[Flickr / Alexander Schimmeck 2018]
Lawyers of Acción Penal have been forced to continue their work from exile after being under constant attack for their legal defence of political prisoners.
Acción Penal is an association created by criminal lawyers, all of whom previously worked as prosecutors in the Nicaraguan Public Ministry. This association was created in February 2019 to respond to the need for legal defence of political prisoners and legal assistance to victims of repression, in the context of the social and political crisis affecting Nicaragua. Acción Penal is composed of a permanent team of three lawyers who work occasionally with three other associate lawyers.
The members of Acción Penal work to assist persons deprived of their liberty who are protesting for the respect of human rights in Nicaragua. In this way they promote access to free and quality legal defence, the creation of specialised documentation recording human rights violations, as well as the filing of legal actions against the Nicaraguan state for these violations.
Acción Penal’s legal team has been working in a hostile context when dealing with legal issues related to the social and political crisis of April 2018. State repression has increased in the context of the elections, with criminal persecution intensifying against presidential candidates, independent journalists and legal professionals.
In Nicaragua, of the more than 30,000 practising lawyers, only around 40 are dedicated to the legal defence of political prisoners and the defence of human rights. Among the latter are the members of Acción Penal. Because of their experience in legal assistance in high-profile cases, they have been heavily harassed and threatened, forcing the entire legal team into exile. From exile, they try to continue their activity as an organisation specialised in criminal law issues, which also participates in a working group on Transitional Justice.
Faced with this situation, the Observatory recalls that the independence of lawyers is one of the main indicators of democratic health and consolidation of the rule of law. This is in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Principles for the Role of Lawyers.
Therefore, in accordance with the provisions of the UN Principles for the Role of Lawyers, and in particular Principles 16, 17 and 18 which state the following:
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.”
 The next general elections in Nicaragua will take place on 7 November 2021.
 Acción Penal has assisted high profile cases such as the murder of journalist Ángel Gahona q.e.p.d., the murdered young Brazilian doctor Rayneia Gabrielle Da Costa Lima Rocha, and provide legal assistance to journalists and members of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.