Washington D.C. – Panama City, 9 June 2021- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Regional Office for Central America and the Dominican Republic of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) categorically condemn the criminal prosecution of leaders of the Nicaraguan opposition, who had made public their intention to run for the presidency in the general elections scheduled for next 7 November.
According to the information received, since 19 May, Nicaraguan authorities initiated an investigation against presidential pre-candidate, Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, for alleged money laundering charges based on «Law No. 977 against money laundering, financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction», adopted in July 2018, for her role leading the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. In its indictment, the Prosecutor’s Office requested her disqualification to run for public office, a travel ban, the prohibition to attend «certain meetings and places» and the prohibition to communicate with persons linked to the investigation. In the framework of the same criminal investigation, on 2 June police officers raided her home for approximately six hours and, since then, Ms. Chamorro has been held under house arrest, incommunicado and under police surveillance inside her home.
IACHR and UN Human Rights received information indicating that on 5 June police officers detained presidential pre-candidate Arturo Cruz Sequeira after he landed at the Managua airport. In this regard, the Public Prosecutor’s Office reported that it was conducting an investigation in accordance with «Law No.1055 for the defense of the rights of the people to independence, sovereignty and self-determination for peace», which contains the prohibition to run for elected office. Mr. Cruz Sequeira is being investigated for crimes of «provocation, proposition and conspiracy to undermine national integrity».
According to the information received, on 7 June, a preliminary hearing was held against Mr. Arturo Cruz Sequeira, in which the participation of his legal representative was impeded and a public defender was assigned. Detention was ordered for up to 90 days, without a prosecutor’s accusation, in accordance with Law No. 1060, which reformed the Criminal Procedural Code last February. It is also noted that, on the same day of the preliminary hearing, police officers raided the pre-candidate’s house, allegedly without allowing the entry of his lawyers and without presenting a warrant or a record for the confiscated goods.
Additionally, according to public information, on 7 June the Public Prosecutor’s Office subpoenaed the presidential pre-candidate for Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco (UNAB), Félix Maradiaga Blandón, to an interview, without stating the criminal case for which he is being investigated. On 8 June, Mr. Maradiaga attended the interview and, after an interrogation, was detained by police officers, in accordance with the aforementioned Law No. 1055.
On the same day, IACHR and OHCHR also learned that, based on similar accusations, the National Police detained presidential pre-candidate, Juan Sebastián Chamorro García, as well as political leader Violeta Mercedes Granera Padilla, and business leader José Adán Aguerri Chamorro.
The National Police publicly informed that these arrests were carried out because Mr. Maradiaga and Mr. Chamorro García were being investigated for «carrying out acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination, inciting foreign interference in internal affairs, requesting military interventions, and organizing with financing from foreign powers to carry out acts of terrorism and destabilization, proposing and managing economic, commercial and financial blockades against the country and its institutions, demanding, exalting and applauding the imposition of sanctions against the State of Nicaragua and its citizens, and harming the supreme interests of the nation».
IACHR and UN Human Rights have pointed out on several occasions that the various laws passed since the start of the human rights crisis in April 2018, including the three mentioned above and the electoral reform adopted last May 4, contain provisions that violate regional and international human rights norms and standards, which the State of Nicaragua has committed to comply with. Both institutions also recommended taking all necessary steps to repeal all regulations that arbitrarily limit the exercise of political rights and public liberties of Nicaraguans, warning that they could be used to unduly prosecute persons perceived as opponents of the Government.
IACHR and UN Human Rights emphasize that the criminal prosecution against opposition pre-candidates present several elements that violate the right to personal liberty, the principle of legality, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, as well as other safeguards of due process.
IACHR and UN Human Rights would also like to state that these events, added to the cancellation of the legal status of two opposition parties and the persistent harassment by the authorities against human rights defenders, social and political leaders, journalists and independent media continue to undermine the possibility of holding free, fair and transparent elections, eroding confidence in institutions, and deepening the serious deterioration of democratic institutions in Nicaragua.
In this regard, IACHR and UN Human Rights urge the Nicaraguan authorities to immediately release all persons detained in the context of these investigations, to guarantee their personal integrity and security, and to restore guarantees for the full enjoyment of civil and political rights, in particular, for all persons aspiring to run for public office and for all voters to be allowed to freely choose the option of their preference.
Given the human rights violations observed in the current context, IACHR and UN Human Rights will strengthen their coordination in monitoring the human rights situation in Nicaragua and reaffirm their availability to return to the country and thus assist authorities and civil society more effectively in the search of solutions to the human rights crisis in the country, within the framework of international human rights standards.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights is the principal United Nations entity in the field of human rights. The High Commissioner and her Office are mandated by the General Assembly to promote and protect all human rights for all. UN Human Rights provides assistance, at the request of States, in the form of technical capacity building to support the implementation of international human rights standards to ensure the effective enjoyment and protection of human rights. UN Human Rights supports governments, who have the responsibility to protect human rights, in fulfilling their international obligations and supports individuals in claiming their rights. It also objectively denounces human rights violations.
The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate arises from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.