Nicaragua: Nicaraguan lawyer José Arnulfo López Cruz is forced into exile to avoid arrest for his legal defence of political prisoners.
11th of october, 2021
The high-risk situation suffered by Nicaraguan lawyer José Arnulfo López Cruz has forced him to take refuge in Spain with his family, to avoid arrest for his work as a lawyer defending political prisoners in Nicaragua.
José Arnulfo López Cruz is a lawyer and human rights defender. He belongs to the organisation Unidad de Defensa Jurídica (UDJ), which specialises in the legal defence of political prisoners in the socio-political context of Nicaragua. José Arnulfo resigned from his position as a prosecutor in the Public Prosecutor’s Office and, from 2018 until today, has dedicated himself to the practice of law as a defender of political prisoners.
The Nicaraguan lawyer has worked for the Nicaraguan Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH) and has defended high-profile cases during his career, which has led to his continued harassment by police and vigilante groups.
These persistent attacks have included threats by paramilitaries during court appearances in the cases he has defended, as well as continuous police surveillance and monitoring of his workplace and home. The risk to the lawyer extends to his family members, who are also victims of this repression. In this regard, in May 2021, lawyer José Arnulfo was arbitrarily detained with his son by police officers who beat him and illegally stole their documents and money.
This harassment has become more frequent since the Nicaraguan lawyer took over the defence of pre-presidential candidate Félix Alejandro Maradiaga, who was arrested on 9 June 2021 . This has also affected the work of his wife, Arlen Cristina Muñoz, who was detained and questioned in defence of Félix Maradiaga by police officers on 18 June 2021.
The situation of José Arnulfo and his family became untenable after he received a call warning of his imminent arrest, which precipitated his departure from the country on 3 October 2021 and his exile to Spain, where he will seek political asylum.
In this context, The Observatory recalls that the independence of lawyers is one of the main indicators of democratic health and the consolidation of the rule of law. This is in line with the provisions of the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Therefore, in accordance with the provisions of the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular principles 16, 17 and 18 which state that
Principle 16: “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 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
Principle 18: “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”
 Among the cases handled by José Arnulfo López Cruz are the following: Defence of the political prisoner Miguel Mora; defence of Medardo Mairena; defence of the Fajardo brothers from the department of Masaya; defence of the young Ronald Fernando Avilés Liebl (…).