On Tuesday, November 15, family members of Nicaragua’s political prisoners formally demanded that the Ortega-Murillo regime present “proof of life” of their imprisoned relatives. Those jailed before May 2021 haven’t been seen or heard from in 81 days, while those detained since September 2022 have now gone 60 days without any visit. All are assumed to be in Managua’s feared El Chipote jail. For months, however, authorities have given “no news” of them.
“We’ve now spent over two months in suffering and uncertainty; with no information at all regarding our loved ones’ health condition, access to medical attention and nutrition. Our oral requests for visits, as well as information on the status and location of our family members, have been refused by the prison authorities with no justification,” the prisoners’ relatives expressed in a press release.
Given this situation, “We urgently call on the Nicaraguan government to allow us to see our family members. (…) We fear for their lives and for the inhumane conditions in which they’re being held, especially those who had declared themselves on hunger strike,” the written statement continued.
The harsh conditions imposed on the prisoners of conscience in Nicaragua call for “a proof of life,” the press statement emphasized. “We family members and specialized organizations are the only ones who can verify how and where they are.” Due to this, they “urgently” demanded that they and human rights organizations such as the International Red Cross and the UN Commission of Independent Experts be allowed to enter the El Chipote jail and other prisons overseen by Nicaragua’s National Penitentiary System, to confirm the situation of all the political prisoners.
Currently, “We have no guarantees – neither certification that they’re actually alive, nor verification of their health status. As of the present date, we don’t even know for certain if they’re still being held in the same place where we last visited them,” the declaration underlined.
“We are asking that regular 15-day visits be allowed, as stipulated by law, with the presence and participation of minor children, or those with special needs. Also, that they [prisoners] be allowed regular access to telephone and video calls and correspondence, including photographs, drawings and letters, from families outside the country,” the relatives stated.
New concerns over return to prison of those under house arrest
Relatives of the prisoners of conscience also expressed their concern at the recent transfer back to El Chipote of political prisoners Jose Adan Aguerri and Francisco Aguirre Sacasa. Both prisoners had been mandated to house arrest but were returned to prison early in November with no explanation.
According to international standards, the situation of prolonged isolation in which the regime’s political prisoners are being held comprises a mechanism of torture, given that it inflicts severe psychological and emotional damage on those deprived of liberty and on their families.
According to Nicaragua’s prison laws and the international human rights norms in effect, those deprived of liberty have the right to receive regular visits from their families, as well as access to adequate nutrition, decent hygiene, and rest, reading materials, medical attention, and other rights. All these rights have been denied Nicaragua’s political prisoners since the moment of their illegal and arbitrary detention.