The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, is urging the Nicaraguan government to urgently restore public rights and freedoms and the rule of law, which observers say have been under siege since 2018. A report on Nicaragua’s human rights situation has been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The report tracks the evolution of the electoral process from 2018 until November 7 when Nicaragua’s general election was held. The High Commissioner’s report finds the lead-up to the election marred by many irregularities and gross violations of human rights.

The report documents the arbitrary detention of no fewer than 39 political leaders, human rights defenders, businesspeople, journalists, peasants, and student leaders during the electoral period, between May and October. This group includes seven people who had declared their intention to run for president.

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada al-Nashif, says 35 of these people still are detained in the pre-trial detention center known as “Nuevo Chipote.” 

“According to the information received, many have been detained incommunicado for over 90 days, some in prolonged solitary confinement, and they have only been able to see their families on isolated occasions. Such conditions pose real risks to their physical and mental integrity and may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even rise to torture,” said al-Nashif.

The report documents the detention of more political activists and journalists on ambiguous criminal charges during the election weekend and following days. It notes harassment and arbitrary arrests have limited the ability of human rights defenders to monitor the electoral process.

Al-Nashif says protests or demonstrations by groups not participating in the elections were banned in the country. 

“All these restrictions and human rights violations created an environment unconducive to genuine and free elections. In this regard, all people arbitrarily detained should be immediately released and have their civil and political rights fully restored,” she said. 

Nicaragua’s attorney general, Wendy Morales Urbina, rejects the High Commissioner’s report, calling it prejudicial, lacking in objectivity, politically biased and interventionist. 

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