Nicaraguan FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Nicaragua

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 16 April 2019


Nicaraguan civil society organizations (CSOs) have formed in waves since the late 1960s in response to a socio-political context that has evolved from a waning dictatorship to revolutionary and post-revolutionary governments and, most recently, to a populist government headed by the former revolutionary leader. Due to these politicized origins, the sector has traditionally been highly polarized. Despite weak collaboration among CSOs, the sector is highly visible. Through a number of CSO networks and inter-sectoral alliances, Nicaraguan CSOs have led massive protest marches as well as international advocacy campaigns. CSOs rely heavily on international financial assistance to fund activities that run the gamut from charity to self-help to advocacy. 

Working relationships between CSOs and state entities have been disappearing or are prevented from functioning by the state’s political decisions. CSOs’ activities require good relations with the state, particularly at the local level, although they frequently encounter obstacles. Nicaraguan law recognizes the freedoms of assembly and association, but in practice respect for these rights has been problematic. For example, although CSOs are active, they have faced harassment and occasional violence in recent years.

The legal framework that regulates CSOs in Nicaragua is rooted in Article 49 of the Constitution, which establishes the right to organize based on the free and participatory will of those who organize “…in order to ensure the realization of their aspirations, pursuant to their own interests, and to participate in the construction of a new society.”  Several laws govern CSOs:

  • Law No. 147: General Law of Non-profit Legal Entities (1992), which addresses “…the constitution, authorization, functioning and termination of the civil and religious non-profit legal entities that exist in the country.”
  • Law No. 849: General Law of Cameras, Federations and Business Confederations of Nicaragua, which regulates “constitution, authorization, regulation, operation, dissolution, liquidation and cancellation of the legal status of national business associations, ... as well as federations, confederations, binational and mixed chambers.
  • Law No. 858: Law of Reforms and Additions to Law No. 522, General Law of Sport, Physical Education and Physical Recreation, which regulates the constitution, obtaining of legal personality, registration, and cancellation of national sports, physical education, and physical recreation federations and its member associations.
  • The Civil Code (1904) contains additional legal provisions for so-called “simple civil or commercial associations, pursuant to the purposes of each institute.”

The implementation and enforcement of Law No. 147 is characterized by broad discretion, as the law has many gaps and contradictions. Its provisions do not clearly regulate the procedures and requirements that not-for-profit entities must follow for their constitution, authorization, functioning, and termination.  Nor are there any implementing regulations to clarify procedures. In addition to these specific laws, as legal entities CSOs must comply with other Nicaraguan laws, including labor, social security, fiscal, and municipal laws.
The election of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in 2006 began a period of democratic deterioration that continues today, affecting political rights and civil liberties and seeing government efforts to silence journalists and academics with opposing views. The government has systematically attacked CSOs and enacted legal and quasi-legal strategies to hinder the work of independent civil society.

February 2014 amendments to the Constitution eliminated presidential term limits and allow Ortega to run for election indefinitely, paving the way for him to win a third consecutive term in November 2016. There are concerns that these amendments, which refer to Nicaragua as a state based on "socialist ideals and solidarity practices," signal the coming of more restrictions on democratic processes and civil society. The national security forces have been co-opted to create a surveillance and social control system that suppresses any expression of dissent, as exemplified by the November 2015 Sovereign Security Law, which includes provisions that can be used to clamp down on civil society and restrict the media.

More recently, on April 18, 2018, the state and its parastatal forces violently repressed a peaceful protest, resulting in human rights violations. In the ensuing months, the socio-political crisis in the country has led to an unprecedented human rights crisis. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a preliminary report after its visit to the country on May 17-21, 2018, which included the following recommendations:

1.    Cease immediately the repression of the demonstrators and the arbitrary detention of those who participate in the protests.
2.    Respect and guarantee the full enjoyment of the right to protest, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and political participation of the population.
3.    Create an international investigation mechanism on the acts of violence that occurred, with guarantees of autonomy and independence to ensure the right to the truth and to properly identify those responsible.
4.    Guarantee the life, integrity and security of all the people who are demonstrating and exercising their rights and public liberties and suffering the consequences of the environment of repression, especially students, children and adolescents.
5.    Offer effective guarantees to protect the people who gave testimony to the IACHR or who in some way participated in its activities in the country; and refrain from taking or allowing retaliation against them.

Pressure from the international community has continued to mount. In November 2018, for example, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued an Executive Order that demonstrated it "is committed to holding the Ortega regime accountable for the violent protests and widespread corruption that have led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent Nicaraguans and destroyed their economy." In addition, the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018 directs the U.S. President to instruct U.S. executive directors of international financial institutions to use U.S. influence to oppose any loan for the Government of Nicaragua's benefit unless the Department of State certifies that Nicaragua is taking effective steps to:

  • hold free elections overseen by credible domestic and international electoral observers;
  • promote democracy and an independent judicial system and electoral council;
  • strengthen the rule of law;
  • respect the right to freedom of association and expression;
  • combat corruption, including investigating and prosecuting corrupt government officials; and
  • protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists to operate without interference.

The Act, however, would not affect basic human needs or democracy promotion. Nevertheless, it further requires the U.S. President to direct the U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States to use U.S. influence to advocate for an Electoral Observation Mission to be sent to Nicaragua in 2017 and obligates the State Department to report on the involvement of senior Nicaraguan government officials in acts of public corruption or human rights violations.

The European Parliament also approved a resolution on the situation in Nicaragua that:

  • Underlines that Nicaragua is suffering from a serious breach of democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law as a result of the events that took place in April and May 2018;
  • Reiterates the importance of its resolution adopted on May 31, 2018; and
  • Condemns all repressive actions of the Nicaraguan Government.

Chapter IV of the IACHR Annual Report 2018, released on March 21, 2019, includes a section for Nicaragua that recommends declaring null and void all measures obstructing the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. It also includes specific recommendations on freedom of expression and human rights defenders and incorporates the report of the IACHR on "Grave violations of human rights in the context of social protests in Nicaragua."

Lastly, on March 19, 2019 the UN Human Rights Council issued a resolution expressing concern over the increasing restrictions on civic space and expressions of dissent in Nicaragua, including the closure of independent media outlets and the cancellation of legal registration and seizure of assets and goods of a number of CSOs, particularly human rights organizations.

Please see the "News Items" section below in this report for more details.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Non-Profit Legal Persons (Associations, foundations, and federations and confederations (civil or religious))
Registration Body
  • Department of Registry and Control of Associations under the Ministry of Governance
  • Registry of Chambers, Federations and Confederations of Enterprises, as a dependency of the Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade MIFIC for its acronym in Spanish
  • Unified National Register of Sports, Physical Education and Physical Recreation Institutions, of the Nicaraguan Institute of Sports IND for its acronym in Spanish
Approximate Number 6,150
Barriers to Entry Excessive government discretion
Barriers to Activities Excessive government discretion
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy Lack of enforcement of constitutional protections
Barriers to International Contact None
Barriers to Resources None
Barriers to Assembly Counter-demonstrations in the same place and spontaneous assemblies of 20 or more people without prior notification are not permitted.

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Key Indicators

Population 6,025,951 (July 2017 est.)
Capital Managua
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth

Total population: 73.5 years
Male: 71.3 years
Female: 75.8 years (2017 est.)

Literacy Rate Total: 82.8%
Male: 82.4%
Female: 83.2% (2015 est.)
Religious Groups Roman Catholic 51.6%, Evangelical 33.9%, other 1.5%, unspecified 12.9%, none 0.2% (2016 est.)
Ethnic Groups Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5% (2005 census)
GDP Per Capita $5,500 (2016 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best - worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 124 (2018) 1 – 186
World Bank Rule of Law Index 29 (2018) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 27 (2018) 100 – 0
Transparency International 152 (2018) 1 176
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 5
Civil Liberties: (2018)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Failed States Index 76 (2018) 178 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1980
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 1980
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2007
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1980
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1981
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1978
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 2005
Key Regional Agreements Ratification* Year
Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights "Protocol of San Salvador Yes 2010
American Convention on Human Rights Yes 1979

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

On February 18, 2014, the text of the Political Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua (the "Constitution") with Incorporated Reforms was published in La Gaceta (official journal). This text included new amendments to the Constitution, which were promulgated in 1987 by the Sandinista regime and amended in 1995 through a negotiation between the executive and legislative branches. Among other issues, the new amendments eliminate presidential term limits, thereby allowing current President Daniel Ortega to run for re-election indefinitely. Other new amendments to the Constitution affect the freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly:
• Article 2 defines the mechanisms of direct democracy, including participatory budgeting, popular initiatives, regional councils, sectoral Councils, and other procedures established by law.
• Article 5 recognizes political pluralism within a unitary and indivisible state, Christian values, socialist ideals, and solidarity practices as principles of the Nicaraguan state.
• Article 7 defines Nicaragua as a republic of direct, participatory, and representative democracy.
 Article 50 enshrines the right to full and active participation of the individual, family, and community in the formulation, implementation, evaluation, control, and monitoring of public and social policies and services.
• Article 92 strengthens the role of the Army in the defense and national security.
Other relevant Constitutional provisions affecting freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly were not altered by the new amendments to Constitution: 
Freedom of Expression. Art. 30.- Nicaraguans have the right to express their thoughts freely in public or private, individually or collectively, in oral, written or any other form.
Effective Participation. Art. 48.- Paragraph 2: The State must eliminate any obstacles that impede in effect the equality among Nicaraguans and their effective participation in the political, economic and social life of the country.
Association. Art. 49.- In Nicaragua, urban and rural workers, women, youth, agricultural producers, artisans, professionals, technicians, intellectuals, artists, members of religious orders, communities of the Atlantic coast and citizens in general, with no discrimination whatsoever, have the right to constitute organizations in order to ensure the realization of their aspirations, pursuant to their own interests, and to participate in the construction of a new society.  These organizations shall be formed according to the participatory and elective will of the citizens; they shall have a social function; and they may or may not have a partisan character, according to their nature and purposes.
Participation in Public Affairs and State Management. Art. 50.- Citizens have the right to participate, under equal conditions, in public affairs and in state management. By law, the people’s effective participation, nationally and locally, shall be guaranteed.
Demands, Complaints and Criticisms. Art. 52.- Citizens have the right to make demands, denounce anomalies and make constructive criticisms, individually or collectively, before the powers of the state or any authority; to receive timely resolutions or responses; and to be informed of that result within the terms established by law.
Meeting (Assembly). Art. 53.- The right to meet peacefully is recognized.  The exercise of this right does not require prior permission.
Concentration (Assembly). Art. 54.- The right of public concentration, demonstration and mobilization is recognized, pursuant to the law.
Information. Art. 66.- Nicaraguans have the right to truthful information.  This right includes the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas, whether orally, in writing, graphically or by any other means of their choice.
Access to Communications Media. Art. 68.- Paragraph 2: Nicaraguans have the right of access to social communications media, as well as the right to clarification when affected in their rights and guarantees.
Legal Standing. Art. 138.- The following are powers of the National Assembly:
5) To grant and cancel the legal standing of civil associations.
Rights and Guarantees Not Susceptible to Suspension. Art. 150.- The following are powers of the President of the Republic:
9) Enact and enforce the suspension of rights and guarantees as provided by this Constitution, and send the corresponding decree to the National Assembly within no later than seventy-two hours for approval, modification or rejection.
In addition, Article 186 provides, among other things, that the President of the Republic cannot suspend the legal status of individuals or associations, or their participation in public affairs and state management.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

A number of national-level laws and regulations affect civil society:

1) General Law on Non-profit Legal Entities. Law No. 147. La Gaceta #102, 29 May 1992 (Article 1 of Law No. 147 was modified by Law No. 858).

There is an amendment to Article 1 in this Law, which states:

El objeto de la presente Ley es regular la constitución, autorización, funcionamiento y extinción de las personas jurídicas civiles y religiosas que sin fines de lucro existan en el país y de las que en el futuro se organicen.

La constitución, obtención de la personalidad jurídica, funcionamiento y la cancelación de las asociaciones, federaciones y confederaciones dedicadas al deporte, la educación física y la recreación física, se regirán por lo dispuesto en la Ley No. 522, “Ley General de Deporte, Educación Física y Recreación Física” y su Reglamento.

According to an unofficial translation, this states that:

The purpose of this law is to regulate the constitution, authorization, operation and extinction of civil and religious legal entities that exist for not-for-profit purposes in the country and those that will be organized in the future.

The constitution, obtaining legal personality, operation and cancellation of associations, federations and confederations dedicated to sport, physical education and physical recreation, will be governed by the provisions of Law No. 522, "General Sports Law, Physical Education and Physical Recreation" and its Regulations.

2) General Law of Chambers, Federations, Confederations and Business Associations (February 25, 2014), whose purpose is "to regulate the establishment, licensing, regulation, operation, dissolution, liquidation and cancellation of national chambers of different economic activities ... as well as federations, confederations, and joint binational chambers organized under this law."

There is an amendment to Article 39 in this Law, which states:

Todas las entidades empresariales, de naturaleza gremial que tienen personalidad jurídica otorgada conforme la legislación vigente al momento de su otorgamiento y que están inscritas en el Departamento de Registro y Control de Asociaciones del Ministerio de Gobernación como asociaciones sin fines de lucro, deberán inscribirse en el Registro de Cámaras, Federaciones y Confederaciones Empresariales del MIFIC a más tardar el dieciocho de febrero del dos mil quince, debiendo de modificar sus estatutos, cuando sea necesario, de conformidad a lo dispuesto en esta Ley.

Por ministerio de la presente Ley, las entidades empresariales consignadas en el párrafo anterior y que no ostenten en su denominación los vocablos de cámara, federación o confederación podrán conservar y continuar usando sus nombres originales, sin detrimento o perjuicio legal alguno, siempre y cuando respeten la estructura funcional y organizacional establecida en la presente ley. Dichas entidades podrán registrar sus nombres originales en el Registro del MIFIC para salvaguardar sus derechos.

Solamente podrán usar los términos “Cámara de Comercio”, “Cámara de Industria”, sus similares o sus combinaciones, las entidades a que se refiere la presente ley.

According to an unofficial translation, this states that:

All business entities of a union nature that have legal personality granted in accordance with the legislation in force at the time of their organization and that are registered in the Department of Registration and Control of Associations of the Ministry of the Interior as not-for-profit associations, must register in the Register of Chambers, Federations and Business Confederations of MIFIC no later than February eighteenth of two thousand and fifteen, having to modify its statutes, when necessary, in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

By virtue of the present law, the business entities consigned in the previous paragraph and that do not have in their denomination the words of chamber, federation or confederation may keep and continue to use their original names, without detriment or any legal harm, as long as they respect the functional and organizational structure established in this law. These entities may register their original names in the MIFIC Registry to safeguard their rights.

Only the terms "Chamber of Commerce", "Chamber of Industry", their like or their combinations, and the entities referred to in this law may be used.

3) General Law of Sports, Physical Education and Physical Recreation, whose purpose is to "facilitate the process of establishment and operation of the various sports bodies, physical education and physical recreation entities, that are constituted as non-profits, regardless of their name and specialty, and through a more streamlined process to obtain their legal personalities."

4) Civil Code of the Republic of Nicaragua.  

5) Law of Citizen Participation. Law No. 475. La Gaceta #241, 19 December 2003; and its Regulations, La Gaceta #32, 16 February 2004. 

6) Labor Code. Law No. 185. La Gaceta #205, 30 October 1996.  

7) Law on Tax Coalition, No. 822, La Gaceta #241, December 17, 2012 and its Regulations, Decree No. 01-2013, La Gaceta #12, January 22, 2013.  

8) Tax Code of the Republic of Nicaragua, Law No. 562, La Gaceta #227, 23 November 2005, and its reform, Law No. 598, La Gaceta #177, 11 September 2006

9) Social Security Law (Decree No. 974) and its Regulations (Decree No. 975). La Gaceta #49, March 1, 1982. Reforms and additions to Regulations (Decree No. 25-2005). La Gaceta #82, April 28, 2005.

10) Tax Rates Plan of the Municipality of Managua and its reforms (Decree No. 10-91, La Gaceta # 30, 12 February 1991. Page 144). 

11) Municipal Tax Rates Plan and its reforms (Decree No. 455). La Gaceta #144, 31 July 1989. Page 130. 

12) Property Tax Legislation (Decree No. 3-95). La Gaceta #21, 31 January 1995.  

13) Law of the Financial Analysis Unit (Law No. 976), La Gaceta #138, July 28, 2018, and its Regulations (Decree No. 14-2018). La Gaceta #190, October 3, 2018.

14) Law against Money Laundering, Financing of Terrorism and Financing to the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Law No. 977), La Gaceta #138, July 28, 2018, and its Regulations (Decree No. 14-2018). La Gaceta #190, October 3, 2018.

15) Sovereign Security Law, La Gaceta No. 41, December 18, 2015.

16) Special Law No. 722 on Potable Water and Sanitation Committees and its regulations in Decree No. 50-2010.

17) General Law No. 499 of Cooperatives and its regulations inDecree 91-2007

18) Decree No. 55-97 on Regulations of Trade Union Associations and its reform in Decree No. 93-2004.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

If you are aware of other pending initiatives, write to ICNL at

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

Civil society can be formally organized, as described below, or it can be more informal, such as social movements.

According to the provisions of Law No. 147, four types of civil or religious not-for-profit legal persons can be established: associations, foundations, federations, and confederations. The law is very general and lacks detail, however. As a general requirement, it states that a non-profit entity is established with a constitutive act, a notarial document, and at least 5 people with the capability to be legally bound by it. Articles 3, 4, and 5 of the law give additional details on three of the types of non-profit entities:

a) Foundations are not linked to the existence of members, and their founders can be natural or legal persons. A foundation must be created to promote the public good, have a system for regulating how its assets are managed, and have an objective of serving a public purpose.
b) Federations are composed of two or more associations with similar objectives and have their own legal personality.
c) Confederations are composed of two or more federations and with similar objectives, and they also have their own legal personality.

Article 8 of Law No. 147 details the requirements for the founding document of not-for-profit entities. The constitutive act must define the entity’s aims or purpose. Only in the case of foundations does the purpose have to serve the public good.

Establishing a not-for-profit entity requires a three-step process:

  1. The organization must provide all documents required by Law No. 147 (a constitutive act, a notarial document, and proof of 5 founders able to be legally bound) to the National Assembly.
  2. The National Assembly grants legal status to the entity, under its Constitutional power to "grant and cancel the legal status to civil associations" (Art. 138.5 Cn.).
  3. The entity registers with the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Registry and Control of Associations (Departamento de Registro y Control de Asociaciones), which is tasked with the implementation of Law No. 147.

In 2014, two groups of organizations were removed from the scope of Law No. 147: 1) Chambers, federations, confederations, and business associations, which are licensed and regulated by the Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade (MIFIC); and 2) Associations, federations and confederations of sports, physical education and physical recreation, which are authorized and regulated by the National Council of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation Physics (CONADERFI), and attached to the Nicaraguan Institute of Sports. The first group was removed when the General Law of Chambers, Federations, Confederations and Business Associations (Law No. 849) came into effect on December 18, 2013 with the mandate "to regulate the establishment, licensing, regulation, operation, dissolution, liquidation and cancellation of national chambers of different economic activities ... as well as federations, confederations, and joint binational chambers organized under this law." The second group was removed on April 8, 2014, when Law No. 858, which amended the General Law of Sport, Physical Education and Physical Recreation (Law No. 522), came into force with the purpose to "facilitate the process of establishment and operation of the various sports bodies, physical education and physical recreation entities, that are constituted as not-for-profit, regardless of their name and specialty, and through a more streamlined process to obtain their legal personalities." Law No. 858 amended Article 1 of Law No. 147 by adding a paragraph that references Law No. 522 as regulating "the constitution, acquisition of legal personality, performance and termination of associations, federations and confederations dedicated to sport, physical education and physical recreation."

In addition, several other Nicaraguan laws provide for additional organizational forms. For example, there are Potable Water and Sanitation Committees (CAPS) under Law No. 722 on Potable Water and Sanitation Committees, which was approved in June 2010. It is regulated by Decree No. 50-2010, which aims to "establish the provisions for the organization, constitution, legalization and operation of the Potable Water and Sanitation Committees" (CAPS). This law defines the legal framework of the CAPS and their operation, attributing to them the characteristics of not-for-profit legal entities.

There are also Cooperatives, which are governed by Law No. 499 on Cooperatives, which was approved in September 2004. It "establishes the set of legal norms that regulate the promotion, constitution, authorization, operation, integration, dissolution and liquidation of cooperatives as persons of cooperative law and common interest and their interrelations within that sector of the national economy."

Law No. 645 on Promotion, Development and Development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (LEYMIPYME) designated the Ministry of Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy (MEFCCA) as the only entity primarily responsible for "Formulating, coordinating and executing policies, plans, programs and projects for the strengthening of the family, community, cooperative, associative economy and other forms of organization of the family economy."

Lastly, there are Trade Union Associations, which are regulated by the legal framework of Title IX of Law No. 185, the Labor Code. Article 203 states, "The establishment of unions does not need prior authorization. For the purposes of obtaining their legal status, unions must register in the Registry Book of Trade Union Associations of the Ministry of Labor.” Trade Union Associations are also regulated by Decree No. 55-97 on Regulations of Trade Union Associations, which was approved in September 1997.

Pursuant to the Civil Code, there may also be organizations that lack legal status but are considered simple civil or commercial associations depending on their aims or purposes. Governed by the provisions of the Civil Code, these civil organizations must be legally constituted, establish bylaws, and be registered in the Commercial Registry. Such organizations may be for-profit.a

Public Benefit Status

At the national level, Article 32 of the Law on Tax Coalition provides income tax exemptions for three categories of institutions:

  1. Churches, denominations, faiths and religious foundations with legal standing, with respect to income from all activities and assets employed toward their religious aims and purposes;
  2. Artistic, scientific, educational and cultural institutions, labor unions, political parties, Nicaraguan Red Cross, and Fire Corps; and
  3. Charity and social assistance institutions, indigenous communities, non-profit associations, foundations, federations, and confederations with legal standing.

All three categories are exempt from payment of income tax. However, Article 33 of the Law on Tax Coalition states that when exempt entities “habitually carry out profitable economic activities,” then “the income from such activities will not be exempt from the payment of this tax.”

According to Article 111 of the Law on Tax Coalition, churches, denominations, and religious faiths with legal standing are exempt from the Value Added Tax (Impuesto al Valor Agregado IVA) for goods intended exclusively for religious purposes.

In terms of municipal taxes, exemptions from payment of the income tax and property tax (Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles IBI) are given to:

  • churches and religious faiths, with respect to temples and offices used for religious purposes;
  • non-profit charity and social assistance institutions;
  • cultural, scientific, sports and artistic institutions;
  • unions and associations of workers and professionals;
  • professional associations, as long as they are not for profit; and
  • non-profit civil associations, foundations, federations and confederations with recognized legal standing, with respect only to their assets and incomes related exclusively to the fulfillment of their own aims and purposes.

Barriers to Entry

No limits are established in terms of the constitutional right to organize. Those who desire to associate may do so for any reason except to commit a crime or act against the constitutional order.

A non-profit legal person (association, foundation, federation or confederation) is established by means of a public deed, with a minimum of five natural or legal persons with the capacity to assume obligations and comply with the bylaws in the entity’s constitution. Business chambers also require five members, while sports associations require a minimum of 15 natural persons. The law does not restrict foreign individuals from taking part in these organizations. However, it does establish limits for minors (under 21 years old) who do not have the capacity to assume obligations.

Legal status is granted by the National Assembly for non-profit legal persons under Law No. 147. The registration process is carried out in the Department of Registry and Control of Associations of the Ministry of Governance, which has established a list of registration requirements:

  1. Letter requesting registration and the assignment of a perpetual entity number, addressed to the Office Director and listing the entity’s address, telephone, and fax numbers and email address;
  2. Copy of La Gaceta in which the decree of legal standing granted by the National Assembly was published;
  3. The entity’s deed of constitution;
  4. Bylaws, if not included in the deed of constitution;
  5. Photocopy of the entity’s purpose statement or brief historical summary;
  6. List of members of the Board of Directors, including their names, positions, addresses, telephone numbers, identification card (cédula) numbers, and original signatures;
  7. List of all members of the entity with the right to speak and vote in the General Assembly, including their names and identification card (cédula) numbers;
  8. Four legal required institutional records: two of minutes, one daily ledger, and one general ledger;
  9. Payment of a fee of one thousand and fifty Córdobas (about US$50.00); and
  10. In the case of a foundation, federation, or chamber, an initial balance sheet.

The Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade (MIFIC) authorizes business chambers, and the Nicaraguan Institute of Sports (IND) (CONADERFI) authorizes sports organizations. They carry out registration processes with similar requirements.

When the requirements are met, the Department of Registry and Control of Associations will proceed with review and registration, a process that takes an average of ten days, although the period is not stipulated by law. Because the National Assembly grants legal standing, the procedures for an entity’s registration are completed without much difficulty.  In general, however, the Department of Registry and Control of Associations checks the documentation meticulously, and the entity seeking registration is often required to make corrections or adjustments.

To carry out activities in Nicaragua, organizations with legal status abroad must also be authorized by the Department of Registry and Control of Associations and can be registered after verification that their nature and objectives correspond with the nature of Law No. 147.  If they operate by virtue of international instruments, then they shall be governed according to these instruments.  The Ministry of Foreign Relations has established an information system on non-governmental cooperation (SysONG).

If registration is denied by the Department of Registry and Control of Associations, an appeal for review (Recurso de Revisión) may be filed before the Department.  A subsequent appeal (Recurso de Apelación) may be filed with a higher authority, in this case the Minister of Governance.  This would exhaust the administrative alternatives for appeal, leaving open the alternative of filing for judicial protection (Recurso de Amparo).

Barriers to Operational Activity

Supervisory Powers
Law No. 147, the General Law on Non-Profit Legal Persons, establishes the obligations of non-profit legal persons (Article 13) and defines the supervisory powers of government. Specifically:

  • Non-profit legal persons must submit general balance sheets upon conclusion of the fiscal year. On a voluntary basis, some CSOs also submit activity reports, but the submission of such reports is not required by law or by the Ministry of Governance.
  • In the case of violations of Article 13 or previous offenses, Law No. 147 authorizes the Ministry of Governance to intervene for a period strictly necessary to resolve any irregularities.
  • Law No. 147 also establishes fines as administrative sanctions if any Article 13 obligations are violated or if foreign organizations fail to comply with the law’s requirements. However, the amounts of the fines are not specified, which therefore allows for discretion among officials in setting the amounts.
  • Non-profit legal persons are subject to governmental inspection to ensure the fulfillment of their legal obligations. Since 2008, however, various governmental departments have carried out official acts that demonstrate a particular focus on organizations that have openly opposed state policies.

The legal status of Non-Profit Legal Persons can be cancelled by the National Assembly through the same procedures as for granting legal status, after prior consultation with the Ministry of Governance. Article 24 of Law No. 147 lists the grounds for cancellation: 

a)   when the association is used in the commission of unlawful acts; 
b)   when the association is used to violate public order; 
c)   when membership of the association declines below the minimum number fixed by this Act; 
d)   when association activities do not correspond to the purposes for which it was formed; 
e)   when the association obstructs the control and supervision of the Department of Registration and Control Office, and the association has previously been subject to Article 22 sanctions;
f)    at the request of its highest governing body in accordance with its bylaws.
The so-called mass organizations created in the 1980s during the first period of the Sandinista government have now, according to Luis Serra in El Nuevo Diario on September 29, 2008, been strengthened and molded into “a new type of relationship between civil society and the state, established by the current government through Citizens’ Power Councils (CPCs) and Citizens’ Power Cabinets (CPGs) from the local level to municipal, departmental, regional and national levels, under the direction of the Presidency.  In the government’s Human Development Plan (2007-2012) and sectoral policies, the CPCs and CPGs are noted as the sole representatives of Nicaragua’s civil society.  This has been criticized because there is a diversity of civic organizations that feel excluded, and because the CPCs and CPGs have been superimposed over other legally-established coordination entities…” (see La sociedad civil en Nicaragua (II) [“Civil Society in Nicaragua”].

According to Roberto Stuart Almendárez, the Research Coordinator of the Centro de Estudios y Análisis Políticos (CEAP) in Managua in July 2009,“this model of Citizens’ Power not only limits the capacities for relations and collaboration with other existing modalities of community organization and citizen participation in the country, but it also restricts the rights of others to take part in public management . . . This restricts the margins within which civil society can take action in its different roles and, particularly, in its restriction of state power, in ‘the autonomy of representative social actors who are aware of their own interests,’ and in the development of a citizens’ awareness that contributes to the common good and is imposed over the interests of individuals.” (see Consejos del Poder Ciudadano y gestión pública en Nicaragua) [“Citizen’s Power Councils and Public Management in Nicaragua”].

Nine not-for-profit organizations had their legal personalities cancelled in November and December 2018. In some cases, their assets were confiscated, and their bank accounts were deactivated. Similar actions can be expected against other organizations that have denounced the abuses of the government and its violations of human rights in general. The IACHR, OHCHR, and the European Union condemned the December 2018 cancellations.

Wide Discretion
The Ministry of the Interior continues to exercise great discretion in its capacity as administrative agency in charge of oversight of non-profit legal persons. Examples of abuses of discretion by the Ministry of the Interior include insistence on changes to NGO by-laws that are not required by law, demands to include information in an NGO's assembly minutes that is not required by law, and withholding official recognition of an NGO's compliance with the law for reasons not established by law.

New Laws in 2018
On July 20, 2018, two new laws were published in La Gaceta, the official newspaper, that have raised concern about their ability affect the operations and resourcing of non-profit legal persons. Law No. 976, Law of the Financial Analysis Unit, whose purpose is to regulate the organization, attributions, faculties, and functioning of the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), authorizes the UAF to:

a) request directly from non-profit legal persons financial or legal information related to money laundering, financing of terrorism, and financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as crimes associated with money laundering; and
b) perform operational and strategic analyses on the information obtained.

Law No. 977, Law against Money Laundering (LA), Financing of Terrorism (FT) and Financing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (FP) requires:

a) public entities that engage in the regulation, supervision, and sanctioning of non-profit legal persons to prevent LA, FT and FP; and
b) non-profit legal persons to preserve financial and accounting documentation for at least 10 years, although the general obligation is only four years under the current Tax Code.

Law No. 977 also establishes a definition of non-profit legal persons, which did not previously exist in Nicaraguan legislation, and leaves open the possibility that any non-profit legal person or other public or private natural or legal person can be required to report to the UAF. In addition, the broad definitions of "terrorist" and "terrorist act" create a risk that the law will restrict the enjoyment of protected rights and freedoms and violate the principles of necessity and proportionality. This law also modified two articles of the Criminal Code, which define the crimes of "terrorism" and "financing of terrorism." The inclusion of a special chapter on non-profit legal persons suggests a legislative intention to impose excessive regulations, which is likely based on a misinterpretation of Financial Action Task Force Recommendation 8.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There are no legal provisions that restrict the rights to free speech or to the free exercise of political rights, including the defense of such issues as democracy and human rights. On the contrary, the legal framework guards and protects such rights. However, with the implementation of the Model of the Citizen Power, 2007, the State has hindered the free exercise of these rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution. Furthermore, the last Constitutional reform in 2014 established a limited model of citizenship, stating that "the Nicaraguan State recognizes the person, the family and the community as the origin and end of their activity". This neglects that citizen activities transcend the national, regional and international domains and extends to universal human rights.

Barriers to International Contact

Currently there are no legal obstacles. However, there is concern that the current government may have the intention to exercise its authority in this area. The concern stems from broder government actions that have restricted the legal environment for not-for-profit organizations, which reflects the government's record in weakening democratic institutions in Nicaragua.

Barriers to Resources

The Nicaraguan government appears to be interested in controlling the financing from international organizations. This became evident in September 2015 when the government of President Daniel Ortega informed the foreign diplomatic corps and representatives of international organizations that they would no longer be able to directly receive resources from abroad. Resources instead would have to be channeled through government institutions. The first result of these changes was the removal of a Uruguayan representative of the United Nations Development Programme and the closure of at least five projects.

Additional restrictions on non-profit legal persons can be found in Law No. 976 (Law of the UAF and Law against Money Laundering, Financing of Terrorism) and Law No. 977 (Law on the Financing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction). Section VI, Article 37 of Law No. 977 states that the government entities that regulate non-profit legal persons will develop specific functions to prevent or identify money laundering, financing of terrorism, and financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction-related activities. However, because of the new broad definition of "terrorism," these laws can be interpreted on a discretionary basis and can be used against non-profit legal persons that are critical of the government. In addition, according to Law No. 977, non-profit legal persons must:

  • Realize financial operations through regulated financial channels;
  • Verify all beneficiaries, associated nonprofits, and suppliers;
  • Maintain formal accounting records;
  • Fulfill donation requirements as mandated by supervising entities;
  • Maintain complete financial records for at least 10 years;
  • Deposit corporate and accounting books with the regulatory entity with the not-for-profit is dissolved.

In addition, non-profit legal persons are required to cooperate fully with both supervising and regulatory entities that may request to review documents or specific transactions at any time.
Lastly, according to Article 33 of the Law on Tax Coalition, “When the exempt subjects habitually carry out profitable economic activities with third parties in the market of goods and services, the income from such activities will not be exempt from the payment of this tax.” For example, if an organization works in health rights and has a training facility, any fees from renting out the facility or providing training services are not tax-exempt. Instead, the organization would be better advised to create a commercial company that sells these services and allocates its profits to finance the organization.

Barriers to Assembly

The Constitution of Nicaragua protects the freedom of assembly.  Article 53 states that, “The right to meet peacefully is recognized.  The exercise of this right does not require prior permission.” Article 54 declares, “The right of public concentration, demonstration and mobilization is recognized, pursuant to the law.” 

Nonetheless, according to a report from Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos, in 2015 various sit-ins and protests were restricted, hindered, and even repressed with violence to discourage and criminalize the exercise of freedom of assembly. On several occasions, the government used "shock troops" that intimidated and, in some cases, brutally assaulted participants during demonstrations. Protests that seek to influence the electoral system and electoral reform, convened to make claims against the extractive industry, and that demand better conditions for persons suffering chronic medical conditions have been attacked.

Advance Notification
According to the Constitution, the right of assembly does not require authorization from the government for gatherings of fewer than 20 people. According to the country's Manual for Individual and Political Rights, prior notice is required when more than 20 people are expected to gather together. The purpose of the notification requirement is to avoid one gathering conflicting with another previously scheduled to take place in the same route or physical space. As such, neither counter-demonstrations nor spontaneous demonstrations of more than 20 people are permitted.

Time, Place, Manner Restrictions
Article 89 of the Elections Act empowers the Supreme Electoral Council to act in coordination with the appropriate agencies so that gatherings of a “non-partisan nature” do not interfere with electoral campaigning. In addition, since November 25, 2018, the right to peaceful assembly has been limited pursuant to Resolution 029-2018 of the National Police, which stipulates that the police will not authorize the "public mobilization for people, associations or movements that participated and are being investigated for their actions in the failed coup attempt." Resolution 30-2018 of December 9, 2018 reiterated this stipulation.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) issued a press release in February 2013 regarding “violence and repression against residents in Santo Domingo, [Province of] Chontales.” The press release stated, "the authorities did not comply with their duty as public officials, in the sense of following the law and respect for citizens’ rights and guarantees as provided for in our Political Constitution, such as the right to due process (Article 34), the right to individual freedom (Article 25), equality before the law (Article 27), the right to counsel (Article 34), the right to freedom of movement (Article 54) and [the right to] social protest."

On April 18, 2018, a peaceful protest was violently repressed by the state and other parastatal forces. According to reports from the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH), 448 people were murdered, an additional 2,830 injured, and at least 718 missing in 100 days of government repression of protests against Daniel Ortega's government from April 19 to July 25, 2018. The Permanent Commission for Human Rights (CPDH) also registered more than 400 political prisoners, and CENIDH, in a report on July 25, 2018, noted that "state terrorism" had left 302 people killed in 100 days of repression, at least 400 people arrested throughout the country, around 2,000 injured, and an unknown number missing as a result of attacks by police and parastatal units. CENIDH concluded that:

1. The serious actions of the Ortega and Murillo regime led to an aggravation of the human rights situation in Nicaragua, which went from a situation of repression of protests to generalized persecution and extermination with the objective of terrorizing and annihilating the population. This situation of widespread terror and persecution caused a massive exodus of Nicaraguans abroad and the elevation of the situation in Nicaragua to the international level of concern, which is reflected in the reactions of different countries in the region and the world.

2. The government of Nicaragua has continued engaging in massive violations of human rights, the use of the administration of justice to criminalize social protest, and the persecution of thousands of people who participated in legitimate protests.

3. Due to the gravity of the brutal repression against the people of Nicaragua, the data collected in CENIDH's report is only a sample of the widespread persecution throughout the country.
A European Parliament Resolution on May 31, 2018 also condemned the brutal repression and intimidation of peaceful protestors and disappearances and arbitrary arrests and called for electoral reform. It also urged full participation of the opposition, restoration of full media freedom, and the fight against rampant corruption. In addition, in November 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions pursuant to an Executive Order to demonstrate it "is committed to holding the Ortega regime accountable for the violent protests and widespread corruption that have led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent Nicaraguans and destroyed their economy.”

Criminal Penalties
Title II of the Penal Code, which covers misdemeanors against public order and peace includes six criminal misdemeanors (Articles 528 through 533): disobedience of authority; refusal to assist an authority, public official or public employee; hindrance of authority, public official, or public employee; and refusal to self-identify. These misdemeanors can be applied against organizers or participants in peaceful demonstrations. For example, since 2018 this became an indisputable reality. According to the GIEI (Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts) Report of December 21, 2018, the “Criminal justice system – comprised of the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Judiciary – has played an additional role in the scheme of human rights violations observed in Nicaragua, through the criminalization of civilians who participated in the protests. These judicial processes improperly charged students, rural and social leaders with crimes such as terrorism and organized crime, among others, in order to persecute and punish legitimate acts of opposition against the government. The GIEI corroborated the existence of a pattern of judicial criminalization, in which there is no correlation between the facts and the codified criminal conduct.”

In addition, the National Police Press Release No. 115-2018 on September 28, 2018 stated that “The National Police blames the organizations and persons who have summoned these illegal activities that are not at all peaceful for any threat, damage, or risk to life to the dignity of the person or damage to private or state property. The conveners are responsible and will answer before the justice for the threats, criminal actions and aggressions that appear in the conduct of these activities.” This was the first in a series of six Press Releases starting in September 2018 that limited the constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and demonstration.

International Pressure
IACHR and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have named Nicaragua as a violator of the right to peaceful assembly, among others, and have reminded the country of its obligations.

A June 21, 2018 Inter American Comission on Human Rights (IACHR) report stated, “In this context, the Commission reiterates its appeal to cease acts of violence committed by third parties, and recalls that respect for human rights is for everyone. In this regard, the IACHR stresses that Article 15 of the American Convention applies only to peaceful assembly, without arms, in other words, assemblies of a non-violent nature. When violent incidents break out at peaceful gatherings, authorities have the duty to differentiate between peaceful and non-peaceful demonstrations, investigate acts of violence committed and take measures to manage the conflict and dissipate tensions. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Commission is emphatic in asserting that although a group of demonstrators acts with violence and thereby, exceeds the bounds of its right to peaceful assembly, it does not justify police abuse. The State is still obliged to respect and ensure all of the other rights of the non-peaceful demonstrators, especially their right to life and personal integrity.”

Similarly, an August 2018 report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) declared, “The exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly has been progressively undermined through an array of practices that have implied serious violations of other intertwined rights analyzed in sections of this report. OHCHR gathered consistent information that, from the earliest stage of the wake of protests, there was widespread use of excessive force, sometimes resulting in unlawful killings, along with attacks carried out by pro-Government armed elements . . . Based on information available to OHCHR, it can conclude that the response of the authorities to peaceful protests failed to meet applicable standards of the management of assemblies, in violation of international human rights law. OHCHR can also conclude that in many cases where violence by protesters did occur, the use of lethal force against non-lethal threats and the reliance on pro-government armed elements also violated international human rights law.”

Amnesty International also released research in 2018 entitled “Shoot to kill: Nicaragua’s strategy to repress protests,” in which it concluded that faced with the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression through protests in different parts of the country, the Nicaraguan government's response has been fundamentally unlawful and beset with serious human rights violations and even crimes under international law. It also concluded that the strategy adopted by the Nicaraguan authorities, which has resulted in an alarming number of fatalities and serious injuries, was intended to punish dissenting voices, discourage further public criticism, and cover up human rights violations and crimes under international law.

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UN Universal Periodic Review Reports 19th Session 2014
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Nicaragua
European Parliament Resolution The situation of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua – the case of Francisca Ramirez (February 16, 2017)

Situation in Nicaragua (May 31, 2018)
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Not available
Wilson Center Nicaraguan Tragedy: From Consensus to Coercion
U.S. State Department

Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report 2017-2018
US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018

Failed States Index Reports Foreign Policy Failed States Index
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch

2017/2018 Report

Instilling Terror: From Lethal Force to Persecution in Nicaragua (October 17, 2018)

Human Rights Watch HRW World Report 2019: Reversing Autocrats’ Attacks on Rights. New Alliances of Governments, Civic Groups Winning Victories (Nicaragua)

IMF Country Reports

Nicaragua: Staff Concluding Statement of an IMF Staff Visit (2018)

2017 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; and Staff Report 

Nicaragua : Selected Issues (2017)

Social Progress Index


Score 62.87 / Rank 92 (1–146)
Basic human needs 75.39 / Foundations of wellbeing 69.55 / Opportunity 43.66 (1–100%)

Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) Resolution on Recent Events in Nicaragua (September 12, 2018)
Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH)

Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH)

Human rights in Nicaragua: Annual report 2016 (Spanish)

CIVICUS Civil Society Index Reports Nicaragua
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Nicaragua

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at

Key Events

The human rights situation in Nicaragua was analyzed in February 2019 in the third evaluation of the Universal Periodic Review, which is carried out every four years by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Nicaragua is also among the States that will be reviewed during the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in Geneva from May 6-17, 2019.

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted the resolution “On Recent Events in Nicaragua” on September 12, 2018 with 19 votes in favor, 4 against, and 9 abstentions. This text (Spanish) summarizes the proposals made by the Working Group created by the OAS and led by Canada to seek a way out of the crisis in Nicaragua.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s September 2018 monthly update on the situation in Nicaragua also indicated that, “OHCHR has continued to monitor the implementation of the recommendations contained in its report of 29 August 2018, as reflected in the Annex to this report “Status of recommendations by OHCHR”. To date, no significant progress has been observed nor has the Government adopted any measure among those recommended. In this regard, OHCHR reiterates the importance of immediately halting the attacks, harassment and criminalization against demonstrators, human rights defenders and others, dismantling pro-government armed elements and release all the people arbitrarily detained. OHCHR stands ready to cooperate on these matters with Nicaraguan authorities and civil society.”

Since the beginning of the civic protests in April 2018, the Nicaraguan government has tried using violence to stop citizens' marches, but it was not until September 28, 2018 that the government decided to formalize a ban on demonstrations and threatened jail time for citizens or organizations that engage in them.

In press release No. 223/18 on October 18, 2018, the IACHR warned of new wave of repression in Nicaragua, stating, “The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), through information recorded by the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) in recent weeks, observes an increase in acts of violence and repression to deter public demonstrations in Nicaragua. The IACHR also warns about the detention and criminalization of political and social leaders. It also expresses concern about the particular effects that the crisis generates on the rights of women, children and adolescents. In the context of the events that have taken place since April 18, the Commission updates the death toll to 325, of which 21 are police officers and 24 are children and adolescents. In view of the inconsistency of the figures provided by the Nicaraguan authorities and their questioning of the registry of deaths reported by the IACHR, the Commission reiterates to the State of Nicaragua the urgent need to guarantee access to detailed information on all the people who have died in the context of the situation the country is going through, so that the IACHR can compare and verify the figure with the data provided by the state authorities.”

In a press release published on October 26, 2018, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts updated its work from July 2, 2018 and recommended that Nicaragua establish a Special Prosecutor's Office to investigate the acts of violence.

In the framework of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua, the President of the IACHR, Margarette May Macaulay, made a working visit to Nicaragua from October 25-27, 2018. The purpose of the visit was to analyze the human rights situation in the country, especially for women human rights defenders, women deprived of liberty, and people of African descent. The monthly update #2 was released by OHCHR, stating, “The Government is yet to take steps to implement the recommendations presented in the report OHCHR issued on 29 August 2018. OHCHR reiterates its call on the Nicaraguan authorities to immediately put an end to the repression against people voicing dissenting opinions, and to acknowledge and ensure prompt, independent, impartial and thorough investigations of the numerous and serious human rights violations that have taken place since 18 April 2018, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence. OHCHR reiterates its readiness to assist State authorities and civil society to ensure the rights to truth, justice, and reparation in favour of victims of human rights violations’ victims and to prevent new violations.” 

On December 21, 2018, USAID Administrator Mark Green issued a statement on the Signing of H.R. 1918, the Nica Act, and of the Repression of Civil Society & Human Rights Defenders in Nicaragua. This bill, which received broad bipartisan support in Congress, seeks to hold violators of human rights and corrupt actors in Nicaragua accountable at a time when the Ortega government is undermining democracy at every turn.

On January 29, 2019, Member of the European Parliament on the Mission of the European Parliament in Nicaragua traveled to Nicaragua. They called for the provisional release or house arrest of prisoners awaiting trial; ending limitations on the freedoms of expression, assembly, protest, and information; allowing international human rights organizations to return to the country; and initiating a process of dialogue between the government and opposition to restore democracy and the rule of law.

General News

International organizations set up International Observatory on the situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua (January 2019) (Spanish)
Faced with the blocking of spaces for civil society organizations that track human rights violations, the criminalization of human rights defenders, and the closure of civil society organizations , the need to establish a mechanism for the international observation of the situation in Nicaragua has become urgent.

State of Nicaragua suspends presence of MESENI and GIEI (December 2018)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported that “the State of Nicaragua communicated today its decision to temporarily suspend the presence of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) in the country and visits by the IACHR to Nicaragua from this date forward. The State also communicated the expiration of the term, mandate and mission of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI)”.

Treasury Sanctions Three Nicaraguan Individuals for Serious Human Rights Abuse and Corrupt Acts (July 2018)
The United States is deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua. We condemn the violence perpetrated by security forces and others that have resulted in the death of at least 220 demonstrators, and nearly 1,500 injured. Since protests began on April 18, the Nicaraguan government’s violent response has included beatings of journalists, attacks against local TV and radio stations, and assaults on mothers mourning the deaths of their children.

Escalation of violence in Nicaragua (July 2018) (Spanish)
As part of our response to the flagrant human rights abuses committed by the Nicaraguan government, the State Department has imposed additional visa restrictions on the United States to individuals responsible for human rights abuses or the undermining of democracy in Nicaragua, as well as their families.

Carter Center Condemns the Continued Violence in Nicaragua (June 2018)
The Carter Center strongly condemns the violent retaliation and excessive use of force against demonstrators in Nicaragua, and calls on the government to cease all acts of violence and repression and to dismantle para-police groups and riot squads.

Rights commission condemns abuses during Nicaragua protests (May 2018)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned Nicaragua’s response to weeks of protests against President Daniel Ortega, criticizing a crackdown that resulted in rights abuses including torture and possibly even murder. In a preliminary report of its findings, the IACHR said that since April 18, it had documented at least 76 people killed, and 868 injured, after protests broke out over discontent with a new law that raised worker and employer social security contributions while cutting benefits. The protests mark the most sustained crisis of Ortega’s 11-years in power.

Report on Nicaragua: the democratic deterioration and the Ortega-Murillo dynasty (March 2018) (Spanish)
The Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany, in the BTI 2018 Transformation Index, points out that "During the period under review, the Ortega government strengthened its control over the political and economic system. (The full report is here).

Nicaragua at the Highest Level of Corruption in Latin America (February 2018) (Spanish)
In 2016, Nicaragua had already worsened its rating on corruption, according to the 2016 report of Transparency International. In 2015, the country ranked 130 out of 167 countries and in 2016 ranked 145 out of a total of 176 countries, evaluated by the agency. In 2016, Nicaragua was then the third most corrupt country in Latin America.

IACHR speaks on denial of entry to Nicaragua of its officials (November 2017) (Spanish)
According to the IACHR, the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) confers powers for the defense of human rights in the various nations of the world. It regrets that Nicaragua caused Managua's commitment to human rights to be weakened by preventing entry of the officials of the IACHR.

Government prevents entry of human rights rapporteur of the IACHR (November 2017) (Spanish)
The Government of Nicaragua did not allow the entry into the country of the rapporteur for the rights of children and adolescents of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, who in turn canceled the appointments that she had made with different organizations.

Actions of the Ministry of the Interior affect other 24 local organizations (October 2017) (Spanish)
The Foundation for the Conservation and Development of the Southeast of Nicaragua (Fundación del Río) denounced that the Ministry of the Interior has denied without any explanation documentation that proves its compliance with the requirements of law and that "certifies" the work they carry out in the struggle for the defense of the territory and natural resources.

Nicaragua lives "modern authoritarianism" (June 2017) (Spanish)
Nicaragua is one of the countries that has been defined as "modern authoritarianism" , according to a study by the international human rights organization Freedom House, based in Washington. This definition was raised during the publication of the report on the state of democracy in the world, called Rupture of Democracy: Goals, Strategies and Methods of Modern Authoritarianism, by Arch Puddington, an expert on democracy studies at Freedom House.

Nicaraguans are less free, according to US index (June 2017) (Spanish)
In this year's global index, Nicaragua ranked 81st out of 128 countries, according to the index published last week by the US Social Progress Imperative. The index, designed by Harvard Business School faculty and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, assesses three areas: basic needs, well-being and opportunities. In this last one the situation of the personal rights and freedom of expression in each country is analyzed.

European Union calls for respect for democracy and human rights in Nicaragua (February 2017) (Spanish)
The European Parliament has issued a resolution condemning the lack of protection of human rights defenders in Nicaragua and calls for the cessation of the harassment of the Government of Nicaragua.

Amnesty International Annual Report 2016/17 (February 2017)
Conflict over land in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region sparked violent attacks against Miskitu Indigenous Peoples. Human rights defenders continued to experience threats and intimidation because of their work. Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities denounced violations of their rights to consultation and free, prior and informed consent in the context of the development of the Grand Interoceanic Canal. Communities and human rights organizations expressed concern at the potential negative impact of the Canal on their lives. A total abortion ban remained in place.

Carlos Fernando Chamorro denounces intimidation and political espionage (October 2016)
The editorial staff of Esta semana and Confidencial have been the victims of an escalation of intimidation "instigated by official policy that seeks to restrict freedom of information and expression in Nicaragua."

Civil society organizations punished (August 2016)
Civil society organizations carried out a self-assessment of their current situation in the context of the government of president Daniel Ortega's punishment of CSOs that have a critical position of his administration.

Civil society marchers harassed by government shock forces (August 2016)
A march conducted by civil society organizations to demand the convening of new elections with opposition participation concluded in the city of Masaya but it was sieged by government shock forces.

Deterioration of Human Rights in Nicaragua (August 2016)
According to surveys conducted in the Nicaraguan community, there is unanimous confirmation that there is legal uncertainty and a constant deterioration of human rights in the country, and that citizens are totally defenseless.

Deterioration of human rights in Nicaragua (June 2016) (Spanish)
CENIDH executive director Mauro Ampié considers that the deterioration of the human rights of Nicaraguans somehow reflects "a political design that is oriented to the permanence of an authoritarian government." The most restricted rights are legal security, physical integrity, access to justice, the guarantees of due process, and individual liberty and property.

AI denounces threats to indigenous human rights defenders in Nicaragua (February 2016) (Spanish)
Amnesty International denounced "threats" and "intimidation" in Nicaragua suffered by the human rights activists, particularly indigenous groups opposed to the Interoceanic Grand Canal. In its 2015 report on the situation of human rights in the world, Amnesty International also criticized the "harassment" suffered "some media and civil society" in Nicaragua.

CENIDH Appeals Unconstitutional Security Act (February 2016) (Spanish)
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) presented Thursday before the Judiciary an appeal of unconstitutionality against the law of 'Sovereign Security of the Republic of Nicaragua', as it believes that it "seeks to silence" critical voices against the government of commander Daniel Ortega. The legislation was approved in December 2015 and establishes a national system of military coordination that integrates all state institutions to "investigate threats and security risk sovereign" country.

Freedom House Latin America Director Denied Entry to Nicaragua (February 2016)
In response to Nicaragua’s expulsion of Latin America Programs Director Carlos Ponce, Freedom House issued the following statement: "We are appalled by the Nicaraguan government's decision to deny entry to Carlos Ponce, and its broader strategy of persecuting human rights defenders," said Mark P. Lagon, president. "Barring the representative of a human rights organization signals the deteriorating protections for civil society in Nicaragua.” Ponce traveled to Nicaragua to meet with local civil society organizations, and diplomatic and government officials. He was denied entry to the country February 2, held overnight, and forced to return to Washington. Nicaraguan officials said he was denied entry due to an “administrative decision.”

The government does not like people to organize (January 2016)
Members of the Civil Coordinator made an evaluation of 2015, calling it the year of the social movements, but also confirmed that during the two consecutive periods of government of Daniel Ortega the impact of civil society organizations (NGOs ) critical government was crushed by diverting foreign aid they received.

Human rights situation in Nicaragua is negative at the end of the year (December 2015)
More than 1,500 complaints of civil rights violations records the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, an organization that went onto the streets in the international Human Rights Day to demand respect and for constitutional guarantees of people are met.

La guerra de Ortega contra las ONGs (October 2015) (Spanish)
In an extraordinary meeting held on September 22 at the Chancellery of Nicaragua, the government of President Daniel Ortega informed the diplomatic corps and representatives of international organizations that henceforth NGOs will not be able to directly receive resources from abroad. Resources will instead be channeled through government institutions. The first result of this change was the removal of the Uruguayan representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the closure of at least five projects.

UNDP to close projects (October 2015) (Spanish)
The UNDP will have to close 11 projects after the decision of the government of President Daniel Ortega to control all cooperation funds. 11 more projects are under review, said a source. The government called a meeting at the Foreign Ministry with agencies and bilateral donors to inform them of the decision and to implement a change in the guidelines for cooperation. They noted that they preferred to deal directly with donors. In this move, the biggest loser is UNDP, which has acted as an intermediary.

Circulation of Draft Amendments to the Law of Non-profit Legal Entities (July 2015) (Spanish)
The Ministry of the Interior circulated a draft Amendment to the General Law on Non-profit Legal Entities. According to sources, the new law will double the number of articles of the current legislation. Under the guidance of the Department of Civil Registration and Control of Associations of the Ministry of the Interior, officially, there are currently in operation about 6,150 non-governmental not-for-profit organizations.

Government Deports Lawyers of CEJIL (July 2015) (Spanish)
Immigration agents of Augusto C. Sandino Airport refused entry into the country to lawyers from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Luis Carlos Buob and Marta González. Buob is one of the lawyers who accompanied the Nicaraguan organizations that reported at the 154th session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) about violations of human rights related to the Interoceanic Canal project in Nicaragua.

Report on Human Rights and Conflicts in Central America: Nicaragua Recedes in Citizen Participation (April 2015) (Spanish)
The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) presented the ninth "Report on Human Rights and Conflicts in Central America 2013-2014" about the outlook for human rights in the region. Nicaragua "showed some progress in citizen participation it is facing setbacks from constitutional and legal forms."

Government Creates Law to Control Internet (April 2015) (Spanish)
The Government of Nicaragua has prepared a law to control the Internet through the creation of a state company that will manage broadband services in the Central American country, have the right to decide who will deliver concessions to offer services, and be able to receive information about Nicaraguan Internet users.

Carter Center Blasts Nicaragua's Electoral System (June 2014)
The Carter Center released a statement lamenting the Sandinista government's recent renewal of its scandal-plagued electoral authorities, calling the move a "significant lost opportunity for this country to strengthen its battered electoral institutions." The electoral watchdog group, which has observed national elections in Nicaragua since 1989, called on the Sandinista-dominated National Assembly to “undertake their patriotic duty to the Nicaraguan people to conduct a serious, thorough review of the Nicaraguan electoral system with the participation of all of the political parties so that, for the good of Nicaraguan society and its democracy, decisions and events such as these never occur again. We also ask the international community to make sure it keeps its eyes on the status of democracy in Nicaragua in order to encourage and facilitate the return of free, fair, and transparent elections..."

Regression in human rights in Nicaragua (Spanish) (June 2014)
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) confirmed that there is an alarmingly high percentage of complaints for violation of human rights in the country. Ampié Mauro, Executive Director of CENIDH, considers the human rights situation in the country to have reached new levels of complexity and urgency.

Delegation from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visits Nicaragua (August 2013)
A delegation from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited Nicaragua to explain the requirements that must be met for the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism that assessed the situation in the country in this area, to be held in 2014.

Protecting Human Rights through comics (November 2012)
El director del organismo Hagamos Democracia, Róger Arteaga, dijo que durante los comicios municipales del pasado cuatro de noviembre se violaron los derechos humanos, incluso existieron muertos por diferencias políticas y doble voto. "Si no respetan los derechos humanos estamos condenados a sufrir. En esta última experiencia del cuatro de noviembre se revelaron muchas violaciones", indicó Arteaga.

Private sector gives "votes of confidence" for new UAF head, despite concerns about the UAF as a tool for repression (October 2012)
Private sector leaders are giving guarded votes of confidence to President Daniel Ortega’s appointment of a soldier and a police officer to head the controversial new Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), but they are still concerned that the UAF could be used as tool for political repression. Advertised as a government initiative to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, the UAF was approved unilaterally last June by Sandinista lawmakers, who completely disregarded the concerns raised by opposition lawmakers, civil society and the business sector.

NGOs worried about security in Central America (September 2012)
The high levels of criminality in Central America are making it hard for NGOs to operate because of the increased risks faced by their employees.  In Guatemala, community leaders have been killed for doing their work, but increased violence has also been seen in Nicaragua, as noted by the participants of an NGO forum on security held in Managua.

A more active civil society is necessary (August 2012)
"Basically what we want is to guide civil society activists in Nicaragua to become more active, more vibrant, more useful, "said Marcos Carrillo, who was providing advice to youth groups and organizations interested in participating in civil society.

NGOs disagree as to whether to mobilize to get out the vote  (August 2012)
Local NGOs have conflicting positions about whether to carry out activities to get out the vote in the upcoming municipal elections to be held in November.  Sectors of the population distrust the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). Groups mobilizing to get out the vote argue that despite these doubts, voting is a right that should be exercised by the citizens of Nicaragua. 

Youth protesters attacked while protesting electoral fraud (July 2012)
Young protesters who were assembled in front of the Supreme Electoral Council to protest electoral fraud claim that they were attacked by about 100 government supporters. Some of the attackers were wearing clothing identifying them as municipal government employees.

The current problem in Nicaragua is the Unit of Financial Analysis UAF, says expert (July 2012)
According to a Mexican expert on countering money-laundering, the new Unit of Financial Analysis, if left as is, would have so much discretion that “all citizens” would be potential subjects of investigation of possible money laundering operations. The expert considered this to be extremely “risky” for the Nicaraguan people.

Nicaragua to expel USAID? (July 2012)
Nicaragua was one of the countries in the coalition of the Bolivarian Alternative for the peoples of the Americas (ALBA) that signed a document urging other members to expel from their territories USAID. They claimed that USAID is "a disturbing factor which threatens the sovereignty and political stability" of their countries. The text of the document was also signed by the governments of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominica and Venezuela.

Consultation held on Bill to Reform the Law on Municipalities (June 2012)
The Nicaraguan Network for Democracy and Local Development (Red Local) has led a consultation process with its membership, partner organisations and experts in municipal and local development to produce a series of proposals for the Bill to Reform the Law on Municipalities. Text in Spanish here.

Civil society groups support political negotiation between Montealegre and Ortega (March 2012)
The Democratic Citizens' Union, a group of 19 civil society organizations that promote democracy and human rights in Nicaragua, has backed a proposed negotiation between opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre and current President Daniel Ortega. Montealegre says that what Nicaragua needs is a "national accord to set a certain path to follow for political and economic policy, social policy and institutional policy that goes beyond a single government." He also seeks to restore Nicaragua's constitutional rule of law by appointing new Supreme Court justices and electoral magistrates.

News archive

Civil society calls for protests against electoral fraud (November 2011)

Civil society organizations promote freedom of association (October 2011)

Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council accepted President Daniel Ortega registration to run for re-election (April 2011)

Civil Society Organizations called the attention of the international community (March 2011)

More funding required for rural potable water - NGO (January 2011)

President Ortega received a summons (September 2010)

Report presents serious concern regarding the situation of human rights defenders in the region (September 2010)

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner organization in Nicaragua.

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