NICARAGUA: The OIAD calls for measures to ensure due process and the personal safety of Julio Montenegro while performing as a criminal defense lawyer
Equipo Jurídico Defensores del Pueblo is an organization recently created by lawyers with extensive experience in criminal matters, including Julio Montenegro. The purpose of the organization is to promote access to justice, with a view to achieving a regulatory framework and a model of public policies compliant with applicable human rights standards. To this end, they carry out a series of activities that include legal assistance to victims of crimes involving members of the public force and public servants.
Julio Ariel Montenegro is a philosopher, journalist, notary and criminal lawyer who suffers from a situation of risk that threatens his personal safety and results in an impediment to freely exercise the legal profession. Especially in those cases derived from the government’s response to the protests and social mobilizations that have taken place in the country since 2018.
The facts reported by the lawyer include but are not limited to those described below: (i) After participating in the judicial proceedings on behalf of two political prisoners in November 2018, Mr. Montenegro was followed and intimidated by unknown individuals on a motorcycle in front of the courts in Managua, Nicaragua; (ii) Search and interrogation of Mr. Montenegro in 2018 by members of a paramilitary group located in a place known as “Las Esquinas”, who on the road to the municipality of Diriamba Carazo allegedly stopped the vehicle in which the lawyer was travelling and (iii) In a place close to the place where he has carried out his work, riot police units have sometimes been located when the human rights defender wants to receive a complaint, especially what is perceived by the lawyer as an act of harassment and surveillance when carrying out his work as a human rights lawyer (from May 2018 to the present year 2020).
On the other hand, the ongoing social and political crisis would be further aggravated in the context of the sanitary crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Especially in prisons and detention centres given the impossibility of adopting preventive measures to avoid contagion, unhealthy conditions, limited access to drinking water, inadequate food and insufficient medical care.
The OIAD joins Julio Montenegro and Equipo Jurídico Defensores del Pueblo in their efforts to free individuals who are allegedly arbitrarily and to protect their safety while in detention preventing them from being subjected to inhuman, cruel or degrading as often claimed by the affected individuals.
Based on the above, the OIAD recalls that the independence of lawyers is one of the main indicators of democratic health and consolidation of the rule of law. This, in accordance with the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers, is a key indicator of democratic health and consolidation of the rule of law.
This is in accordance with the United Nations Principles for the Role of Lawyers, and in particular Principles 16 and 17 which state:
“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).
“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities” (Principle 17).