Nicaragua: Women inmates punished for praying, denied Bibles


CSW sources report that female prisoners including some political prisoners have been

Women inmates at La Esperanza Penitentiary (YouTube)

subjected to inhumane treatment after praying out loud and with rosaries in the Women’s Holistic Penitentiary System, commonly known as La Esperanza, in Tipitapa in Managua Department, Nicaragua.

The women have been denied time outdoors, as punishment, since mid-January 2024. Previously they were allowed out once a week. Some have also reportedly been beaten during interrogations, leaving bruising on their arms and legs. Political prisoners are not allowed to have a Bible or any writing materials, in violation of the Nelson Mandela Rules (the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners).

Among the prisoners is Olesia Auxiliadora Muñoz Pavon, choir director for the Santa Ana Parish in Niquinohomo, Masaya Department, who also provided pastoral services. Ms Muñoz Pavon, age 52, was arrested on 6 April 2023. She was previously imprisoned from August 2018 until June 2019 on false charges. During that time, she became well known for singing hymns inside the prison. 

La Esperanza (YouTube)

La Esperanza is overcrowded and has a shortage of drinking water, beds and medicine or medical care. Cells lined with bunk beds hold up to 75 prisoners, while other prisoners are isolated in individual confinement cells. In October 2023 La Prensa Nicaragua reported that the maximum-security cells, in which political prisoners are held, have been altered so as to virtually seal the inmates inside. 

The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) has been denied access to the country’s penitentiary centres since 2010. The Red Cross, which used to regularly visit prisons, was expelled from the country in 2023. 

On 29 February 2024 the UN Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) published their latest report on the country. The report found that the government continues to perpetrate serious systematic human rights violations, tantamount to crimes against humanity, based on political reasons. The GHREN called on the government to immediately release all those who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.

CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: ‘Many of these women should not be in prison in the first place. That prisoners of any kind are 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.’  — Christian Solidarity Worldwide