“We continue in the fight. This is part of a process. Nobody’s breaking down here.” “I call on you to keep hope, to maintain mobilization, to turn indignation into action.” “They won’t silence us,” were the last words of Ana, Suyén and Tamara before being arrested by the Ortega police more than five months ago.
The political prisoners Tamara Dávila, Dora María Téllez, Ana Margarita Vigil and Suyén Barahona, members of the Democratic Renovation Union (UNAMOS), previously known as the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), have spent more than 160 days in isolation cells in the “El Chipote” prison where they are being held together with 35 other political prisoners who were captured in the context of Nicaragua’s electoral process.
“The torture regime through systematic isolation, through prolonged solitary confinement, remains intact,” denounced Ana Lucía Álvarez, Tamara’s sister and Ana Margarita’s niece.
While the other prisoners of conscience share cells with other captives, the four leaders of UNAMOS are the only political prisoners who are in permanent isolation and solitary confinement.
Dávila has been in a completely sealed solitary confinement cell for more than five months, where she has no access to reading material, current news or other activities that would link her to the outside world.
“The situation of Tamara is particularly worrying, because she, in addition to being isolated and incommunicado, is in an isolation and punishment cell, which is a cell that is bolted,” explained her sister.
Vigil is alone in a barred cell, but even so, she “is not allowed to speak or have eye contact with other people.”
Peltier Barahona, Suyén Barahona’s brother, pointed out that the activist “experiences punishment,” and they are concerned about her physical and emotional health.
Torture and cruelty
National and international human rights defenders point out that these cases constitute acts of “aggravated torture.”
The president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, warned that the situation of torture of the four female political prisoners “is indescribable,” since it exceeds the national and international norms that govern the treatment that should exist in a prison regime.
Paulo Abrão, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), stated that, in the case of the four activists, the State of Nicaragua violates the minimum rules of the Mandela principles, which establish that “all inmates must be treated with respect and dignity.”
“It is clear that the Ortega-Murillo regime is applying excessive cruelty measures, of vengeance, against these four women,” declared Bianca Jagger, founder and president of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.
Besides remaining in solitary confinement cells, the opposition women have been victims of other acts of torture, such as food deprivation, threats, and constant interrogations.
“The interrogations have persisted, and their interrogators are the only contact they have with any other human beings,” Álvarez said.
The regime’s repression and torture of the four political activists also extends to their families.
“Sometimes they ask about certain friends, about certain relatives, and that also represents an aggression, because they are indirect forms of torture, where they remain in a state of alert and concern for their loved ones,” added Tamara’s sister.
Deprived of seeing their little children
For Davila and Barahona, the regime has deprived them of the fundamental right to communicate with their children. Barahona is the mother of a four-year-old boy that she has not seen since she was arrested. “The fact that they are depriving her of raising her child, which is a right that she has as a mother, is really cruel,” denounced her brother.
Davila’s five-year-old daughter, who was with her at the time of her arrest, constantly asks about her mother. “The State is depriving Tamara not only of having a relationship with her daughter, but also her daughter of having a relationship with her mother,” Ana Lucía said.
Vilma Núñez warned that this deprivation, in addition to being an act of torture for them as mothers, constitutes a violation of the norms that guide the Rights of the Child at the national and international level.
“Where is that commitment that they assumed when signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” criticized the human rights defender to the Government of Nicaragua.
An act of vengeance by Ortega and Murillo
Relatives and human right activists attributed these acts of torture to “political vengeance” of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, for the challenge that the formerly known MRS has represented.
Dora Maria Téllez, a former Sandinista guerrilla who felt disenchanted with the authoritarian course and the “caudillismo” of the FSLN, founded the MRS together with writer Sergio Rámirez and other Sandinista dissidents in 1995. In addition, she has been an open critic of the arbitrariness and abuses of the Ortega government.
Vijil is an activist, feminist, and human rights defender in Nicaragua. She was president of the MRS between 2012 and 2017, and in 2018 she was actively involved in the fight for democracy in Nicaragua.
Dávila, 41, participated in the 2018 anti-government protests. In 2020, she was elected as a member of the Political Council of the opposition Blue and White National Unity (UNAB), and also as a member of the Board of the National Coalition.
Barahona is a long-time political activist, a feminist and current president of the UNAMOS Movement. In 2015, together with the MRS, she denounced the electoral farce of Ortega and Murillo.
“We know about the political motivation, especially against these women, who represent the struggle of the historical resistance of the Sandinista revolutionary movement,” Abrão said in an interview with Confidencial Radio.
Núñez agreed with Abrão and stressed that the cruelty of the regime “is part of the vengeance against those who have known how to maintain the principles of the Revolution.”
An international call
National and international human rights organizations have demanded an end to aggravated torture and the immediate release of the four political prisoners, as well as the rest of prisoners of conscience.
“I want to make a call before finishing, to demand the cessation of torture and solitary confinement in prison, of women political prisoners,” said commissioner Antonia Urrejola, during the presentation of the report “Dictatorship and Repression in Nicaragua: Fight against impunity,” on November 18.
“I want to denounce the atrocities that are being committed against these four women and against all political prisoners in Nicaragua. I ask the international community to support us in freeing all the political prisoners who are suffering,” demanded Bianca Jagger.
Despite remaining under a torture regime for more than 160 days, Tamara, Ana Margarita, Suyén and Dora María, remain steadfast and strong, their relatives assured.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff