[Urgent Alert] NICARAGUA / Transgender political prisoner Celia Cruz at risk after denouncing escalation of mistreatment in prison

On March 8th, the transgender activist, defender, and political prisoner Celia Cruz, in a letter published in social networks and news media, denounced a number of attacks and rights violations that she and other political prisoners are suffering in the Jorge Navarro penitentiary known as "La Modelo".

In this letter, Celia Cruz states that since January of 2021, there has been increased surveillance, constant cell changes, confiscations, and isolation of people like herself who are deprived of their freedom for political motives. Celia also denounced the fact that she was not allowed to meet with members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during their last visit to the penitentiary; the restriction was presumably to keep them from denouncing rising mistreatment in the prison and raising their concerns about it.   

Since her arrest, which occurred on April 21, 2020, after she participated in and aired a protest on Ometepe Island, and her subsequent confinement in a prison exclusively for men, Celia has been the victim of discrimination and aggression related to her gender identity, including sexual attacks, verbal violence and other forms of symbolic violence.  

Celia has also denounced the harassment and surveillance of her relatives, which have caused a significant impact of wear and tear on her family, particularly on her mother, who is an older adult with disabilities.

It is important to note that since November 2, 2020, Celia and 41 other persons have counted on precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) after this entity deemed that all of them are experiencing an urgent, highly serious, risk situation with irreparable damage to their rights and personal integrity in the context of the deprivation of their freedom in Nicaragua.

In view of this situation, we are now especially alert and vigilant regarding Celia’s current conditions and any possible attacks and/or human rights violations that she may experience as a result of the denunciation she made in her published letter. We hold the government of Nicaragua responsible for the life and the physical, moral, and psychological integrity of Celia Cruz and her family.

We of IM-Defensoras express our solidarity with Celia Cruz and the other persons held political prisoners, along with our unconditional support for their just, legitimate demands for freedom. 

And finally, we call on the international community to denounce the violations described by Celia, to demand that justice be done, and to insist that she be released from her situation of arbitrary arrest, as must be the case for all persons deprived of their freedom for political motives in Nicaragua.

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