Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS welcomes the release of 222 political prisoners who had been detained and convicted under trumped-up charges by Nicaraguan authorities. Their release is a step in the right direction, and should be followed by the lifting of other restrictions on civic space. While we are relieved for those who have been released and for their families, we remain concerned about the 38 political prisoners who continue to be held in degrading conditions in the country’s penitentiary system.
It is also saddening that this positive development has been tempered by efforts from authorities to delegitimise released political prisoners by taking steps to strip them of their nationality. We welcome announcements by the governments of the US and Spain offering support to those released, but call on the international community to maintain scrutiny on Nicaragua and to defend the full restoration of civil and political rights in the country.
“The last several years in Nicaragua have been characterised by harassment, intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders, journalists and the political opposition in Nicaragua. Despite the decision made by the authorities to release 222 political prisoners on the 9th of February of 2023, restrictions remain,” said Isabel Rosales, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer. “It is extremely worrying that the Nicaraguan government continues to silence activists, journalists, and human rights defenders with impunity.”
Over the last few years, human rights defenders, opposition leaders, protesters and journalists in Nicaragua have been persecuted. Authorities in the country have adopted restrictive laws and subverted the judicial system to effectively outlaw civil society and independent media, closing more than 3,000 organisations and 55 media outlets. This concerted effort by the Nicaraguan government to silence the voices of those who speak out against abuses led to an enduring crisis which has forced more than 150,000 Nicaraguans into exile.
The country's devastating human rights crisis, which began with the crackdown on protests in April 2018, continues. Restrictions on freedom of speech and press and freedom of association remain in place.
We, therefore, call on the Nicaraguan government to restore civil and political rights to those released and exiledfrom their country, and to release all remaining political prisoners. We also urge the government to lift the restrictions on civic space, allowing people to exercise their rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression..
The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Nicaragua as closed.