Nicaragua Negotiations at Impasse over Political Prisoners

Max Jerez, a student representative at the negotiations between the Civic Alliance and the Ortega government in Managua.


Civic Alliance demands the presence of the IACHR in the process of liberation

Ortega promised to release all, but blocks the process and alleges that a group committed “common crimes”


By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The political negotiation in Nicaragua between the Civic Alliance opposition and the Ortega government once again at an impasse. This time, the lack of an agreement on the mechanism for the release of political prisoners has hampered any advance in the dialogue.

The International Red Cross has been installed in the country to accompany the process, but its mandate does not allow them to deliberate on the legal mechanisms that allow the total liberation and the annulment of the political trials of the estimated 760 prisoners.

The Civic Alliance requested the presence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to fill the “vacuum” of the International Red Cross. However, the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship is opposed to the return of this international organization, which has documented violations of human rights committed since April 2018.

By vetoing the presence of the IACHR, Ortega is violating a State agreement that he signed with the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, granting the IACHR a permanent presence in the country.

Ernesto Medina, member of the Civic Alliance. Photo:

“There has been no agreement because we have spent three days practically discussing procedures and participants in the accompaniment for the release of political prisoners,” said Ernesto Medina, professor and member of the negotiating commission of the Civic Alliance. “We have spent two days discussing our demands for the participation of the IACHR, to which the government until now has so far opposed. But on Wednesday they left a space open,” he added.

On Wednesday afternoon the parties finished clarifying the role of the International Red Cross in the process of releasing political prisoners, but found that the mandate of the organization prevented them from getting involved in the design of legal proposals to guarantee the releases.

Medina clarified on the program “Esta Noche” (Tonight) that for the Civic Alliance the release of political prisoners is essential to discuss the other issues of the dialogue. Although on Monday the parties began to address the restitution of constitutional freedoms, nothing has advanced in that regard, and the negotiation is at a standstill.

However, a statement sent by the Sandinista regime on Wednesday night ensures that “progress was made in the content of the agreement to strengthen citizen rights and guarantees established in the Political Constitution that contemplate individual and social freedoms, and the respect for human rights of Nicaraguans.”

“The agreement was approved by the parties for the follow-up of the process of release of persons deprived of liberty in the context of the events that occurred as of April 18, 2018, in accordance with the country’s legal system,” added the press statement.

Government wants to link the political prisoners with common crimes

Besides the comparison of the lists of political prisoners, one of the biggest differences in the negotiation about their release has been that the dictatorship seeks to link the prisoners with common crimes.

“They have not mentioned as a cause of the crisis that we are experiencing the failed attempt of a coup d’état. Rather, the government’s strategy is to want to link political prisoners with common crimes,” said Medina. “The government recognizes that a group are political prisoners, but there is another group that they say should not be object of the discussions at this table, because their cases correspond to common justice. That will be another big discussion,” assured professor Medina.

Claudia Schneeberger, representative of Red Cross International, visited the political prisoners in the prisons, but did not give information about their condition, alleging that it is “confidential information.”

“This is part of a confidential dialogue with the competent authorities and we cannot comment on what we observe with political prisoners in the jails. The International Committee of the Red Cross works confidentially and does not share its observations,” Schneeberger insisted.

The former Supreme Court magistrate and political operator of Daniel Ortega in the legal system, Rafael Solis, also believes the IACHR should accompany the International Red Cross in this process.

“In the case of the release of political prisoners, the period of 90 days is very long and should be reduced to 30 days, although I think that the intervention of the Red Cross, which should be the guarantor along with the IACHR, is very good” expressed Solis. “I have insisted that all trials be declared null, because they are null.

Solis enumerated 10 grounds for nullity of the trials, such as the right to due process, detentions without judicial order carried out by police and paramilitaries, the violation of the presumption of innocence, that judges without jurisdiction assume criminal proceedings, among other causes.

“Articles 33 and 34 of the Constitution indicate 16 rights of detainees and defendants, which without exception have been violated in these proceedings, although only 10 of them have been mentioned, a sufficient reason to declare all these trials null and void for violations of the Constitution,” Solis said.

The former magistrate, who quit his position on the Supreme Court and FSLN militancy in early January and fled to Costa Rica, recommended that “pardons cannot be accepted,” because that legal figure would imply that political prisoners committed crimes and later were pardoned.” Or a general amnesty law would lead to total impunity in the country and that has been done so many times in Nicaragua without ever having worked, Solis stated.

Professor Medina assured that the Civic Alliance has said that they will lobby so that the catch-all law to finance terrorism is no longer applied, which was approved by the regime to criminalize civic protest.

The parties first promised a final dialogue agreement for March 28th, but with this new standstill the date has been moved to April 3rd.  “In practice the issues are very complex. The date remains an element of pressure for the two delegations, but it is not a fatal date. We are going to take the time that is necessary to find a solution,” Medina assured.