Nicaragua: Government maintains strategy of repression and criminalizes the right to protest

Dozens of people were arbitrarily detained in Managua this Sunday 14 October as they were preparing to march under the slogan “United for Freedom”, in a clear example of the threats of President Daniel Ortega being put into practice - threats to criminalize anyone who dares to express opposition to his government by legitimately exercising their right to freedom of assembly and peaceful protest - Amnesty International reported.

The arbitrary use of the criminal justice system by the government of President Daniel Ortega to silence those who protest against him is an outrage.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

A press release issued by the National Police on 14 October confirmed that 38 people had been detained - eight of them were subsequently released - for participating in “acts of incitement and provocation” because they did not have authorization to stage a demonstration which threatened to disturb “the peace and normal coexistence”.

“The arbitrary use of the criminal justice system by the government of President Daniel Ortega to silence those who protest against him to demand justice and the exercise of their fundamental rights is an outrage. Detaining people simply for taking to the streets to protest shows this government’s disregard for the law and human rights,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

The government of President Ortega had issued a warning, via recent official National Police statements, that public demonstrations against him had been declared illegal and that anyone who sought to organize or call such a protest would be detained and held responsible for any crime or public order disturbance that occurred. This is a complete violation of Nicaragua’s international and national human rights obligations. 

In addition, human rights defender Haydeé Castillo was arbitrarily detained at Managua airport moments before boarding a flight to attend a meeting abroad on human rights defenders. On 8 September, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had granted her precautionary measures on the grounds that her rights to life and physical integrity were at grave risk and in need of urgent protection.

Amnesty International has been documenting the arbitrary detention of people solely for participating in protests or openly criticizing the government. Many of these people are leaders of social or student movements and representatives from all sectors of society in the national dialogue that was suspended by the government. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of 18 August 2018 at least 300 people were being prosecuted for taking part in the protests.

Detaining people simply for taking to the streets to protest shows this government’s disregard for the law and human rights.​
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

At least 30 of the people detained this Sunday remain held in the “El Chipote” detention centre to date. Amnesty International has confirmed that they were not committing any offence established in law and there was no warrant for their arrest at the time they were detained.

“These arbitrary detentions show the intolerance and lack of willingness of President Ortega to solve the grave human rights crisis facing the country and show how far he is prepared to go to silence the voices of the people demanding accountability and justice. The Nicaraguan government is mistaken if it thinks that critical views, demands for rights and outrage can be imprisoned,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

Under international human rights law, holding a peaceful demonstration without prior notice or authorization is not a justification for declaring the protest illegal and arresting those who participate. All those detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression or peaceful protest must be immediately and unconditionally released.

If you would like more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Carlos Mendoza (Amnesty International Americas): +52 1 55 4145 7003, carlos.mendoza@amnesty.org