• Sheet of paper Report

Annual Report: Nicaragua 2011

June 30, 2011

Head of state and government: Daniel Ortega Saavedra
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 5.8 million
Life expectancy: 73.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 29/22 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 78 per cent

Rape and sexual abuse remained widespread and more than two thirds of reported cases between January and September involved girls under the age of 17. The total ban on all forms of abortion remained in force. The independence of the judiciary was called into question.


A health emergency was announced following flooding in August and September and the subsequent outbreak of Leptospirosis which left scores dead.

A new Ombudswoman on sexual diversity, a post specifically designed to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, was appointed. In May Nicaragua ratified ILO Convention No. 169. However, by the end of the year it had still not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Concern about the independence of the judiciary increased following months of turmoil in the Supreme Court. The crisis started in January when President Ortega issued a decree that effectively ended the tenure of eight of the 16 judges who were allied to the opposition Constitutional Liberal Party, and a Supreme Court ruling that this decree was legal and binding in July. The new Supreme Court ruled in September that limiting the presidential term of office to two non-consecutive terms was not applicable, a ruling widely regarded as paving the way for the current President Daniel Ortega – who was President from 1985 to 1990 – to run for re-election.

Violence against women and girls

Rape and sexual abuse remained pervasive. Statistics from the Police Unit for Women and Children stated that of the rapes reported between January and August, two thirds involved girls under the age of 17. Official efforts to combat sexual violence against women and girls were ineffective. The government failed to put in place any integrated plan of action to eradicate sexual violence, protect survivors or ensure they had access to comprehensive psychosocial support services for their recovery. In October, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child requested that the Nicaraguan authorities take urgent action to eradicate sexual violence against children.

  • In April, 15-year-old Lucía was kidnapped and sexually abused by a neighbour. She was not found until July and there were concerns that delays in finding her were the result of lack of police resources and capacity. Lucía’s kidnapper remained at large after she returned home and she and her guardian reported to the police that they had been intimidated and harassed by him. By the end of the year, nobody had been brought to justice for the kidnapping and sexual abuse, nor had Lucía been given adequate protection.

Sexual and reproductive rights

The total ban on all forms of abortion remained in force. The law allowed for no exceptions and women and girls pregnant as a result of rape or whose life or health was threatened by continued pregnancy were denied the right to seek safe and legal abortion services. All abortion remained a criminal offence and anyone seeking, or assisting someone seeking, an abortion risked prosecution.

In February, Nicaragua’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review and 12 member states recommended that the abortion ban be repealed. In September, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the state to decriminalize abortion. It was the fifth UN expert committee to recommend reforming the laws on the total ban on abortion and end this grave violation of the human rights of women and girls.

In September, on the Latin American and Caribbean day for the decriminalization of abortion, human rights activists, including health professionals, called on President Daniel Ortega to ensure the provision of safe and legal abortion services to women and girls when their life or health is at risk or as an option for survivors of rape who are pregnant.

Despite the urgency of the situation, the Supreme Court of Justice failed to rule on an appeal lodged on the constitutionality of the law banning all abortion, despite having committed itself to do so by May 2009.