Human Rights in Nicaragua

In recent weeks, the previously peaceful country of Nicaragua has been rocked as social protests have been combated with violent repression. At the end of April, citizens of Nicaragua took to the streets after President Daniel Ortega proposed cutting pensions and social security. Since then, Ortega has abandoned these plans, but Nicaraguans are now protesting and calling for his resignation. The government has responded violently to these anti-government protests, and an estimated 200 people have been killed; although, many have reported that this is a low estimate.

Despite this blatant disregard for human rights, the government’s violent response to these protests has received limited news coverage. It is for this reason that the work of human rights activists and defenders highlighted below is more important than ever. The first two organizations defend human rights as researchers and activists, and the last two organizations are working to provide basic human rights such as shelter, food and clothing. Each organization is protecting human rights in Nicaragua in different but equally important ways.

Amnesty International

This well-known organization is similar to The Borgen Project due to its focus on advocacy, campaigning and action. Amnesty International fights human rights abuse around the globe and campaigns for a world where everyone has human rights. One of the ways they help countries like Nicaragua is through researching and reporting on human rights abuses.

Throughout the current conflicts in Nicaragua, Amnesty International has both reported on the issues and called on countries and governments around the world to do more. At the end of May, the organization released a report on Nicaragua that explains the repressive strategies being used on protesters, which was used as a reference by larger news sources reporting on the country. Throughout the month of June, the organization continued to release news stories on the violence in the country and called for international leaders and organizations to not turn their backs on the Nicaraguan people. The spotlight and voice they are providing for victims of violence have been one of the ways they have fought to protect human rights in Nicaragua.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

Started in 1959, the IACHR is an independent body in service of The Organization of American States whose goal is to improve human rights in the American hemisphere through promotion and protection. It also operates with The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, or “The Court,” under a charter that calls for the full respect of human rights.

This organization plans to set up a Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit (SACROI in Spanish) in order to focus attention on human rights in Nicaragua. By the end of May, the Commission had sent groups to four locations in Nicaragua. The purpose of these trips was to observe the human rights situation after the violence that happened in April, to document these events and to create recommendations for the current state of the country. The groups visited State facilities, hospitals, detention centers and healthcare facilities and produced a lengthy report of their findings.

The findings show that police violence, unlawful detentions and limiting access to medical care have been used to keep people from demonstrating. According to this report, as of June 19, 212 people had been murdered and 1,337 people injured. The report argues that the government’s repressive reaction to demonstrations has created a serious human rights crisis. Their findings were presented to the OAS and have shown how important it is to protect the Nicaraguan people.

Nicaragua Nonprofit Network (NNN)

The NNN is different than other nonprofits in Nicaragua because it’s mission is to bring development together by providing a common platform for all nonprofits in the country. Volunteers and organizations are able to share resources, knowledge, accomplishments and experiences with others to improve efficiency and development. Basically, it is a way for the people working for basic human rights in Nicaragua to work together to share what has worked and what hasn’t in order to have a bigger impact on the country.

Their technologies and strategies are extensive making the organization more effective. They include comprehensive profiles of nonprofits, search tools, like maps and databases, allow one to search for nonprofits in certain areas and what they do, forums for members, news and reporting, custom Google Map tools, event calendars and staff/volunteer listings. Currently, the NNN is made up of 152 organizations spread across the country who are using this platform to work together with other nonprofits.

Other than networking nonprofits together, the NNN has had an active Twitter feed throughout the protests in Nicaragua. They share updates and news stories about these human rights abuses and have acted as social media activists.


CARE is a nonprofit that protects the basic human rights of people all around the world in areas such as gender equality, social justice and fighting poverty.

In 1990, CARE started clean water, preventative health, and sanitation programs and is working to establish sustainable agriculture in rural areas. Through these programs, CARE has touched over 300,000 lives in Central America and provided food security to many families. Other areas of focus in Nicaragua include ending child poverty, improving girls’ education, youth empowerment and maternal health.

Each of these organizations is protecting human rights in Nicaragua in equally important yet different ways. As the Nicaraguan government continues to abuse its people, these organizations are working for good and will continue supporting human rights.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

There are many components to consider when evaluating how well a country is promoting human rights. On many fronts, the government of Nicaragua is failing its most marginalized populations: women and indigenous people. Human rights activists and journalists are also subject to government harassment. Here are three issues of human rights in Nicaragua:

Violence Against Women and Girls
The lack of legal protections for women in the case of domestic violence is a huge issue for human rights in Nicaragua. Studies estimate that one out of every two women in Nicaragua has experienced violence. Though a comprehensive law addressing gender-based violence was passed in 2012, many of the major advances in the law were overturned in subsequent years. In 2014, President Daniel Ortega issued a special decree shifting responsibility for the law’s implementation to the Ministry of the Family and mandated the establishment of neighborhood-based counseling as the first step to resolving “family conflict” prior to filing a legal complaint.

In 2016, this decree made it more difficult to access legal justice in cases of domestic abuse. The already under-resourced police units in charge of handling gender violence cases were shut down altogether. There is an emphasis on “family values” within Nicaraguan culture which makes it difficult for women to be taken seriously when coming forward with cases of domestic abuse. The actions of the government are only exacerbating the problem.

Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
In the past several years, there has been a wave of violent attacks against the Miskitos, the largest indigenous group on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. According to CEJUDHCAN, a non-governmental indigenous rights organization, 21 indigenous men have been killed since 2014 and dozens more wounded or kidnapped. Women have been raped, and armed men have attacked several villages. The Miskitos blame the attacks on settlers coming from other parts of the country. Thousands of Mestizos (Nicaraguans of Spanish descent) have moved into the rainforest, enticed by cheap, fertile land and timber and gold. Tensions have erupted into violence, and almost 3,000 Miskitos have fled their homes since 2015. The government’s failure to properly address this conflict has been a huge blight to human rights in Nicaragua.

The Miskitos say the government has done little to stop this violence. The army was only deployed once in December 2015, and once stationed, they did little else to help the locals. President Daniel Ortega has publicly backed the Miskitos’ right to their land but has initially denied any connection between the violence and the land conflict. The Miskitos accuse the president of only using the conflict for political gain around election time, and of taking no concrete action to protect the Miskitos or their land.

Mistreatment of Activists
The Nicaraguan government has been accused of unfairly targeting, detaining and deporting activists. In June 2016, six foreign environmental activists were detained and expelled from the country. There was a human rights hearing last year in regards to the killing of Francisco Garcia, whose family claims that he was targeted due to his wife’s work in the field of indigenous rights. His family alleges the government failed to diligently investigate the incident. Several other indigenous activists have reported cases of harassment and intimidation, with little response or support from authorities. Governmental targeting of activists leaves these citizens vulnerable and is a hindrance to human rights in Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua, the government is failing to protect the human rights of women and indigenous people. Activists are being unfairly targeted and left without legal protection. Without fair legislation and concrete action by the government, these groups will continue to struggle.

Hannah Seitz

Photo: Flickr