Nicaragua Human Rights

Concerns: Violence against women, freedom of expression, sexual and reproductive rights

The total ban on all forms of abortion remained in force. Two thirds of rape victims whose cases were recorded between January and August 2009 were under 18. Intimidation and attacks on government critics increased, raising fears of curbs on the rights to freedom of expression and association. There were clashes between supporters of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN) and government critics throughout the year. Nicaragua remained one of a handful of states in the Americas not to have signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In November a new post of Special Ombudsman for Sexual Diversity was created within the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman.

Sexual and reproductive rights

The total ban on all forms of abortion remained in force. Nicaraguan Ministry of Health figures showed an increase in maternal deaths during the first 19 weeks of 2009 as compared with the same period in 2008, rising from 20 to 33. Some 16 per cent of the 33 deaths in 2009 were due to complications following unsafe abortions; no such deaths had been recorded in the comparable period in 2008, before the law prohibiting all forms of abortion came into effect.

In May the UN Committee against Torture stated that it was "deeply concerned" that the Nicaraguan government had taken no steps to repeal the law, despite concerns having previously been expressed by three other UN committees.

The Supreme Court of Justice failed to rule on an appeal lodged in July 2008 challenging the constitutionality of the law prohibiting all forms of abortion, despite having committed itself to doing so by 6 May 2009.

Violence against women and girls

Official efforts to combat violence against women and girls were ineffective. Statistics from the Women and Children's Police Unit stated that 1,259 rapes were reported between January and August of 2010. Of these, two thirds involved girls aged 17 or under.

Freedom of expression and association

There was a series of incidents involving attacks on journalists, government critics and civil society activists.

In November, pro-government supporters in Managua attacked a group of protesters demonstrating against corruption and curbs on freedom of expression. FSLN supporters threw stones at them, breaking the glass entrance door of a police station where protesters had taken refuge. None of those involved in the attack had been arrested by the end of the year. The Civil Co-ordinating Committee (Coordinadora Civil, CC), a national network of civil society groups, reported attacks and intimidation of its members by FSLN supporters.

In August, CC members were attacked on their way to a cultural event after discussing a proposal for alternatives to the government's existing social and economic policies. More than 30 CC members were reportedly injured.

Leonor Martínez, a 24-year-old member of the CC, was attacked by three armed men in October as she returned home from a press conference in Managua on human rights violations. They beat her, breaking her arm in several places, and threatened that if she carried on working with the CC they would kill her and her family. The men had allegedly been involved in previous attacks on CC members. An investigation into the attack was opened. In November, Leonor Martínez received telephone threats which referred to her work with the CC. By the end of the year, no one had been brought to justice for any of the attacks on CC members.

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