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Nicaragua: Lawyer María Oviedo, detained incommunicado for 52 hours and accused of obstructing the exercise of law enforcement.
The 21st of August, 2019.
The lawyer of the NGO Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), María Oviedo, was arrested on Friday the 26th of July while she was visiting a police center in Nicaragua.
She was arrested after slapping an agent who had touched her in an “obscene way” while accompanying a political opponent, released from prison and summoned to the Masaya city police. She was then held incommunicado for 52 hours.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called for the immediate release of the lawyer who is a beneficiary of the provisional measures as a member of the CPDH. Indeed, on the 27th of July, the Commission asked the Inter-American Court to “take provisional measures in favour of the members of the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the CPDH because of the extreme risk situation in Nicaragua”.
The Inter-American Commission also reminded the Ortega Government to immediately cease all arbitrary detentions and persecutions of human rights defenders in Nicaragua. She pointed out that the Special Monitoring Mechanism of Nicaragua (MESENI) had been informed of these police actions.
Since her release, lawyer María Oviedo has been prosecuted.
The protective status granted to him by the IACHR was not taken into account during the preliminary hearing. When María Oviedo’s lawyer invoked the police officer’s disrespectful behaviour towards her client, the judge replied that he had no evidence for commentaries. Although the prosecution has no legal basis according to the defendant, it has been found admissible by the judicial authority. The judge took additional measures by prohibiting the lawyer from leaving the country and forcing her to report once a month to the Managua courthouse.
The National Union of Lawyers and Notaries of Nicaragua (UNANIC) will organize a sit-in, in solidarity with lawyer María Oviedo during the initial hearing of the case before the third local criminal court in Managua. Since Maria Oviedo’s arbitrary detention on the 26th of July, UNANIC has unanimously rejected the actions of the officers who verbally and physically assaulted her by pushing her and applying a key to her neck and then dragging her into the cells.
According to Giovanny Silva Cruz, representative of UNANIC, repression against lawyers in their professional practice has been on the rise for the past five years, partly due to unconstitutional legislative reforms that directly affect the exercise of the defence.
[Update 03/09/2019 : On 29 September 2019, after more than 10 consecutive hours of trial, lawyer and human rights defender Maria Oviedo was convicted on Thursday evening of obstructing police activities at the expense of Police Orteguista (PO) Lieutenant Oscar Lopez, who verbally and physically assaulted her in Masaya on 26 July. The sentence was handed down on Monday, September 2: the lawyer was sentenced to 30 days in prison. The judge granted her a suspended sentence to serve it in liberty.
The 30-day sentence will begin today, September 3. The lawyer added that when the court pronounced its sentence, it took into account the gender perspective and the conditions under which the events took place. Maria Oviedo also pointed out that the sentence allowed her to continue practising as a lawyer.]
The IOLD strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and violence against lawyer María Oviedo.
The IOLD supports the lawyer as well as the National Union of Lawyers and Notaries of Nicaragua and the Standing Committee on Human Rights who are fighting to defend human rights in Nicaragua and the conditions of practice for lawyers.
The IOLD calls upon the Nicaraguan authorities to comply with the 1990 Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers of the United Nations, namely:
– “Governments shall further ensure that all persons arrested or detained, with or without criminal charge, shall have prompt access to a lawyer, and in any case not later than forty-eight hours from the time of arrest or detention” (Principle 7);
– “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics” (Principle 16).