Urgent Action Alert!
May 23-The letter below was sent to the Nicaraguan Network
Organization based in Washington, DC from the wife of the late Francisco Garcia
and attorney for the rights of the Indigenous people on the Caribbean coast of
Nicaraguan (Maria Luisa Acosta). A copy of this letter was sent to
Bluefieldspulse for publication.
From the Nicaragua Network, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, and Quest for Peace
We have received the following information from the Nicaraguan Center for Human
Rights (CENIDH) in Managua and from Maria Luisa Acosta of CALPI.
May 15, 2002
On April 8th, in Bluefields in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region of
Nicaragua, Francisco Garcia was murdered. He was President of the
Chamber of Commerce of Bluefields, professor of chemistry at a local university,
and husband of Maria Luisa Acosta, human rights lawyer and Coordinator of the
Center for Legal Assistance for Indigenous Peoples (CALPI). As the
director of CALPI, Acosta carried the case of the Mayagna people of Awas Tingi
to a successful conclusion in the Inter-American Human Rights Court in Costa
She is handling the case of the Miskito people in their battle to stop
U.S. citizen Peter Tsokos from selling their Pearl Cays on his "tropical-islands.com"
web site and has supported the efforts of the Rama of Monkey Point to have a say
in the feasibility studies for the so-called "dry canal" which would
go through their territory. Besides this, she has worked with the
shrimp divers in their struggle to get better wages and conditions from the
fishery companies in Bluefields. Acosta occasionally received threats
to her physical safety in the past because of her work.
When Acosta gave her deposition before Julio Acuña, Criminal Judge of the
District of Bluefields, she expressed her suspicions that the true intention of
the murderers was to kill her, but when they encountered her husband, they
killed him. She named as material authors of the crime Ivan Argüello,
one of the renters to whom she and her husband had leased an apartment in their
house, and as intellectual authors of the crime, Peter Tsokos and his lawyer
Peter Martinez. The judge then called Tsokos and his lawyer Peter
Martinez to give statements.
In his declaration before the judge, Peter Martinez asserted that Acosta was
giving false declarations to the judge in order to put the court on the wrong
track and cover up the true authors of the crime. The judge listened
to these accusations and drew up a charge against Acosta, calling her in to give
another declaration as a possible accessory, covering up for the murderer of her
After the murder, Acosta had moved to Chinandega in the northwest part of
Nicaragua for reasons of security. Although Judge Acuña knew this,
and could have asked the Criminal Court judge of Chinandega to take Acosta's
testimony in Chinandega, he instead insisted that she come to his office in
Bluefields. When she did not appear immediately, he issued a warrant
for her arrest as possibly complicit in a cover-up of her husband's
The judge violated her guarantees of due process, access to justice, and the
right to defense, especially since she attempted to give power of attorney to
another to present her testimony and was not allowed to do so.
On May 16th Maria Luisa Acosta sent out an update on the legal case. It
contained good news and bad news. First Judge Acuña issued an arrest
warrant for Ivan Arguello, one of the three men who are believed to have
actually carried out the murder of her husband, as well as for the other two as
yet unidentified members of the group. Second, the case against her
has been definitively dropped. But the bad news is that any case
against Peter Tsokos and his lawyer Peter Martinez has been dropped by the judge
And worst of all, Peter Tsokos was able to get a civil judge in Bluefields to
put a lien on Acosta's house for US$100,000 for supposed damages plus 30% for
supposed legal costs. Acosta says that she has never had any dealings
CENIDH considers that Maria Luisa Acosta is a victim of persecution and
harassment by Peter Tsokos and Peter Martinez who are trying to get her to end
her fight to clear up the murder of her husband and to end her legal support for
the indigenous peoples' land rights struggle.
Therefore, CENIDH has identified the following targets and the Nicaragua
Network, Pastors for Peace and Quest for Peace request that you send letters to:
1. The President of the Supreme Court, Ivan Escobar, asking him to guarantee
Maria Luisa Acosta's safety and to do everything possible to speed the
resolution of the case of the death of her husband, bringing the murderer(s) to
justice. Ask him to investigate the behavior of Judge Julio Acuña of
the Bluefields Criminal Court, who violated Acosta's rights as a bereaved victim
of a crime.
2. The Minister of Governance, Arturo Harding, urging him to ask the National
Police to implement all necessary measures to insure police protection for
Acosta as well as to ensure that she can continue her work as a defender of the
rights of the indigenous people of the Atlantic Coast.
3. To the President of Nicaragua, Enrique Bolaños, urging him to ensure that
all measures required by the Declaration of the United Nations of December 9,
1998, on the protection of those persons and organizations who work to promote
human rights, be put in place in support of Acosta. Ask him to enforce the
Nicaraguan Constitution and the Autonomy Statute which protect the rights of
Nicaragua's indigenous peoples to their traditional lands against the claims of
Dr. Ivan Escobar Fornos
Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia
Ing. Arturo Harding
Ministro de Gobernacion
Ing. Enrique Bolanos Geyer
President de la Republica de Nicaragua
[For more information, contact Katherine Hoyt at the Nicaragua Network,
202-544-9355 or firstname.lastname@example.org]
The Nicaragua Network web page is www.nicanet.org.