Amnesty International takes no position on issues of sovereignty or territorial disputes. Borders on this map are based on UN Geospatial data.
Back to Nicaragua

Nicaragua 2023

The ongoing political crisis was marked by severe human rights violations, including the stripping of Nicaraguan nationality from political opponents, and arbitrary arrests and detentions of human rights defenders, religious leaders and Indigenous leaders. Violations of religious freedom targeted the Catholic Church and the closure of NGOs continued. Impunity for crimes against humanity prevailed. The persecution of Indigenous Peoples continued with deadly attacks by armed groups.


Since the beginning of the political crisis in 2018, there had been a violent and repressive state crackdown on dissent. This brutal suppression had resulted in at least 355 documented deaths, more than 2,000 injuries, a wave of arbitrary detentions and unjustified dismissals, and the arbitrary expulsion and deprivation of nationality of more than 300 people.

Arbitrary deprivation of nationality

On 9 February, the government unexpectedly released and expelled more than 200 political opponents who had been arbitrarily detained between 2018 and 2021. The charges against most of these individuals included treason and terrorism-related offences in judicial processes that lacked fair trial guarantees.

The National Assembly (Nicaragua’s legislative body) approved a change to the constitution, stating that individuals convicted of political crimes would lose their Nicaraguan nationality. This policy was arbitrarily applied to strip Nicaraguan nationality from all those expelled in February, as well as from others who were already in exile, including political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders, and members of the Catholic Church.

In response to this, third countries offered citizenship to those who had been made stateless. Nevertheless, many of the exiled Nicaraguans faced severe obstacles such as language barriers and discrimination, which obstructed their integration and access to human rights including education, work and health. The UN-mandated Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) urged host countries to provide support, including language education and vocational training, and to combat discrimination, to facilitate the effective integration of these Nicaraguans into their new societies.

At the same time, the government began the process of confiscating assets from these individuals, without due process, leaving many in a state of economic vulnerability. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), labelled the deprivation of nationality and asset seizure as “serious human rights violations” and demanded that the government allow the safe and voluntary return of these individuals to the country while halting these practices and restoring the rights of those affected.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights reaffirmed provisional measures for activists stripped of their nationality, including human rights defenders Guillermo Gonzalo Carrión Maradiaga and Vilma Núñez de Escorcia. The court demanded that the state annul the criminal proceedings against them and refrain from detaining them.

Freedom of association

The IACHR identified the situation in Nicaragua as one of the most severe examples of closure of civic space in the region, citing the mass cancellation of legal status and forced dissolution of civil society organizations.

Between August 2022 and September 2023, Nicaragua revoked the legal status of more than 2,000 NGOs, meaning they could no longer function in the country. This brought the total to 3,394 since 2018.

During the year, the authorities closed the Central American University, accusing it of being a “terrorism centre”, and confiscated properties belonging to organizations including the Red Cross and the Central American Institute of Business Administration.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The UN reported violations of religious freedom, with the Catholic Church targeted by sanctions, harassment, and arbitrary detentions of clergy and laypeople.

At least 119 individuals continued to be arbitrarily detained after unfair trials, including Rolando Álvarez, the Catholic bishop of Matagalpa, who was sentenced to 26 years in prison for conspiracy and spreading false news. Three students were arrested in August on similar charges following the closure of the Central American University. In December, OHCHR, the UN human rights office, condemned the forced disappearance of Bishop Isidoro Mora and the wave of detentions of religious leaders, including Monsignor Carlos Avilés.


In March, GHREN concluded that it had reasonable grounds to believe that authorities at the highest levels, including President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, had since April 2018 been involved in human rights violations and acts that constituted crimes against humanity. GHREN also recommended to the international community that human rights violations in Nicaragua be investigated and civil society supported.

The OHCHR, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the EU called on President Ortega’s government to investigate human rights violations and ensure justice. By the end of the year, however, no investigations had been undertaken and the crimes remained unpunished. Furthermore, the government had continued with its repressive tactics, making the defence of human rights from within the country almost impossible.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

Indigenous Peoples continued to face severe human rights violations, despite international condemnation. Arbitrary detentions and unfair trials of Indigenous leaders were reported, along with deadly attacks by armed groups. Despite deaths and injuries in communities including the Wilú, Musawas and Sabakitang, impunity prevailed, with the government failing to investigate and redress the abuses. Repressive legislation worsened the situation, such as the removal of legal status for Indigenous organizations, and the ban on public demonstrations included in the law against money laundering, financing of terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which had been in effect since July 2018.