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World News

Female prisoners punished for praying out loud in Nicaragua jail

by Lydia Davies

Political prisoners in a woman’s jail in Nicaragua, named La Esperanza Penitentiary, have been denied access to Bibles and writing materials- a violation of the Nelson Mandela Rules set by the United Nations for prisoner treatment.

The prisoners have faced harsh punishments for praying aloud and using rosaries.

New restrictions on outdoor time have also been imposed since mid-January 2024, previously allowed once a week.

Some detainees have reportedly also been subjected to physical abuse during interrogations, resulting in visible bruising on their arms and legs.

Among those affected is Olesia Auxiliadora Muñoz Pavon, a choir director at Santa Ana Parish in Niquinohomo. She was arrested on 6th April 2023.

Muñoz Pavon was previously imprisoned on false charges from August 2018 to June 2019 and gained recognition for singing hymns during her prior incarceration.

La Esperanza jail suffers from overcrowding, inadequate drinking water, beds, and medical care.

Cells meant for 75 prisoners are crammed with bunk beds, while some prisoners are held in solitary confinement.

Maximum-security cells, housing political detainees, have been reportedly sealed off, as per a report by La Prensa Nicaragua in October 2023.

Access to Nicaraguan penitentiaries has been denied to the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights since 2010, and the Red Cross was expelled from the country in 2023.

A recent report by the UN Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) denounced the government for serious human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity, particularly targeting political dissidents.

They called for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained individuals.

Anna Lee Stangl, CSW’s Head of Advocacy, condemned the treatment of the women and demanded adherence to the Nelson Mandela Rules in all Nicaraguan prisons.

In a statement she said: “Many of these women should not be in prison in the first place

“Prisoners of any kind being subjected to inhumane treatment as punishment for the simple exercise of their religious beliefs is unconscionable.

“CSW demands that the Nicaraguan government ensure that the Nelson Mandela Rules are upheld in all prisons and for all prisoners across the country and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Nicaragua.

“We echo the calls of the GHREN to the international community to expand sanctions against individuals and institutions involved in human rights violations in Nicaragua”.



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