IACHR condemns the arbitrary expulsion of human rights defender in Nicaragua

MANAGUA-WASHINGTON DC. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), condemns the detention and arbitrary expulsion of the human rights defender Ana Quirós, as well as the intimidation and harassment against protesters, journalists, and media workers in Nicaragua.

According to information received through the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), Ana Quirós, director of the Center for Information and Health Advisory Services (CISAS), feminist and LGBTQ community leader, and beneficiary of precautionary measures issued by the IACHR (Resolution no. 70/18), was detained and transferred to the Judicial Assistance Directorate, also known as “El Chipote” after being subpoenaed by the General Directorate of Migration and Immigration in Nicaragua (DGME) the morning of November 26, 2018.

Hours after her detention, Ana Quirós was transferred overland by agents from the DGME to the border post of Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica, where she was delivered to the Costa Rican authorities with an order of deportation.

Since her detention and until her further expulsion, Ana Quirós would have remained incommunicado, the authorities would not have given notice of her whereabouts, and there was no chance to file any legal remedy before the competent courts to challenge the lawfulness of her detention and expulsion.

Ana Quirós did not have any communication with her lawyers either. The information collected by the IACHR’s MESENI indicates that Ana Quirós has been Nicaraguan by way of naturalization for 21 years.

Additionally, the IACHR received information concerning the situation of human rights defenders Ana María Ara Sorribas and María Jesús Ara Sorribas, nationals from Spain, and Bea Huber, a national from Switzerland, who were also subpoenaed by the DGME on the same day. All of the abovementioned women are permanent residents in Nicaragua.

At the DGME, the authorities withdrew their Nicaraguan identity card and were compelled to sign a document which indicates that they are banned from participating in political acts. Moreover, they were asked to present themselves to the DGME every 15 days from now on.

The IACHR reaffirms that, under article 22.5 from the American Convention on Human Rights, no one can be expelled from the territory of the state of which he is a national or be deprived of the right to enter it. Furthermore, the Commission recalls that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality once it has been granted.

Thus, the Commission has emphasized that any legal procedure that could impact on the rights of a person need to satisfy due process, so that the person can challenge properly any act issued by the State, which includes the right to judicial control with suspensive effects.

When interpreting the American Convention, the organs of the Inter-American System for the protection of human rights have identified minimum standards concerning due process of law that shall rule any legal procedure that could have an impact on the individual’s human rights.

Some of these standards are, among others: 1) previous notice of the existence of the procedure must be provided; 2) having a hearing for the determination of the rights at stake; 3) legal representation; 4) the right to present a defense and to have reasonable period to prepare and formalize arguments and evacuate evidence; 5) written record of the authority’s decisions; 6) reasonableness on the length of the procedure; 7) the right to an effective judicial review of administrative decisions from a higher authority; 8) the right to a well-founded resolution; 9) the admiration’s actions must be public.

“The expulsion of Ana Quirós is highly worrying, since it is a reprisal for her work as a human rights defender. Moreover, the expulsion is not in accordance with the Inter-American and universal standards, since States shall not deport their own nationals, regardless of the way the nationality was acquired”, stated Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants.

According to the information collected by the MESENI, in recent days, increase of police presence at several locations of Managua was registered.

The latter would have an intimidating effect and indicates the deployment of a larger State control strategy on civic spaces. Within this context, the MESENI keeps documenting several testimonies and cases related to inspections at police check-points, assaults, detentions and threats committed by State agents, especially against journalists and media workers.

Among those cases, on November 23, two works from Radio Darío would have been arbitrarily detained for several hours, by agents from the National Police, who stripped them from their personal belongings; on November 24, Miguel Mora and Verónica Chávez, from 100% Noticias, would have been threatened with death by a public servant from the Directorate of Special Operations, at a check-point in Masaya; the same day, a journalist from Radio Corporación, would have been beaten by three police officers when they were travelling on a taxi cab through the city of Managua. On November 27, the journalist of Confidencial and of the program Esta Noche, Carlos Salinas Maldonado, reported that he was besieged by motorized paramilitaries, who had remained in front of his house and had followed him to the media outlet where he works. Additionally, according to the information available, the editorial chief of the La Prensa newspaper, Luis Sánchez Sancho, is currently allegedly in custody due to a traffic accident. Although the parties had reached an agreement, the judge had ordered his imprisonment. According to the information available, this measure is allegedly a response to a scheme of repression and attempt at censorship by the Government.

With this regard, Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, Rapporteur for Nicaragua, stated that “constant criminalization of human rights defenders, journalists, and media workers, excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, and other State responses against international law, that take place in Nicaragua, employed to inhibit the people from demonstrating their social claims, are the reflect of the exceptional situation on the country.” “It is imperative that the State fulfills with its obligations with regards to human rights, in order to establish an adequate environment for rule of law and democracy,” she added.

On the other hand, information received through the MESENI, indicates that National Police denied a group of persons, authorization to perform a march on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The resolution exposes a series of arguments that try to equate social protests with vandalism; according to Nicaraguan authorities, such protests intend to promote terrorist acts and to re-activate the “tranques”, aiming for a coup.

The Commission has stated on previous occasions that the right of assembly through social protest must not be subject to authorization from the authorities or excessive requirements that hinder its realization. In addition, the legal requirements that provide a basis for an assembly or demonstration to be prohibited or limited, such as through the requirement of prior permission, are not compatible with the right of assembly. Finally, the IACHR notes that the requirement of prior notification must not be mistaken with the requirement of prior permission, discretionally granted.

The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, noted “the State of Nicaragua has the duty to ensure the work of journalists at protests.” He added that “the latter requires that police agents must not assault or detain them, on the basis of a supposed unlawful participation in the protests, since such measures seriously violate the right of society to receive news of public interest”.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and defense of human rights in the region, and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

CIDH condena asesinato de campesino defensor del derecho a la tierra en Brasil

activista 1516919199 621x354WASHINGTON DC.-  La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) condena el asesinato de Márcio Matos, campesino integrante del Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales Sin Tierra (MST), en Brasil. El asesinato ocurrió el último día 24 de enero, en Iramaia, en el estado brasileño de Bahia.

Según las informaciones recibidas por la CIDH, Márcio Matos habría sido asesinado a tiros durante la noche del día 24 de enero, frente a su hijo de seis años. Según las investigaciones preliminares, los cinco tiros disparados contra el campesino se concentraron en la región del tórax y de la cabeza, lo que indica que él no tuvo posibilidad de defenderse.

La CIDH toma nota de las medidas tomadas por el Estado de Brasil para investigar este caso, y recuerda que es obligación del Estado conducir estas investigaciones de manera oportuna imparcial, seria y exhaustiva, agotando todas las líneas de investigación lógicas.

En este sentido, el Estado debe considerar el rol del defensor del derecho a la tierra como una característica que podría posiblemente haber motivado tal crimen. La CIDH subraya la importancia que dichas investigaciones estén direccionadas a propiciar el acceso de los familiares a la justicia, prestándoles informaciones pertinentes y ofreciéndoles amplia oportunidad de participación.

De acuerdo a datos parciales de la Comisión Pastoral de la Tierra (CPT), en 2017, 65 personas fueron asesinadas en conflictos en el campo, lo que convertiría a Brasil en uno de los países más violentos para campesinos y campesinas. Frente a esta situación, la CIDH insta al Estado a adoptar inmediata y urgentemente todas las medidas necesarias para garantizar el derecho a la vida, a la integridad y a la seguridad de defensoras y defensores del derecho a la tierra y al medio ambiente en Brasil, dando especial énfasis política y presupuestaria a la implementación de su Programa Nacional de Protección de Defensores/as de Derechos Humanos.

La CIDH reafirma, tal como manifestó en 2017, que la labor de defensoras y defensores de la tierra y del ambiente es esencial para la construcción de una sociedad democrática, y que ellos y ellas poseen un rol protagónico en el proceso para el alcance pleno del Estado de Derecho y fortalecimiento de la democracia.

Como observó la Comisión en otras oportunidades, los actos de violencia y otros ataques contra las defensoras y los defensores en el campo y en la ciudad no solo afectan las garantías propias de todo ser humano, sino que atentan además contra el papel fundamental que desempeñan en la sociedad, y sume en la indefensión a todas aquellas personas a quienes defienden.

La CIDH es un órgano principal y autónomo de la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), cuyo mandato surge de la Carta de la OEA y de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos. La Comisión Interamericana tiene el mandato de promover la observancia y la defensa de los derechos humanos en la región y actúa como órgano consultivo de la OEA en la materia. La CIDH está integrada por siete miembros independientes que son elegidos por la Asamblea General de la OEA a título personal, y no representan sus países de origen o residencia.

IACHR Takes Case Involving Argentina to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

ZETA.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over case 12.924, Julio César Ramón Del Valle Ambrosio and Carlos Eduardo Domínguez Linares, involving Argentina.

The case concerns the violation of the rights to appeal a ruling and to legal protection enshrined in articles 8 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of Julio César Ramón del Valle Ambrosio and Carlos Eduardo Domínguez Linares, due to the fact in December 1997, Córdoba’s Ninth Chamber of Criminal Law ruled them to be accessories to the crime of fraud and sentenced each of them to three years and six months in prison. Their defense attorneys filed motions for cassation, which were declared inadmissible without being analyzed in depth.

Furthermore, the IACHR considers that the ruling on these motions was part of a restrictive interpretation of the law and, given that this was the only appeal against a trial court conviction, Julio César Ramón Del Valle Ambrosio and Carlos Eduardo Domínguez Linares were not granted a comprehensive review before the appropriate authority, one that included questions of fact and evidentiary value alleged by the defense.

In the Merits Report on the case, the IACHR recommended that Argentina provide full redress for the violations of rights that had been identified, including just compensation for the tangible and intangible harm caused. It also recommended that the necessary legislative measures be taken to bring its domestic legislation on cassation in line with the standards established in the report on the right to a fair trial that is enshrined in article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Independently of such potential changes to legislation, it also recommended that legal authorities review domestic laws to ensure that they comply with inter-American standards on rulings on appeals against convictions.

The IACHR filed the application to the court on September 4, 2018, as it judged that Argentina had not complied with the recommendations put forward in the Merits Report.

This case gives the Court an opportunity to expand its jurisprudence on criminal due process and, particularly, the right to appeal a conviction. The procedural law in several of Argentina’s provinces continues to be incompatible with international standards, since it establishes first instance appeals, specifically motions for cassation, as being the only possible recourse against a conviction, the grounds for which are limited to mistakes of law and mistakes of fact. The IACHR has requested that Argentina undertake a comprehensive review of its internal legislation, which it has yet to implement.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

Rapporteur on the Rights of People Deprived of Liberty visits Nicaragua

ZETA.- As part of the work of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), the IACHR Rapporteurship on the Rights of People Deprived of Liberty conducted a working visit to Nicaragua between September 18 and 20, 2018. The aim of the visit was to analyze the conditions in which people deprived of their liberty over incidents associated with the protests that began on April 18 are being held. The delegation included the Rapporteur, Commissioner Joel Hernández, and other staff from the IACHR executive secretariat.

For the purposes of the visit, the IACHR requested through diplomatic means that the state of Nicaragua facilitate access to El Chipote Legal Police Department and two penitentiaries: La Esperanza and La Modelo. The IACHR also asked the state to assist with organizing meetings between the Rapporteur and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the National Police Force, and the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defense of Human Rights. The IACHR laments the state’s failure to respond to these requests. “The conditions in which people deprived of their freedom are being held, given the current context in Nicaragua, is of serious concern to the IACHR, which is why a special monitoring mechanism has been established,” said Commissioner Joel Hernández, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty. “As a consequence, we would like to once again inform the state of Nicaragua of our readiness and ongoing interest in visiting these detention centers,” he added.

During the visit, the Rapporteurship met with representatives from civil society and the legal representatives and families of people who have been deprived of their freedom. On September 19, the Rapporteurship led two workshops on international standards concerning the treatment of persons deprived of their freedom, which were attended by a total of 45 people who included the family members and defense attorneys of people who have been arrested.

According to the information received by the Rapporteurship and MESENI, in late July 2018, following the operations to dismantle and remove the barricades that had been set up all over the country, there was an increase in the targeted, large-scale repression of demonstrators, which took the form of arbitrary illegal arrests. By late August, these repressive tactics were focusing on criminalizing social and student leaders by depriving them of their freedom and initiating criminal proceedings against them.

The Rapporteurship was also made aware that a total of six people who had been granted precautionary measures by the IACHR had been deprived of their liberty after these were issued. These people are: Cristhian Rodrigo Fajardo Caballero, Yubrank Miguel Suazo Herrera, Yaritzha Juddyth Roustrán Mairena, Levis Josué Artola, María Adilia Peralta Cerrato, and Kevin Rodrigo Espinoza. The Commission once more stresses how vital it is for the state of Nicaragua to take all measures necessary to guarantee these individuals’ rights to life and integrity. The state must place particular emphasis on ensuring that its agents respect these rights and protect them when threatened by third parties. The Commission urges the state of Nicaragua to provide detailed information on the current whereabouts of these individuals, including information on their state of health and the conditions in which they are being held.

The IACHR wishes to express particular concern over the events of September 23. MESENI was informed of acts of repression on the part of government supporters, riot squads, and the National Police Force during the We Are the Voice of Political Prisoners protest march. The ensuing acts of aggression against protesters led to the death of teenager Matt Romero, while at least five others sustained gunshot wounds and dozens were illegally and arbitrarily arrested. The IACHR urgently calls on authorities to thoroughly investigate these events. It also urges the state to guarantee that the general principles of legality, exceptionally, proportionality, and absolute necessity are adhered to in relation to the use of force during social protests.

According to public statements made by the vice minister of the interior regarding the number of people who were deprived of their liberty during these events, as of September 18, some “184 men and 17 women—a total of 204 detainees” were being held by the National Penitentiary System over incidents associated with the protests that began on April 18. Of the 204 detainees, seven have been sentenced and 197 are in pretrial detention.

The IACHR notes with concern that these figures do not include the number of people who are under arrest at the Legal Police Department or people being held at police stations. Reports from civil society put the total number of arrests at over 300. It is imperative that the IACHR meet with Nicaraguan authorities to compare data and ascertain the exact number of detainees and the grounds for the charges being pressed against them. The IACHR would like to reiterate that it is ready and willing to meet with the competent authorities.

During its visit, the Rapporteurship was also informed that the arbitrary arrest of social and student leaders and political dissidents has become a recurring practice. Likewise, the Rapporteurship and MESENI were informed of irregularities in the arrest processes and the negative effects of the conditions in which detainees are being held, which are incompatible with human dignity.

With regard to the arrests in question, the testimonies that the IACHR received all note that detainees are being held without court orders or arrest warrants, that no information has been provided on the reasons for their arrest, which in some cases was carried out by parapolice groups or masked civilians. Likewise, one of the main allegations made in the testimonies of detainees’ family members was that they were held for several hours in clandestine detention centers—such as municipal facilities or premises belonging to the governing political party—before being transferred to police stations or the Legal Police Department in Managua. The Rapporteurship and MESENI also received reports on the excessive use of force at the time of arrest even though those being detained did not put up resistance. This was manifest in the deployment of disproportionate numbers of police agents and types of equipment, the use of firearms to strike people, threats, and the kicking of detainees in the back of police vans while they were being taken to detention centers. One widely known example of this are the allegations that have been made by the family of Bryan Calderón, who remains hospitalized in the city of Jinotega after being seriously injured by national police agents during his arrest.

The IACHR wishes to stress that article 7 of the American Convention on Human Rights includes protection against arbitrary detention by strictly regulating the grounds on which people can be arrested by law and the procedures that can be used. An arrest is arbitrary and illegal when it is not based on the reasons for arrest that are set out in the law, when it does not comply with the procedural formalities that must be followed by the judiciary and the police, and when it is used for purposes other than those foreseen by and set out in the law. Furthermore, the state of Nicaragua must guarantee that the general principles around the use of force are respected during arrests. Specifically, any force used by police officers during an arrest should be strictly commensurate with the aim they seek to achieve and should only be used when needed to overcome resistance from the person being arrested.

Another point of concern regarding these arrests is the failure to comply with the obligation to bring detainees before a legal authority within 48 hours of arrest, as is established in article 33 paragraph 2.2 of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua and article 95 paragraph 9 of the Criminal Code. The Commission reiterates that according to article 7.5 of the American Convention on Human Rights, any person who is arrested should be brought before legal authorities without delay. Furthermore, the Rapporteurship and MESENI were informed of the ineffectiveness of habeas corpus petitions. Civil society organizations and family members reported on practices to prevent habeas corpus petitions from being granted, including a) appointing legal counsels or judges to the case who were either deceased or lived abroad or in areas that were far from the penitentiary in question; b) attempts on the part of judges to charge money in return for granting such petitions; and c) refusals on the part of prison authorities to grant access to judges who have been appointed to assess conditions of detention at the prisons in question. In particular, the Rapporteurship and MESENI discovered that seven habeas corpus petitions had not been granted in connection with the arrest of Lenin Antonio Salablanca, who allegedly spent over 20 days at El Chipote penitentiary without being brought before legal authorities or being allowed contact with his family.

In relation to arrests during protests, the Rapporteurship was informed of the widespread and practically universal application of pretrial detention based on crime type, without regard for the principles that govern its use. The IACHR notes that the obligatory use of pretrial detention based on crime type runs counter to the American Convention and constitutes an interference on the part of the legislature in the discretionary powers vested in the judiciary. The use of pretrial detention should be based on the right to be presumed innocent and should be applied in accordance with the principles of exceptionality, legality, necessity, and proportionality.

The way that pretrial detention is currently being used in Nicaragua runs counter to international standards on the issue, so allegations of charges being based solely on the testimony of public officials or undercover agents who remain masked throughout trials are particularly alarming. Another serious point of concern are the reports around detainees’ lack of access to legal counsel before hearings: instead, they are allegedly only granted limited contact with their defense attorneys during the hearings themselves. Family members and legal representatives argued that this state of affairs was having serious negative repercussions on detainees’ defense strategies.

The Rapporteurship wishes to express its concern at the fact that charges of terrorism are being pressed against detainees. Act no. 977 on money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which was passed by the National Assembly on July 16, 2018, and published in the Official Gazette on July 20, 2018, amended articles 394 and 395 of the Criminal Code, which address crimes of terrorism and the financing of terrorism.

Article 1 of the Act establishes that its purpose is to “protect the Nicaraguan economy and the integrity of the financial system from the risks associated with money-laundering, the financing of terrorism, and the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” It is thus clear that the purpose of criminalizing terrorism falls within the specific framework of Act 977 and seeks to comply with Nicaragua’s international obligations around combating terrorism. Consequently, this offense cannot be extrapolated to entirely unrelated situations. The Rapporteurship calls on the judiciary to better scrutinize charges of terrorism, especially given that the factor in the definition of this crime which relates to “disturbance of the constitutional order” is highly subjective and does not form part of international practices to suppress terrorism.

Furthermore, the Rapporteurship is especially concerned about the conditions in which people arrested in connection with the protests in Nicaragua are being held. These conditions include cruel or degrading treatment, unsanitary conditions, poor medical attention, obstructions to visits, and the unjustified use of maximum security regimes. According to the testimonies the IACHR received, detainees at El Chipote are held in their underwear in high-temperature environments and are unable to wash regularly or change their clothing. Similarly, at La Modelo and La Esperanza penitentiaries, these detainees are being treated differently from other inmates in terms of the food, medicines, basic necessities, and personal hygiene supplies they are provided with. Of particular concern for the Rapporteurship are restrictions around these detainees receiving water supplies from their families. In some cases, they have only been allowed to receive 3 liters of water per week. The Rapporteurship and MESENI were also informed of the lack of appropriate specialist medical care for people who suffer from serious health conditions. This is the case despite the issuing of court orders to provide such care where necessary.

With regard to the conditions of detention in prisons, the Rapporteurship wishes to note that the obstruction of visits to detainees is one of the main complaints it has received. In connection with this, the Rapporteurship and MESENI received reports on the discretionary use of the visiting system at both La Modelo and La Esperanza penitentiaries. According to the testimonies received by family members and civil society organizations, prison authorities arbitrarily revoke scheduled visits or postpone or reschedule these without prior notice. In other cases, family members alleged that visits were deliberately scheduled on the day that hearings would be held. These obstructions to visits are also severely affecting detainees’ access to various basic supplies, including toiletries, medicines, and clothing. This is due to the fact that these are solely provided by family members, in most cases, not the penitentiary itself.

Likewise, based on the testimonies it received, the Rapporteurship noted that maximum security regimes are being applied in a discretionary fashion and are not justified by objective criteria that detainees and their family have been informed of. Consequently, detainees in the maximum security facilities at La Modelo penitentiary are being held in solitary confinement in dark cells and are only allowed visits from family members and telephone calls once a month. Furthermore, according to family members, detainees held at maximum security facilities are treated worse than other inmates also being held there, namely by being provided with less food and water less often. People held at these facilities are punished by having the windows of their cells sealed up.

The Rapporteurship and MESENI were informed of the particular risks that faced by women who are deprived of their freedom. At El Chipote and La Esperanza, female detainees are forced to perform squats in the middle of the night while naked as a form of punishment. This practice is allegedly repeated multiple times at La Esperanza. They are also woken in the middle of the night with the sole aim of interrupting their sleep. Given that the imprisonment of women is especially significant as it can result in gender-specific violations of their rights, the IACHR wishes to stress that it is the state’s duty to promptly adopt strict measures to prevent and eradicate forms of violence and discrimination against these women.

“The failure of the state to respond to our requests for meetings with authorities is a matter of grave concern. These meetings would have enabled us to compare the information we have received from civil society with reports from the state. This applies to the numbers of people being deprived of their freedom and other aspects of concern to the IACHR,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, the Rapporteur for Nicaragua. “Given these circumstances, the state should respond promptly to requests for information so as not to obstruct the IACHR’s monitoring work,” she added.

This current context is highly polarized: Nicaraguan society perceives the punitive action on the part of the state as a way of repressing the right to protest, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and participation in political life. Consequently, the judiciary must resolve these cases by examining all charges being pressed with the utmost care, given the violations of due process that took place during arrests and detention, the crimes that detainees are being charged with, and the objective assessment of evidence presented at trial. In view of the high number of criminal proceedings that have been initiated, the Rapporteurship observes that the state’s obligation to conduct trials in strict accordance with the law especially important and it calls on the judiciary to fully exercise its independence.

Based on the inter-American standards on the issue and the information and testimonies it received during its visit, the IACHR is making the following recommendations to the state of Nicaragua:

  1. Abolish the practice of arresting people without a written warrant issued by a public official who is expressly authorised by law, even if they are in the act of committing an offence in violation of article 33 paragraph 1 of the Constitution of Nicaragua.
  2. Bring all people who are arrested before legal authorities within 48 hours of their arrest so as to clarify and establish their legal status, as is established by article 33 of the Constitution of Nicaragua and article 95 of the criminal code.
  3. Verify immediately that all instances of pretrial detention comply with the corresponding international standards, namely exceptionality, legality, proportionality, and reasonability. When this measure is not based solely on procedural criteria—such as the risk of escape or hindering the investigation—alternative measures should be applied.
  4. Reconsider charges of terrorism, bearing in mind the aim of Act 977.
  5. Guarantee due process for all people arrested in connection with the protests that have been happening in Nicaragua since April 2018. Immediately inform the person under arrest and their family and representatives of the motives and reasons for which they are being held. This is a point of particular concern. Furthermore, detainees must be guaranteed appropriate legal counsel, with whom they must have regular contact and who must be able to play a part in preparing for their hearings. They must also have unrestricted access to these legal representatives. All those accused of crimes have the right to not be compelled to testify against themselves or plead guilty.
  6. Guarantee that all people in state custody are treated with dignity. In particular, ensure that they receive appropriate medical care for their particular health conditions, are provided with sufficient quantities of highly nutritious food, and are held in sanitary conditions. With regard to the conditions of female detainees, adopt all comprehensive measures necessary to ensure that their rights are respected and guaranteed such that they do not suffer discrimination and are protected from all gender-specific forms of violence.
  7. Provide immediate medical assistance to all detainees with health conditions that require this, especially Brenda María Muñoz Martínez, Elsa Valle, Olesia Muñoz, Ricardo Adán Gutierrez Siria, and Juan Carlos Baquedano.
  8. Establish the conditions necessary for guaranteeing that people deprived of liberty can contact their families by ensuring that visiting regimes are appropriate, regular, and predictable. Visits should take place in a respectful fashion at least as often as set out in the Penitentiary Regulations and in conditions that are in no way degrading to the people deprived of their liberty. Likewise, the state must guarantee that medicines, food, and toiletries are allowed to reach those being held in prisons.
  9. In maximum security regimes, solitary confinement should be an exceptional measure that is based on an individual risk analysis, limited to the shortest possible time, and used only as a last resort. Any solitary confinement orders must be approved by a competent authority and be subject to independent review. 
  10. In the case of the judiciary, exercise full independence when trying defendants, in compliance with the highest international and Inter-American standards of human rights, taking into account the conditions of detention in which defendants are being held and the crimes that they are being charged with and allowing them to exercise their right to defense.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

SRESCER views with serious concern information about arbitrary dismissals and harassment against medical personnel, university professors and students in Nicaragua  

WASHINGTON, (OEA).- The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (SRESCER) and the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have received information of recurring threats and possible violations of social rights as a result of monitoring the serious human rights crisis that have occurred in Nicaragua since April 18th.

In particular, during the last weeks there have been reports of arbitrary dismissals and acts of harassment against students and staff in the health and education sectors, as well as negative effects on the health of patients who are not being treated due to a lack of medical specialists.

According to public information, as of July 27, layoffs of health professionals were carried out in different hospitals throughout the country, including the Oscar Danilo Rosales Argüello Hospital in León, the Santiago Regional Hospital in Jinotepe, the Humberto Alvarado Hospital in Masaya, the Monimbó Health Center and the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Estelí.

According to reports received, these dismissals were allegedly carried out in retaliation for having treated injured people who were protesting against the government or for having manifested a critical position in that regards, considering the crisis that has been occurring in the country.

In this context, on August 15th, a letter was sent to the Nicaraguan State, in accordance with article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights, by which it requested information about these complaints presented. Mainly, the State was asked to submit, within 10 days, a detailed list of all the dismissed personnel, the length of their employment and the positions which they held.

The letter also requested specific and individualized information about the reasons for the dismissals and the guarantees granted to protect their labor rights, if similar situations have been registered in other hospitals or health centers in the country since the beginning of the protests as well as information on the guarantee of the right to health of the population in the absence of the dismissed medical personnel.

The IACHR and its SRESCER regret that, to date, the Nicaraguan State has not given any response to this request, which weakens compliance with the principles of transparency and good faith that must guide the behaviour of the State in regards to its human rights obligations.

Access to such information is not only an indispensable conventional guarantee for the monitoring work of the IACHR and its Special Rapporteurs, it also serves to assist the respective authorities in identifying abuses of public officials, promoting accountability and preventing the abuse of power. Hence, the importance of the State providing timely and complete answers and accessible information.

According to public information, the dismissals have reached 300 health professionals. Such dismissals, allegedly, have already negative consequences on the protection of the rights to health, personal integrity and life of the population due to a lack of health specialists to provide care and treatment, as well as the cancellation of initially planned medical procedures.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur also views with concern the continuing harassment, threats, stigmatization and, in some cases, arbitrary detentions of medical personnel and people who provided humanitarian assistance in the context of the protests.

In this regard, Soledad García Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on ESCER of the IACHR, highlighted the fundamental role of persons providing emergency health services to those who are injured in the context of protests, as well as the obligation of the State to protect them and guarantee the work that they do. Additionally, she indicated that "the State cannot interfere through any mechanism in the protection of health and life that health professionals are in charge of.

That is, no action by the State should be aimed at dissuading or punishing health personnel for fulfilling their duties, either through threats, arbitrary sanctions or inducing them to make distinctions contrary to the principles of equality and non-discrimination of the people they serve. The right to health and labor rights should in no case be used to neutralize those who protest or are considered political opposition".

This Office of the Special Rapporteur of the IACHR has also been following up on the situation of the university community that declared itself in "student disobedience" and is not willing to resume classes because of a lack of guarantees for the exercise of university autonomy and security conditions.

There are complaints of arbitrary dismissals against university professors and administrative workers of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in Managua, as well as the expulsion of more than 80 students for having occupied the facilities of the university in the context of the social protests.

Allegations of arbitrary detentions, persecution of student leaders and pressure from university authorities were also presented. In this regard, the SRESCER recalls that the IACHR has indicated that in higher education, the academic freedom of teachers and students, as well as the university autonomy are fundamental pillars which strengthen democratic structures and which avoid pressure or interventions of a political nature in such spaces.

The IACHR has also stressed that the State should facilitate and guarantee, as soon as possible, an environment for recuperating classes, which prioritizes the safety and protection of students.
Finally, the IACHR and its SRESCEC urge the Nicaraguan authorities to protect students and medical or educational workers against any undue intervention and to provide, as soon as possible, complete information regarding the guarantee of these rights, requested in its letter of August 15th.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights is an office created by the IACHR to guide, develop and deepen its work to promote and protect economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in the Americas, taking into account the interdependent and indivisible nature of all human rights.



Venezuela: Human rights experts say health system in crisis

ZETA.- The health system in Venezuela is in crisis, human rights experts say, citing the deaths of at least 16 children at one hospital due to poor hygiene, and the deaths of other minors due to a variety of conditions, including malnutrition.

UN and IAHRC experts urged the Government to act urgently to mobilise the necessary and available resources, including through international cooperation, to restore the healthcare system in the country.

“We have now reached a crisis point in Venezuela,” said the experts. “Access to healthcare, a fundamental responsibility of the State, is in a serious state of decay. It is shocking that hospitals themselves have become a place where people’s lives are being put at risk.” 

At least 16 children, all under the age of five, have died at the University Hospital of Paediatrics Dr. Zubillaga in Lara state in 2018 only, due to infections caused by poor hygiene. There have also been reports of child deaths at hospitals as a result of malnutrition, acute respiratory infections, acute diarrhea, and other health conditions.

“We are deeply concerned that children in Venezuela are dying from preventable causes linked to the deteriorating state of healthcare facilities, the shortage of healthcare supplies and medicines, as well as the lack of effective hygienic and sanitary measures,” said the experts.

“We are further disturbed at reports indicating that medical personnel, journalists and families of the victim children who have denounced or filed complaints are harassed and intimidated.”

The experts also cited the situation of older persons who face extremely vulnerable situations vis-à-vis the closure of care facilities, and the shortage of medicines and food.

“We are extremely worried by the results of a study which show that older persons lose 16 kg a year on average due to food shortages in the state of Miranda’s care facilities,” the experts said.

Data also shows there is an 80 percent shortfall in medicine to treat high blood pressure and elevated sugar levels, two of the most common health conditions for older persons.

The experts welcomed the statement by the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health (available here) and urged the State to ensure appropriate care for older persons.