these crimes be brought to justice.
In addition, it urged the State to make amendments to Law 779, the Law on Violence Against Women, so that “specialized jurisdiction in matters of violence against women is maintained throughout the territory of the State party and the definition of femicide is harmonized with international standards.”
Right to a fair trial
The Committee was also concerned about “violations of due process,” and in particular, referred to the use of ambiguous criminal definitions during investigations and prosecutions.
“The Committee is also concerned about the lack of effective access to legal assistance for detainees, in particular, reports of obstacles faced by lawyers in accessing court hearings, case files, and communicating freely and privately with their clients.
In addition, the Committee recommended that lawyers should be able to advise and represent persons accused of crimes without obstacles, expressing that it should “promote that the Public Prosecutor’s Office instigate the immediate release of persons detained as a result of the socio-political crisis that began in 2018.”
Violence against indigenous peoples is of concern
Additionally, the Committee expressed its concern over reports that some indigenous peoples have been victims of acts of violence following the invasion of settlers into their territories.
In this regard, it recommended that the State, “redouble its efforts to prevent conflicts over land use, including the provision of guarantees in relation to lands traditionally owned or occupied by indigenous peoples.”
“In accordance with rule 75, paragraph 1, of the Committee’s rules of procedure, the State party is requested to provide, by November 4, 2025, information on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations in paragraphs 6 (constitutional and legal framework within which the Covenant is implemented), 30 (right to a fair trial) and 40 (participation in public affairs).”
Committee to follow up on recommendations
The UN Committee will also follow up on three recommendations made: the dissemination of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), information on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Committee, the State party will receive from the Committee in 2028 the pre-reporting list of issues and is expected to submit within one year its responses to the list of issues.
Race and Equality and the CCPR Centre, are deeply concerned about the unwillingness of the State of Nicaragua to comply with its international obligations and the lack of cooperation it has provided in recent years despite repeated requests from the UN Human Rights Committee detailed in the review process that motivates this press release.
The State of Nicaragua must comply with its international obligations and to help seek a way out of the crisis that began since 2018. These solutions must be geared towards strict respect for human rights, dialogue and international law.
The crisis in Nicaragua, which has dragged on for 4 years, due to the unwillingness of the Nicaraguan State to find a peaceful solution, continues to provoke exile, arbitrary detentions and lack of fair trials in accordance with international standards.
We recognize and support all Nicaraguan civil society organizations that from Nicaragua or from exile continue to develop their work in defense of human rights and provided the Committee with very valuable information, and we urge the State of Nicaragua to accept and faithfully comply with its international obligations by implementing the Committee’s recommendations accordingly.