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Nicaragua: Inter-American Commission comes out in favor of four indigenous people detained and tortured

Murals in Museo de Leyendas y Tradiciones (Museum of Myths and Traditions) in Leon,Nicaragua. This paintings depict methods of National Guard to torture the prisoners © Shutterstock

Managua-Geneva, 25 April 2023 – In a recent decision, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found that Argüello Celso Lino, Ignacio Celso Lino, Dinonisio Robins Zacarías and Donald Andrés Bruno Arcángel, four defenders of the indigenous territory of Mayangna Sauni, sentenced to life imprisonment by the Nicaraguan authorities, were victims of physical, psychological and sexual torture in prison.

On 23 August 2021, around 37 people, mainly indigenous Miskitu and Mayagna, were attacked in the Kiwakumbaih mine in the Mayangna Sauni, in Nicaragua and subjected to physical and sexual violence. Eleven of them died.

Although the surviving victims indicated that the attack was carried out by a group of armed, Spanish-speaking men in military uniforms, the Nicaraguan police decided to blame the Mayangnas for the massacre, relying on police testimony and ignoring the survivors and other witnesses.

The four Mayangna, now granted precautionary measures by the IACHR, were detained without a court order and held incommunicado for several months, before being sentenced to life imprisonment. They are now still in prison.

Since December 2022, they have been isolated in high security cells, incommunicado, in inhuman and degrading conditions, victims of torture, cruel treatment and threats which have degenerated into physical and sexual aggression. They have been denied medical care, despite their extremely precarious health. The current conditions in which they have been detained are considered by the IACHR as physical, psychological and sexual torture.

The decision of the IACHR is the result of an effort promoted mainly by the Center for Legal Assistance to Indigenous Peoples (CALPI), together with the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), and the University Centre for Dignity and Justice "Francisco Suárez, SJ" of the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (CUDJ-ITESO).

We call the State of Nicaragua to respect the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR. The victims' community is waiting for them, they need them to be released,” asks the Center for Legal Assistance to Indigenous Peoples.

The OMCT and its partners call on the Nicaraguan State to fully respect these precautionary measures, as it is urgent to guarantee and protect the rights to life, personal integrity and health of the four Mayagna indigenous peoples, and in particular:

  • Ensure the beneficiaries are not threatened, intimidated, harassed or assaulted in prison;
  • Guarantee access to adequate and specialised medical care, and immediately carry out a separate medical assessment;
  • Provide them with the treatment and medication necessary to treat their illnesses.