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Nicaragua: Police harassment and detention of women rights defenders, and ill-treatment of Ms Patricia Orozco upon arrest
On 30 October 2009, women human rights defenders Ms Patricia Orozco, Ms Lorna Norori and Ms Ana Eveling Orozco, were subject to police harassment and detention in the city of León. Patricia Orozco is a journalist and leader of el Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres de Nicaragua – MAM (the Nicaraguan Women's Autonomous Movement), a social and political NGO which works for democracy and equality. She was ill-treated upon arrest. Ana Eveling Orozco is a lawyer and also a member of MAM, while Lorna Norori is a psychologist and member of el Movimiento contra el Abuso Sexual (Movement against Sexual Abuse).
On 30 October 2009, Patricia Orozco, Lorna Norori and Ana Eveling Orozco were returning from a training session which had been carried out with representatives from other women's rights organisations. Officers from the National Police stopped the taxi they were travelling in, requesting to see their official documents, including those of the driver. When the women asked why they had been stopped, the officers refused to give any reason.
A short time later they were allowed to continue their journey, but another police patrol stopped the vehicle again shortly afterwards, claiming that they had been trying to escape and had ignored the orders of the first group of police officers. They again took the driver's documents and ordered the women out of the car in order to search their bags. Patricia Orozco expressed her unease and refused to comply with the police, insisting that she and her colleagues had done nothing wrong. The police ignored their complaints and instead announced that they would be taken to the police station in León. The police sought reinforcements and a short time later a van arrived from the police station with several officers. They handcuffed Patricia Orozco using force and pushed her into the van, while one of the agents restrained her on the floor and asked her not to do anything, or she would suffer the consequences (“pidió que no hiciera nada, so pena de sufrir las consecuencias”). Patricia Orozco later sought an explanation from the police for her detention, but she did not receive any answer.
At the police station, officers sought Patricia Orozco's personal details, which she refused to provide. She requested a phone call in order to contact el Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos - CENIDH (the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights), and asked that they remove her handcuffs. A short time later, an official arrived and stated that Mrs Aminta Granera, Chief Commissioner and Director General of the National Police had given orders that Patricia Orozco, Lorna Norori and Ana Eveling Orozco should be released. Together they went to the office of the Comisaría de la Mujer (the Commission for Women) in order to file a report about the incident. However, the Chief of Police stated that they could not receive the complaint because the Commission for Women dealt only with domestic violence cases.
Patricia Orozco sought a medical examination for the cuts that resulted from her treatment by the police, but the requested doctor never arrived. Patricia Orozco, Lorna Norori and Ana Eveling Orozco filed a complaint with the National Police and were met by its Inspector General, High Commission Juan Báez. He confirmed that a special commission to investigate the incident would be formed, headed by the Second Head of the Internal Affairs Division of the National Police, and at the suggestion of the women, he promised to include a member of CENIDH.
The incident took place on the same day that the Director General of the Police, Mrs Aminta Granera, declared before human rights organisations in Managua that there would be no resurgence of police aggression against women. In 2008 Patricia Orozco received threats of death and sexual violence as a result of her work on 28 September Campaign for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Front Line believes that the harassment and detention of Patricia Orozco, Lorna Norori and Ana Eveling Orozco, and the ill-treatment of Patricia Orozco upon arrest are directly related to their work in the defence of human rights, in particular women's rights in Nicaragua. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Patricia Orozco, Lorna Norori and Ana Eveling Orozco.
Front Line urges the Nicaraguan authorities to:
1. Ensure that an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the harassment and detention of Patricia Orozco, Lorna Norori and Ana Eveling Orozco, and into the ill-treatment of Patricia Orozco, is carried out, with a view to publishing the findings and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;2. Guarantee the security and physical and psychological integrity of Patricia Orozco, Lorna Norori and Ana Eveling Orozco, as well as that of all other members of the Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres de Nicaragua - MAM;
3. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Nicaragua, carrying out their legitimate work in the defence of human rights, are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals.