“No one has seen them. We don’t know how they are,” Héctor Mairena told elDiario.es about the conditions of the more than 30 opponents detained in recent months in Nicaragua. Mairena is a member of the national board of Unamos, a party that was born in the mid-1990s as a split from Sandinismo and that has more than half a dozen leaders of its political space deprived of freedom.
“We define them as kidnapped and disappeared because, except for the case of Cristiana Chamarro, María Fernanda Alemán and Berenice Quezada who have been detained at their homes, we don’t know anything about the rest,” Mairena denounces.
The main opposition candidates will not be able to compete in the elections on November 7 that will define the next president and vice president in addition to the 90 national deputies. Most of them are detained, exiled or disabled.
There is a difference between the detainees: some have house arrest and others are taken to detention centers. House arrests are generally supported by precautionary measures when there is already an accusation. That applies to the cases of Cristiana Chamorro and Berenice Quezada, but in most cases they are in a previous instance, so they cannot remain in their homes.
Gonzalo Carrión, human rights defender for the collective Nicaragua Never Again, agrees with Mairena. “Since they were illegally and unconstitutionally deprived of their liberty, without an arrest warrant and without it being clear what the crime for which they are accused, we do not know where they are. We do not know if they are alive, if they are dead, if they are sick. We do not know anything about them, “he explains to this medium.
The opposition leaders are joined by the arrest of the manager of the newspaper La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro. The manager of the oldest newspaper in Nicaragua is accused of the crime of tax fraud and money laundering. The day before, the media had denounced the entry of the National Police to its newsroom.
Human rights defenders in Nicaragua denounce that there is no respect for due process in judicial investigations. In all cases, they have been captured without a court order, a way of acting that goes against any national and international law.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned, in its last statement, the set of actions that the public powers have been deploying with the aim of preventing the participation of the opposition in the elections.
Although much is said about the arrests, little is known about the conditions once they are arrested. “In almost all the cases the physical and psychological state of the prisoners is unknown,” denounces the former regional prosecutor of the Nicaraguan Public Ministry, Boanerge Fornos, to elDiario.es.
“Methods of warfare”
Once they are detained, it is only then that the Public Ministry issues a statement where, in most cases, they clarify that they are accused of “treason” for violating Law 1055, called “Law of Defense of Sovereignty“by the Government.
In January, the president ordered a reform of the Penal Code that changed the rules of the game. If before the rules established that the Police could detain a suspect only for 48 hours before passing it to the judge of the case, in January 2021 that changed. The new Code allowed up to 90 days before there is a formal accusation.
Human Rights Watch maintains that all of this has been possible thanks to new repressive laws that violate due process guarantees of international human rights law and that are being used to give an appearance of legality to arbitrary detentions.
“It is presumed that the arbitrarily detained persons are in the facilities of the National Judicial Police Service, but due to the lack of communication with their lawyers and their families, we say that they are missing. The State of Nicaragua is obliged to show where they are. detained and if they are in good physical and psychological health, “explains the former Nicaraguan prosecutor.
Most of the detainees do not have access to a lawyer. And in the case of having them, they are prevented from having free, regular and private communication with their defenders, according to the interviewees.
But also, court hearings are behind closed doors. Nobody knows what happens in there and there are even those who doubt whether they actually exist. That is why from the wide opposition arch they denounce the violation of the right to oral and public hearings.
They also denounce that the Judiciary is hiding information about the process. “What violates due process and leaves the accused and investigated people unprotected,” explains Boanerge Fornos.
All of this constitutes a violation of due process that allows detainees to be separated from their families and not have access to defense. “The Government of Daniel Ortega has been using methods of war against a civic resistance”, summarizes Gonzalo Carrión.