(CNN Spanish) — The arrest of the Bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, who has been under house arrest for 41 days, as well as that of other priests, seminarians and a layman under investigation, without a formal accusation, was highlighted by the Office of the High Commissioner for United Nations for Human Rights (OACNUDH) in an update on the country’s situation presented this Tuesday during an interactive session before the UN Human Rights Council.
“On August 19, after being held for two weeks under police surveillance, the bishop of Matagalpa and eight people were arrested during a police raid and transferred to Managua.” The report also highlights that “the Police reported that they were being criminally investigated for inciting hatred and violence with the purpose of destabilizing the State.” The agency adds that “a judge extended the detention of the bishop and seven of these people for 90 days.”
After the session, the representatives of 45 countries issued a joint statement on what they consider to be a serious human rights situation in Nicaragua and asked to release the detained opponents.
The document states that the same month, the police tried to seize the transmission equipment of the Catholic radio station that broadcast from a parish in Sébaco, Matagalpa. “Dozens of police officers, including riot police, violently raided the parish causing damage, and held the clergyman and six laymen captive for three days without electricity or food.”
The Police have not provided an official version of these operations carried out in Sébaco last August. He also did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Post Office, Telcor, the state telecommunications regulator, canceled on August 1st at least seven radio stations managed by the Catholic Church in the departments of Matagalpa and Estelí, arguing that they did not have a license. to broadcast. The bishop of Matagalpa stated on August 2 that they had sent all the necessary documentation, but had not received a response from Telcor.
The report presented by Christian Salazar Volkmann, director of the UN Office for Human Rights, also highlights that restrictions on freedom of expression have been intensified with the closure of at least 20 radio and television stations in 2022, the largest part of them religious.
“The attacks on press freedom have caused staff from the country’s main newspaper to be forced into exile, joining the 120 journalists who have done so since 2018, according to civil society data,” the report reads.
The UN also highlights what it considers to be an “exponential increase” in attacks against freedom of association. “The legal personality of 1,512 human rights organizations, development assistance organizations, professional associations, including medical associations, entities associated with the Catholic Church and others, has been cancelled, adding up to at least 1,578 in the last four years,” adds the OHCHR.
The Office expressed particular concern about “the continued arbitrary detention of at least 195 people in connection with the socio-political crisis. Fifty of these people were imprisoned in the 2021 electoral context and sentenced this year – in some cases up to 13 years in prison – without due process. At least 29 of these people continue to be deprived of liberty in a police center, in presumably inhumane conditions.”
The Government of Nicaragua has not officially reacted to the latest OHCHR report on Nicaragua. CNN is trying to get a reaction through official channels.
The government of President Daniel Ortega has rejected the previous reports on the grounds that they are based on biased information from organizations that participated in the 2018 protests, considered by the ruling party as an attempted coup.
The Nicaraguan Judiciary presented dozens of opponents detained between May and November 2021 in what it called “informative hearings” this month, most of them accused of treason or money laundering. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights considered that these hearings had no legal basis because they were held without the knowledge of defense attorneys.
The Office of the High Commissioner also expressed concern about the municipal elections called by the authorities for next November. “There are serious concerns about these elections, due to the absence of significant electoral and judicial reforms, such as those recommended by the Office and other mechanisms, so that the norms and practices in force in the next elections are compatible with international human rights standards.”