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UN High Commissioner calls for respect for freedoms in Nicaragua

Eye on Nicaragua, 15 December 2022

UN High Commissioner calls for respect for freedoms in Nicaragua The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, on 15 December urged the Nicaraguan government to "immediately release all those detained" for political reasons and to initiate "an inclusive national dialogue" in the face of the serious political crisis affecting the country since 2018. At a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Türk updated a report issued by his office last September, stating that the "deterioration" of public freedoms in the country persists. Daniel Ortega's government responded by calling the Council "infamous". "I urge the authorities to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained" and to "reintegrate those who were excluded from the political and social sphere", the high commissioner said. He also called on the government to "fully respect fundamental freedoms of expression and association", as well as to "engage in an inclusive national dialogue, anchored in human rights". Türk stressed that his office is "willing to work" with Managua on these issues, and requested that his team be allowed to enter the country. Ortega has repeatedly denied international human rights organizations access to Nicaragua since late 2018, including a UN Group of Experts appointed last March to investigate allegations of abuses and repression.

Bishop and two journalists in Matagalpa charged with criminal offenses Journalists Manuel Obando Cortedano, head of media for the diocese of Matagalpa (north), and Wilberto Artola Mejía, a journalist for the digital channel TV Merced, were charged by the Public Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday 14 December.

The journalists, arrested by the police three days earlier, worked with Catholic bishop Rolando Álvarez, who administers the diocese of Matagalpa. The prelate was arrested on 19 August and formally charged in court on 13 December for the alleged crimes of "conspiracy" and "propagation of false news". Monsignor Álvarez, who is highly critical of the Ortega regime, has been the target of government persecution for months. It was announced that he will be seated in the dock on 10 January 2023, in an initial hearing. Also charged in the same case is exiled Catholic priest Uriel Antonio Vallejos, who responded to the criminal charges by saying that in Nicaragua "criminals are in power". Dagmar Thiel, director of the US-based Fundamedios, a member of the network Voces del Sur, demanded the immediate release of both journalists, as well as the 240 people arbitrarily detained in Nicaragua. Voces del Sur: press freedom violations persist At least six journalists and one media outlet in Nicaragua reported press freedom violations last November, according to a report by the regional network Voces del Sur released on 12 December. The report includes threats to two journalists for carrying out their work, while four other professionals "were forced into exile due to the difficulty in the country to exercise their profession and the danger it implies". Among them is the case of Luis Felipe Palacios, correspondent of the Spanish news agency in Managua, who was prevented by the government from re-entering his country after a trip to Panama, despite being Nicaraguan.

From other sources Regime authorizes family visits to prisoners in El Chipote After more than 80 days without receiving visits from their families, the more than 50 political prisoners held in the El Chipote police prison were authorized to have "special visits" from their closest relatives, including children and grandchildren who entered the prison for the first time on 7 and 8 December, when the country celebrates the religious festivities of the Virgin Mary. Among those who were able to share with their families for four hours, during which time they also had lunch provided by the prison authorities, were journalists Miguel Mendoza and Miguel Mora, who were visited by their children. In Mendoza's case, he had not seen his 8-year-old daughter Alejandra for more than 500 days. A battery of agents with cameras and video cameras recorded every detail of the family meetings, without requesting authorization to film. The main human rights organizations had demanded that the government allow more frequent visits to prisoners of conscience, as required by law. The police authorities assured that they would repeat these visits on 24 and 31 December.

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