Head of state and government Daniel Ortega Saavedra
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 5.7 million
Life expectancy 72.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 29/22 per 1,000
Adult literacy 78 per cent
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 these, two thirds involved girls aged 17 or under.
- In August, a 13-year-old girl was stabbed to death with a bayonet by her stepfather, who had been released from prison three days earlier. He had been sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment for the aggravated rape which resulted in the girl’s pregnancy, but was released on grounds of ill health after serving only eight months. No notice of his release was given to the girl or her family. There was reportedly no investigation into the court’s decision to release him.
Human rights defenders
Women human rights defenders working to promote women’s rights and sexual and reproductive rights were harassed by officials.
- In October, journalist and women’s rights activist Patricia Orozco and two colleagues were stopped by police as they were returning from leading a training course for local women’s rights promoters. The officers claimed that the women had fled from a previous checkpoint without permission. A debate ensued during which Patricia Orozco was arrested. She was taken to the police station in León and detained for four hours before being released without charge.
The next day an article about the incident was published in the government online magazine El 19. The article described the Autonomous Women’s Movement, to which Patricia Orozco and one of her two colleagues belong, as "evil" and stated that Patricia Orozco and her colleagues "of uncertain gender" had been returning from a party "where men are not allowed".
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.
Amnesty International visit/reports
Amnesty International delegates visited Nicaragua in July.
The total abortion ban in Nicaragua: Women’s lives and health endangered, medical professionals criminalized (27 July 2009)
The impact of the complete ban of abortion in Nicaragua: Briefing to the United Nations Committee against Torture (29 April 2009)
Nicaragua: Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review (8 September 2009)