Right now, 10 women are imprisoned in Nicaragua for criticizing the government, raising their voices, and working to build a more just and egalitarian nation. They are political activists, feminists, scholars, journalists, revolutionary commanders, attorneys and human rights defenders.
These women were arrested by unreasonably large police forces, their homes were violently broken into and searched, some were beaten, and others were arrested in front of their young children. Six of them are still being held uncommunicated in the detention center known as “New Chipote”; their families have not been able to see them and their legal representatives have not been able to communicate with them or corroborate their state of being. Another comrade is now under house arrest, and the other three have been confined for more than a year in the women’s prison known as “La Esperanza!.
The recently arrested women are being investigated under Law 1055 for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace. The law uses “national sovereignty” rhetoric in order to repress all criticism and social protest by describing such conduct as actions of “high treason.” Such language is also used in speeches that stigmatize these women.
The arrests of women prisoners also fall under the jurisdiction of Law 1060, which extends the time for carrying out investigations from 48 hours to 90 days. This law also allows arrests to be made before an investigation is carried out, which is an unconstitutional violation of international human rights standards that justifies and covers up all kinds of State abuses, from the fabrication of charges to acts of abuse and torture.
Other women have been convicted without any evidence against them in clearly irregular proceedings for committing crimes allegedly related to drug trafficking and the illegal possession of arms, or they may be charged with financial crimes such as money laundering. This has happened to several different people related to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation in a blow against the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. A number of women journalists from independent media have been summoned to declare in these proceedings and have been subjected to intimidation.
Political prisoners are not the only women who suffer repression and political persecution by the Nicaraguan government. We of IM-Defensoras have documented dozens of cases of women defenders who have experienced months of ongoing police harassment, criminalization, threats, smear campaigns, insults, attacks, and limitations on basic human rights such as the right to mobility and the right to work. As a result, they have been obliged to abandon their land, their homes, and even their families, and to leave the country for a painful exile in which they often face racist, xenophobic attitudes and precarious, high-risk situations.
Many others continue to live in Nicaragua, where they experience daily harassment, para-police violence, false accusations and limitations on the exercise of their most basic rights,
Defending human rights in Nicaragua is extremely difficult and hazardous today. Through the creation of repressive judicial frameworks that restrict rights involved in the defense of human rights and through the perverse use of previously existing frameworks, the government has arbitrarily canceled and/or provoked the closure of dozens of organizations and news media, including feminist and human rights spaces with a long, widely recognized history in the entire region.
The right to protest has been suppressed de facto, and the impunity for the crimes against humanity committed by the State in the April 2018 protests is absolute. This sends a chilling message to the people, a reminder of what can happen to those who dare to raise their voices and exercise their right to demonstrate.
These repressive dynamics, cases of political persecution, and systematic human rights violations have been especially intense on dates that are emblematic for the government and also for its critics who do not stop demanding justice for all the abuses, human rights violations, and crimes against humanity that have been committed.
During recent months, this situation has worsened in the context of the electoral process that, in principle, should be resolved on November 7th. It has prompted a wide range of official bodies and international human rights organizations to warn that the upcoming elections will not take place in minimal conditions for guaranteeing transparency and legitimacy, thereby exposing the country to another upsurge of repressive violence.
The conditions of our compañeras in Nicaragua continue to be dramatic and so we reiterate that now, more than ever, it is indispensable for all people of good will to respond with responsibility to the severity of the situation.
In the light of this scenario, we of IM-Defensoras call on the international community to continue to condemn and demand the end to all different forms of repression taking place and to further demand the liberation of the prisoners in an effort to guarantee the effective implementation of human rights.
We urge all human rights organizations to strengthen the monitoring and denunciation actions they have been pursuing, and to design alternative routes for working in the country.
We call on feminist groups, human rights organizations, solidarity networks and social movements in our region as well as the rest of the world to continue to shoulder responsibility for the Nicaraguan sisters who are continually subjected to the aggression of the neoliberal, misogynous, corrupt and authoritarian government of Daniel Ortega.