Nicaragua Urged to End Harassment of Attorneys Defending Political Prisoners

The court also reminded the Nicaraguan State that “hindering the work of advocates, as well as ignoring the provisional measures determined by the Inter-American Court, constitute incompliance with your international obligations.”

By Martha Vasquez Larios  (La Prensa)

Police patrols laying siege to the defense lawyers. Courtesy photo: La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – This Tuesday, July 17, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights posted on Twitter that they “urge an end to the harassment” of human rights defenders in Nicaragua.  The post referred to a recent episode where some six police patrol cars surrounded the building where the Defensores del Pueblo [People’s Defenders] have their office. The group is made up of lawyers who defend the political prisoners of Daniel Ortega’s regime.

They also reminded the State of Nicaragua that “hindering the work of [human rights] defenders, as well as disregarding the provisional measures determined by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, constitute acts of incompliance with your international obligations.”

The siege mounted against the lawyers began around 8:40 a.m. when six patrol vehicles, carrying some thirty members of the Police special forces, stationed themselves along the two access routes to the attorney’s offices, essentially surrounding the installations. The offices, located in the Los Robles sector of Managua, are coordinated by Dr. Julio Montenegro. 

Later, one of the police commanders began to take photos and videos of those entering and leaving the building. They also detained and took data from vehicles attempting to enter the access roads that lead to the back part of the building, Montenegro denounced.

According to Montenegro, the siege occurred because the lawyers were receiving five people who had been involved in the occupation of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in Managua between May and July of 2018.  These five were in the building to file a complaint regarding another five people who were detained the previous week.  One of these recent detainees, from the town of Sebaco, Matagalpa, is missing.

Julio Montenegro, a prominent attorney for the political prisoners, after seeking a way to mediate with the Ortega police who were harassing the lawyers’ meeting. Photo: Martha Vasquez / La Prensa

“It feels like a siege, but we’re used to this, we’ve already been living with this. However, they’re impeding the citizens’ right to denounce violations to their rights, as well as the precautionary measures established in favor of human rights defenders,” Montenegro declared.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has noted the importance of the work of human rights defenders by pointing out, for example, that “respect for human rights in a democratic state depends in large measure on adequate and effective guarantees for the human rights defenders, so that they can freely carry out their activities.”

In addition, the court has reiterated that special attention should be paid to any actions that might limit or hinder the work of human rights defenders.

Last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights awarded precautionary protective measures to members of Nicaragua’s Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH) and those from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh). The Ortega regime has stripped the latter organization of their legal non-profit status.

The Civic Alliance also denounces

For their part, the opposition Civic Alliance denounced “the consolidation of a police state which utilizes all the state powers to repress and criminalize civic protest and dissidence in Nicaragua, in clear violation of the constitutional rights and guarantees of all Nicaraguans.”

They also expressed support for the lawyers defending the released political prisoners.  Last Monday, these attorneys introduced resolutions in the court to nullify the denial of their previous request for the recourse of reconsideration. They had presented the initial request so that the judges could dictate sentences of definitive dismissal in the cases against the political prisoners and transmit the return of their confiscated personal belongings.

“…the judges presiding over the cases of the released political prisoners should mandatorily dictate ‘sentences of dismissal’ in their favor, since the legal norms cited expressly establish that dismissal shall be acceptable through a judge’s sentence when there exists, among other things, absolute certainty that ‘all penal actions have been ended’’, stated the Civic Alliance.

Judges as accomplices

“… the judges, in complicity with the regime, are avoiding the dictation of sentences of dismissal, according to the provisions of article 156.  Such sentences would have the legal and judicial effect of irrevocably closing the criminal process in relation to the accused, impeding a new prosecution of them for the same events, and bringing to a close all of the precautionary measures that have been imposed on them, including the return of their seized belongings,” the Civic Alliance expressed.