On Thursday, June 24, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Nicaraguan government to immediately free opposition leaders Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Jose Adan Aguerri, Feliz Maradiaga and Violeta Granera.
In a resolution on provisional measures, the International Tribunal declared this a necessary step, given the exceptional circumstances at play. The Court asked the government to adopt without delay the measures necessary to effectively protect the lives, physical integrity and personal freedom of the leaders and their families.
“The deprivation of liberty of these persons carries with it an implicit message of intimidation, aimed at dissuading and silencing other members of the political opposition, who may see themselves at risk of being deprived of their freedom. The issue assumes special importance given the imminence of the general elections to be held this year. If this situation persists, it would be eroding the rules of democracy and the Rule of Law,” the text reads.
In addition, the Court recalled: “in a democratic society, a person’s inherent rights and liberties, their guarantees, and the Rule of Law comprise a triad, in which each component is defined, fulfilled, and acquires meaning in relation to the others.”
As part of the measures, the Nicaraguan government was asked to report to the Inter-American Court on July 8, 2021 at the latest, describing the urgent measures they’ve adopted to comply with this decision. Afterwards, the government should present a periodic report each month regarding the measures adopted to conform with this decision.
Moreover, representatives of the beneficiaries and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) were asked to present their observations within a period of one and two weeks respectively.
“An extremely grave situation”
The Tribunal added: “we note with concern that – to date – the government has not proportioned any information as to the whereabouts and the conditions of the four detainees, despite numerous petitions by family members, legal representatives and by the Commission in particular.”
“The Court believes that there are sufficient elements to determine the existence of an extremely grave situation. As such, there exists an urgent necessity to adopt measures that avoid irreparable harm to the rights of life and physical integrity of Mr. Chamorro, Mr. Aguerri, Mr. Maradiaga and Mrs. Granera, given the circumstances in which the detentions were carried out,” the resolution states.
The judicial entity emphasized the lack of information offered by the Nicaraguan government regarding the whereabouts and the conditions of detention of the four, plus their current situation of total isolation, and their allegedly delicate state of health, lack of access to medication and health care.
“All of them have been the victims of persecution and threats since April 2018. (…) This situation has intensified over time, arriving at its maximum point in 2021, following the announcement of these persons of their intention to participate in the general elections in November of said year,” the Court statement concludes.
In a recent speech, President Daniel Ortega, who is seeking his fourth consecutive presidential term on November 7, accused the opposition leaders of planning to overthrow him with the support of the United States. Ortega called them “criminals” and stated that they weren’t being judged as politicians or candidates, but simply for committing crimes that constitute treason or money laundering.
On Thursday, June 24, during a virtual summit of the Alba countries, the Nicaraguan ruler extended his disparaging remarks to the Organization of American States, which he called “a cesspool”. He advocated for abandoning the regional organization.
In the last month, twenty people have been imprisoned in Nicaragua, as part of a wave of arrests. This brings the current number of political prisoners to over 140.
Five presidential hopefuls have been detained, two former diplomats, two historic Sandinista guerilla leaders, a former business leader, a banker, four opposition leaders, a former first lady, a sports chronicler, two former NGO employees and a private chauffer.
Relatives of the detained opposition leaders have complained that Police officials won’t accept the food they bring for their family members. In some cases, they’ve been asked to bring medication. The situation has caused them great anguish because they have no way of corroborating the state of health of those being held.