Overall, Nicaragua has demonstrated a consistent disregard for, if not outright rejection of, the inter-American system dedicated to human rights and democracy. In our most recent reporting period, Nicaragua voted against every resolution brought before the OAS raising concerns over the deterioration of democracy in Venezuela, and aggressively attempted to disrupt one of the discussions at the OAS Permanent Council. Nicaragua under President Daniel Ortega has also refused OAS election observation and refused to cooperate with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), failing to send a representative when the body hears cases related to Nicaragua and not contributing financially to the IACHR’s operation.  

Below is a breakdown of Nicaragua’s actions and votes at the various venues we are monitoring. For more information, click on each title and summary.


Freedom House   
Freedom Status  Not Free
Aggregate Score (100 is perfect freedom and protection of rights) 31
Political Rights (scores out of 40, with 40 being the best)  35
Civil Liberties (scores out of 60, with 60 being the best)  50
Reporters Without Borders   
World Press Freedom Index (scores out of 100, with 1 being the best) 35.53
Transparency International  
Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 22/100
 Global Rank 159/180
World Justice Project  [1]  
Rule-of-Law Index  0.39
 Regional rank  28/30
 Global rank 118/128
UN Human Development Index  
 Human Development Index 0.660
 Global rank 128
Americas Quarterly (last report 2016) [2]  
 Social Inclusion Index 64.75/100
Regional rank  13/15

United Nations System:

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC or Council)

Nicaragua was most recently on the Council from 2007-2010. Although Nicaragua’s tenure on the Council preceded the emergence of the situations in Syria and Ukraine, it was able to vote on some resolutions regarding North Korea. Although Nicaragua began by voting against resolutions related to the promotion of human rights, towards the end of its term it abstained from voting altogether.[expandableHeadline]Read more[/expandableHeadline][expandableContent]

UNHRC resolutions on the conflict in North Korea:

 Resolution 7/15 Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Against
 Resolution 10/16  Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Abstained
 Resolution 13/14  Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Abstained


UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review

As part of its mandate to promote human rights around the globe, the UNHRC has instituted a Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where, once every four years, each country’s human rights record is examined. Other countries are invited to review the record and make comments and suggestions for improvement. The country under review then acknowledges each comment by either “accepting” the comment, meaning typically that they agree to focus on, or “noting” it, indicating that they disagree and will not be focusing on improvements in this area.

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As recipient: Nicaragua received 223 recommendations. Accepted 161, noted 62. (Only selected topics listed below)

Area Received Accepted Noted
Civil society  1  1  –
Elections  2  2  –
Enforced disappearances  5  –  5
Extrajudicial executions  –  –  –
Freedom of association and peaceful assembly  6  6  –
Freedom of opinion and expression  15 12  3
Freedom of religion and belief  1  1  –
Freedom of press  14  13  1
Human rights defenders  7  7  –
Human rights violations by state agents  4  2  2
Impunity  2  2  –
Indigenous peoples  15  15  –
Internally displaced persons  –  –  –
International instruments  42  4  38
Justice  31  12  19
Migrants  2  2  –
Minorities  5  5  –
Racial discrimination  2  2  –
Sexual orientation and gender identity  2  2  –
Torture and CID treatment  3  3  –
Women’s rights  66  35  31
Total 147 86 61

Note: some comments are classified under multiple categories.

As commenter: Nicaragua is an active participant in the UPR process, with 240 comments made so far in the second cycle (for data available). Only 22.5% of Nicaragua’s comments were directed toward other Latin American countries, but the country consistently directed two or three comments to most countries around the globe. Andorra, Cuba, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Israel, the U.K., and the U.S. were exceptions, all receiving four comments from Nicaragua.

The main topics of comments included: international instruments (64 comments), women’s rights (57), rights of child (37) and labor (19).

Note: This data is for the 2nd cycle of the UPR. However, the final round of countries were reviewed in November/December 2016, and that data is not yet available to include in our analysis here.[/expandableContent]

UN NGO Committee

Nicaragua was on the Committee in 1993.

Inter-American System:

OAS Permanent Council

Under the new leadership of Secretary General Luis Almagro, the OAS has re-found its focus on promoting democracy around the region. This was shown most clearly in a meeting in June 2016 where Almagro presented his report on the state of democracy in Venezuela and proposed invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

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In June 2016, Secretary General Luis Almagro presented his report laying out the evidence on how and why it was necessary to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter in Venezuela. Nicaragua, a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or ALBA) bloc, voted against the procedural issue of the agenda, opposing allowing Almagro to present his report at all. However, the vote succeeded, allowing Almagro to present his findings.

During the 2017 OAS General Assembly, Nicaragua voted against a resolution that urged the Maduro regime not to convene a constituent assembly that would rewrite the Venezuelan constitution.


Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR or Commission)

Nicaragua has failed to attend IACHR hearing related to its cases and does not contribute financially to the inter-American system of human rights.

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Hearing Issue  Score
175th Miskitu Indigenous Community of Tasbapounie; Afro-descendant Community of Monkey Point; Rama Indigenous People, Black Creole Community of Bluefields, Nicaragua
174th Amnesty Law in Nicaragua and Challenges to the autonomy and independence of the judicial system in Nicaragua
173rd Implementation of Protective Precautionary Measures in Favor of Independent Journalists in Nicaragua and Persecution, Repression, Criminalization and Judicialization of the Peasant and Forcibly Displaced Population of Nicaragua
172nd  Situation of the indigenous and afrodescendant peoples of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua
171st Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua and Human Rights Situation of Women Deprived of Liberty in Nicaragua
170th Repression and violations of human rights in Nicaragua
169th Reports on Repression and Violence in the Context of Protests in Nicaragua and Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Nicaragua: Allegations Reports of Arbitrary Detention and Lack of Access to Justice
168th Reports of Human Rights Violations and Criminalization of Defenders in the Context of Extractive Industries in Nicaragua
164th Situation of Women’s Human Rights Defenders in Nicaragua  0/3
161st Situation of the Right to Freedom of Expression in Nicaragua  0/3
159th Situation of Political Rights in Nicaragua  0/3
159th Human rights situation of women, children, and adolescents in Nicaragua  0/3
159th Human rights situation of migrants in Nicaragua  0/3
157th/158th General Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua  0/3
157th/158th Human Rights and Citizen Security in Nicaragua  0/3

Voluntary financial contributions to IACHR (as of Sept. 16, 2016) 

Year Contributions by Nicaragua Percentage of Total
Contributions to IACHR


Electoral Missions

Nicaragua has had 14 OAS missions to monitor their elections. The latest mission was in 2017 when the OAS monitored the municipal elections. The OAS has also monitored missions in 2012, 2011, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1990, 1972, and 1963. For the most recent elections, though, Nicaragua has refused to invite the OAS.

Freedom of Information Laws

Since 2000 the right to information and freedom of information laws have expanded across the region. However, the existence of the laws on the books does not necessarily mean full enforcement.

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Signatory/Participant in MESICIC* Yes
Constitutional protection* Yes
Specific law enacted* Yes- enacted in 2007
Is there a presumption of right* Yes
Scope/Exceptions/Overrides* all information can be accesses, no exceptions to the law; no requirements or forms needed to ask for information
Received information under FOIA law?** 63%
Received information within a week?** 50%
Received the appropriate information?** 67%

*Data taken from the Global Right to Information ratings, provided by the Center for Law and Democracy. 
**Information from the 2015 World Justice Project Open Government Index


Women’s Rights:

Protecting women against gender-based violence is a human rights issue often overlooked globally even though it crosses social, economic and national boundaries. And according to the United Nations Population Fund, gender-based violence undermines the health, security, dignity, and autonomy of its victims. Although 16 countries in Latin America had modified their laws to include a specific type of crime referring to the murder of women by 2015, they are not uniformly implemented, and practices to convict perpetrators of gender-based violence are still extremely weak. A 2016 report published by the Small Arms Survey found that Latin America and the Caribbean is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world.

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The female homicide rate in Nicaragua is 2.1 per 100,000 women, according to the most recent available World Bank statistics . In February 2012, the Comprehensive Law against Women was approved, which recognized femicide and improved care for victims of violence. However, in July 2014, President Daniel Ortega issued a decree that weakened the law; now, a crime is considered femicide only when it occurs within the framework of interpersonal relationships. The law originally included penalties, such as prison sentences ranging from 15 to 25 years. With President Ortega’s reform of the law, these penalties were decreased.


Indigenous rights:

7.8 percent of the population in Latin America, roughly 41,813,039 people, identify as indigenous, 49 percent of them live in urban areas and 51 percent live in rural areas.

The International Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO 169)

The International Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO169)—which has the status of an international treaty—establishes the right of indigenous and tribal peoples to be consulted when a policy or project affects their culture or heritage through what is commonly called “previous and informed consent.” The vaguely worded treaty has been a point of contention in some countries, among governments, investors and communities; and progress in implementing it has been uneven. The Convention has been interpreted, in particular, as applying to issues of national resource extraction and infrastructure development that affect communal lands. In Latin America, 16 countries have signed ILO 169.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP)

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, all Latin American countries, except Colombia, which abstained, voted in favor of this declaration. The only four countries to initially reject this declaration were the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While it is not a legally binding instrument, it is an “important standard” for the treatment of indigenous people. The declaration sets out the collective and individual rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, and other issues. It prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development. The end goal is to encourage countries to work alongside indigenous communities to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralization.

American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

In 2016, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after a long negotiation of 17 years. The declaration recognizes the collective organization and multicultural character of indigenous peoples, the self-identification of people who consider themselves indigenous and special protection for peoples in voluntary isolation or initial contact. However, the declaration was met with resistance by members of the indigenous community, who complained that they did not have full participation in the negotiations and that the declaration rolled back several rights recognized in UNDRIP. The declaration does not mention the right to previous and informed consultation.

Previous to the declaration, in 1990, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had created the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to devote attention to Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and to “strengthen, promote, and systemize the IACHR’s own work in this area. The current Rapporteur on the Right of Indigenous Peoples is Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, Ambassador of Peru to Spain from 2012 to 2014 and Minister of the Office of Justice. He received a law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru with a master’s degree in Constitutional Law and a PhD in Humanities. Former Rapporteurs include, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine a former IACHR Commissioner and Dinah Shelton an international law consultant for the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme among other organizations.

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According to data from 2005, 349,333 people, or six percent of the total population of Nicaragua, are indigenous. Thirty eight percent were living in urban areas.

Nicaragua voted in favor of UNDRIP, the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and signed ILO 169.


[1]WJP Rule-of-Law Index measures 4 principles: 1) The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law; 2) The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights; 3) The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient; 4) Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
[2] AQ Social Inclusion Index uses 23 different factors to measure how effectively governments are serving their citizens, regardless of race or income, and is published annually by Americas Quarterly at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
[3] Hearings were scored by Global Americans on a scale of 0 to 3 to evaluate government participation. 0 indicates that the government did not send any representatives to participate. If representatives were present, they were scored from 1 to 3 based on how engaged the representatives were, 1 indicating that they objected to the hearing, to the jurisdiction of the Commission to review the topic or dismissed there being any issue to discuss. A score of 3 indicates full participation of the government, including acknowledgment of the issue and its importance, the jurisdiction of the Commission to review and engagement on how this issue will be addressed going forward.
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