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It is called psychological torture

Psychological abuse is as serious as physical torture, according to international human rights conventions and treaties

El régimen incumple sus obligaciones al permitir el uso de la tortura de las personas bajo su custodia. Autores y partícipes deberán ser juzgados

Mónica López Baltodano

6 de septiembre 2021


I decided to write this reflection based on reports published on the brief visits that relatives were able to make to the most recent political prisoners of the Ortega-Murillo regime. In some of these reports it is mentioned that these people “are not being tortured,” referring to the fact that they have not suffered physical torture. That is a mistake. Psychological abuse is as serious as physical torture, according to international human rights conventions and treaties.

If you are unjustly abducted and also in solitary confinement cells so small that they cause vertigo, with a lightbulb on day and night that deprive you of sleep, without the right to regular sun exposure, without being able to exercise, without a sheet of paper to write your thoughts, or access to a book, not even the Bible… 

If they only let you see a single member of your family for 20 or 30 minutes after being missing for 60, 70, 80 or 90 days due to a so-called “investigation” that conceals a political trial…if, additionally, the guards harass you, take photographs and videos of that brief meeting in which you cannot speak freely… If they do not allow your relatives to leave food according to your ailments and health condition, or they don’t give you all the necessary medicines, if they do not even allow you to be treated by a doctor and therefore you have abruptly lost weight… And if you also must defecate in a hole in the ground…

If your lawyer has not been present in any of the accelerated hearings that are also held secretly in the prison itself and not in the courts… And if, moreover, they subject you to intense interrogation every day, and they keep you incommunicado, isolated, providing you false information on what happens outside, or they provoke you with the vulnerable situation in which your sons and daughters are. Consequently, that is called psychological torture.

Torture begins with unjust kidnapping and imprisonment. It begins by removing you from your life and the real world to have you locked up in a cell without seeing the light of day. That is precisely what political prisoners in Nicaragua live and suffer through, along with their families, also kidnapped by this tragedy full of cruelty and perversity that the psychological complex of the torturers goes through. And I am referring not only to the last 35 hostages but to the more than 150 people who are still kidnapped, including Marvin Vargas, who this year unjustly served 10 years in prison. I am also referring to all the people who have already suffered these forms of torture during the massive arbitrary arrests in recent years.

According to the publication by Hernan Reyes, of the International Committee of the International Red Cross (ICRC), entitled “The worst scars are not always physical” (2007): “Today there is a universally accepted definition of torture, namely, the one that appears in the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the United Nations.

According to that text, torture means any act that consists of an officer intentionally inflicting on a person “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental” with a precise objective…Therefore, it has been shown that psychological methods can be extremely coercive, constitute a practice of torture and are illegal. In that sense, the first United National Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Peter Kooijmans, made a statement where he merged the methods and effects of torture:

“Sometimes a distinction is made between physical torture and mental torture. But that distinction seems to have more significance in terms of the means by which torture is practiced than in terms of its nature. Almost invariably, the effect of torture, whatever the means by which it is practiced, is physical and psychological… Their common effect is the disintegration of the personality.”

In light of this reality, we must firmly denounce that the political prisoners are being subjected to psychological torture in Nicaragua, and demand their immediate release. We cannot give an iota of political oxygen to the regime, which seeks to confuse the population and the international community, hiding the serious violations of human rights that continue to occur daily in our country, such as the terrible massacres suffered by the indigenous communities of Nicaragua, and the real torture to which political prisoners are subjected to.

*Environmentalist lawyer, human rights defender and member of the “Articulación de Movimientos Sociales.”

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times



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Mónica López Baltodano

Mónica López Baltodano

Abogada, politóloga y activista nicaragüense con más de quince años de experiencia en movimientos sociales, organismos ambientalistas y de derechos humanos. Máster en Derecho Ambiental y en Estudios Políticos. Asesora legal ad honorem del Movimiento Campesino y autora investigaciones sobre las acciones y estrategias de lucha contra el megaproyecto del canal interoceánico en Nicaragua.