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Nicaragua 2022

The human rights crisis persisted. Human rights defenders, journalists and other activists continued to be harassed and criminalized. Those detained in the context of the crisis faced harsh conditions of detention and were not guaranteed fair trials. Indigenous peoples’ rights remained at risk.


In March, the UN Human Rights Council established an independent accountability mechanism for human rights violations and crimes against humanity perpetrated since 2018 in Nicaragua.1 The Council expressed its concern at Nicaragua’s disengagement with international human rights mechanisms.

During the year, the government reduced its diplomatic relations with other international actors. In March, it expelled the Apostolic Nuncio. During April and May, the government withdrew its diplomats from the OAS, demanded that the organization’s staff leave the country and seized its offices in the capital, Managua. In September, the government expelled the EU Ambassador.

The government barred most political parties from participating in the November municipal elections by removing their legal status. Following the November elections, police repressed demonstrations by supporters of the Indigenous political party YATAMA in the North Caribbean Coast region; at least 19 people were arbitrarily detained.

Freedom of expression

The government continued to tighten unlawful restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, hindering social and political movements.

Political activists and those perceived as opponents of government policies faced various forms of harassment. In August, police prevented the Bishop of Matagalpa, who had spoken out against the government’s repressive policies, from going to the cathedral to celebrate mass. In August, the government launched a criminal investigation against the bishop; he was held under house arrest at the end of the year.

Journalists and media outlets continued to face obstacles to their work, while attacks and harassment against them remained unpunished. At least two journalists were sentenced to prison terms in unfair trials. At least 15 radio and television stations were shut down during the year. In August, police raided a Catholic chapel in Sébaco in an operation to seize the equipment of a radio station it had closed down.

The government refused to allow perceived critics, including some with Nicaraguan citizenship, to enter the country. Those affected included artists, human rights defenders, scholars and priests.

In October, UN and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) experts urged the government to refrain from using the law arbitrarily and applying abusive practices to restrict citizens’ participation and freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Repression of dissent

The authorities revoked the legal status of more than 1,000 organizations during the year, continuing the trend of closing down civic spaces that began in 2018, continued with the 2020 Law on Foreign Agents and intensified in 2022 with the General Law on Regulation and Control of Non-Profit Organizations.

Human rights defenders and NGOs continued to be harassed and intimidated. Organizations whose legal status had been revoked since 2018 continued to be unable to work without fear of reprisal and their assets were not returned to them.

Human rights defenders in exile in Costa Rica and other countries in the region could not return to Nicaragua under safe conditions and continued to carry out their work from abroad.

At least 12 universities had been closed by the government by the end of the year; the closures appeared to be in retaliation for the political stances of some of their members of staff and students.


Impunity persisted for past crimes under international law and for human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment.

Detainees’ rights

By the end of the year, 225 people (26 women and 199 men) remained detained in connection with the human rights crisis that began in 2018.

Detainees were held in conditions in breach of international human rights law and standards. NGOs and relatives of detainees raised concerns about prolonged incommunicado detention, denial of healthcare, prohibition of family visits and other violations of the rights of people deprived of their liberty. Women faced gender-specific violations, including sexual insults, prolonged solitary confinement and additional restrictions on visits with their young children. Some detainees were held at police facilities instead of in formal detention centres.

In February, Hugo Torres Jiménez, a prominent opposition politician detained in 2021, died in state custody. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed her concern over this case and the health of others who were, or had been, detained in the Evaristo Vásquez police compound in Managua city.

Unfair trials

Fair trial guarantees were constantly infringed by investigating and prosecutorial authorities.

In February, the Attorney General’s Office announced the start of the trials of detained dissidents and government critics. The authorities failed to guarantee the rights of the accused to meet their lawyers with enough time and privacy to prepare their defence. Lawyers were not able to review court files in advance of hearings.

At least 50 people detained in the context of the political unrest that started in 2018 were tried during the year. Many were convicted and sentenced to up to 13 years’ imprisonment for political and corruption-related offences. Some cases were tried at a penitentiary instead of a normal court. Observers continued to be barred from proceedings, which were held behind closed doors.

Indigenous peoples’ rights

Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants continued to face discrimination and obstacles to exercising their rights.

In February, the IACHR granted an extension of precautionary measures to safeguard the life and integrity of members of the Musawas, Wilú and Suniwas communities of the Mayangna Indigenous people. They were at risk due to ongoing difficulties in the process of regularizing ownership of their territories.

In April, at least 25 Miskito families were forcibly displaced from their settlements in the hamlet of Sang Sang in the Caribbean Coast region because of threats from armed individuals, in the context of land dispossession.

In August, the CERD Committee expressed concern over violence against Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant communities and called on the authorities to protect their rights.

  1. “Nicaragua: UN accountability mechanism is a crucial step towards justice”, 31 March