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Nicaraguan Regime Keeps at Least 113 Political Prisoners

Nicaraguan Regime Keeps at Least 113 Political Prisoners

By Gustavo Arias Retana/Diálogo
December 18, 2020

The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) denounced in an October 15 press release that the Daniel Ortega regime in Nicaragua keeps at least 113 political prisoners and continues to systematically violate human rights.

“We receive complaints from civil society actors, which obligate us to alert regional leaders and the international community in general. From them [the complaints], we infer that human rights violations persist […], as well as mistreatment and torture of political prisoners,” the OAS statement said. “In protest of their situation, political prisoners have stitched their lips and have allegedly taken the step of sewing their eyelids as well. All have been publicly identified as criminals and have had no access to a fair judicial process.”

Julio Montenegro, a lawyer for Defenders of the People, an organization that provides counseling to the Ortega regime’s political prisoners, told Diálogo on November 14 that the conditions in which his clients live in Nicaraguan prisons are extremely poor and violate the most fundamental human rights.

“The situation that the political prisoners have described to me is one of hopelessness; some of them are very upset, because political expressions have not shown any interest in liberating political prisoners, but rather concern for electoral reforms and for posts and positions, they say, forgetting that [the prisoners] are there in very extreme conditions,” Montenegro said.

The OAS also denounced that the Ortega regime continues to distort the division of power, conducting arbitrary arrests against members of the opposition.

“On September 14, Daniel Ortega issued a ‘guideline’ for the Supreme Court of Justice, an action that interferes with the separation of powers. He did this in relation to a bill that threatens the opposition with life sentences for so-called ‘hate crimes.’ This is a vague charge. This leaves enough room for arbitrariness, and it is likely to become a tool for repression,” the OAS reported.

Montenegro explained that in recent months, concerning political prisoners, Ortega has changed the charges against the opposition on several occasions to keep them behind bars.

“In terms of judicial proceedings, the only crimes that have varied are terrorism and obstruction of public services due to roadblocks [street blockades] and kidnappings; now these have changed to [charges for] drug trafficking and transport, aggravated robbery, and organized crime […].Sometimes they arrest people three days before and then say that the acts were committed three days after they were detained,” the lawyer said.

At least 50 political prisoners have been on a hunger strike for 30 days [as of October 30, 2020] in the Jorge Navarro National Penitentiary System, better known as “La Modelo,” demanding their release, the website IP Nicaragua reported.

On March 5, 2020, the United States imposed economic sanctions on the Nicaraguan National Police (PN, in Spanish) and three high-ranking commissioners for serious human rights abuses against protesters. “The PN is responsible for using live ammunition against peaceful protesters and participating in death squads, as well as conducting extrajudicial executions, disappearances, and kidnappings,” the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua reported.