Bishop Rolando Álvarez of the Diocese of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. DIOCESE OF MATAGALPA

By Walter Sanchez Silva

Catholic News Agency

March 9, 2023

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the Nicaraguan dictatorship to release Bishop Rolando Álvarez and other political prisoners.

The Daniel Ortega dictatorship in Nicaragua sentenced the bishop of Matagalpa to 26 years and four months in prison on Feb. 10 on several charges that included being a “traitor to the homeland.”

The sentence against Álvarez was issued just one day after the regime deported 222 political prisoners to the United States. The exiles and the bishop were stripped of their Nicaraguan citizenship based on a law passed Feb. 9.

Álvarez refused to board the plane that would have taken him to freedom unless he first could meet and consult with the priests already aboard the plane and also the Nicaraguan bishops, a request that was denied and that Ortega later called “absurd.”

For his refusal to comply with the Managua Court of Appeals’ deportation order, the prelate was found in contempt of authority, which added to his sentence. Álvarez is reportedly being held in a maximum security cell.

“We call on the State of Nicaragua to unconditionally release the 37 people who are still arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, including Bishop Álvarez, whose state of health is unknown,” stated the OHCHR in a March 3 update on the situation in Nicaragua.

The U.N. agency also urged the Daniel Ortega regime to “restore citizenship and other civil, political, social, and economic rights to the more than 300 people affected by the recent decisions.”

Other human rights violations in Nicaragua

The update also reported various human rights violations in trials initiated between January and February against people “arbitrarily detained since August 2022.”

“This includes hearings behind closed doors, denying some defendants their right to a lawyer of their choice and to meet with him or her in private, and access to the complete files on their cases,” the U.N. office charged.

In addition, “some of the defendants may not have had timely or complete knowledge of the charges against them or the sentences handed down against them, which prevented them from challenging them,” the OHCHR said.

“The office has also documented the application of sentences not provided for in the Nicaraguan Penal Code, even retroactively to those who were sentenced last year,” the statement continued.

The OHCHR noted that the Nicaraguan dictatorship “reportedly canceled the legal personhood of 40 civil society organizations — a total of more than 3,200 since 2018 — and confiscated the facilities of two other organizations, now used by the state.”

The office also pointed out that many people have their rights restricted for not having an ID card showing membership in the Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front political party.

“Without this document, many Nicaraguans face limited possibilities of obtaining or maintaining a job in the public sector, of accessing higher education,” and “some people were denied the opportunity to obtain scholarships,” the U.N. agency said.

Not having the ID card also prevents access to “health services, as in the case of a person who may possibly be denied surgery until he or she registers with the party” or with the country’s Social Protection Network, a type of welfare program.


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