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Persons deprived of liberty in Nicaragua

This report address the human rights situation of persons deprived of liberty in Nicaragua in the context of the serious human rights crisis that began on  April 18, 2018.


Since April 18, 2018, at least 1,614 people have been deprived of liberty in the context of the human rights crisis.


The report is built primarily from the voices of the victims themselves, who reported to the IACHR on the serious situation they experienced, the methods of detention, the realities of their deprivation of liberty, the response of national justice, and the consequences for their personal and family lives.


As of the closing date for this report, the continued criminalization of voices critical of the government persists, within a context of a total absence of guarantees of impartiality and independence on the part of Nicaragua’s judicial system. A situation of impunity caused by the prolonged weakening of democratic institutions in the country persists, particularly given the failure to investigate the serious violations that have occurred since April 18, 2018.


Detentions in the context of the crisis in Nicaragua

The IACHR found hundreds of arbitrary detentions carried out in various ways. In most cases, the deprivation of liberty was mainly intended to suppress a position opposing the current Nicaraguan regime and inhibit any expression of social protest.

Perpetrators of the detentions

Mass, selective, and multiple detentions

Disproportionate use of force in the context of detentions

Lack of information on the reasons for the arrest, failure to show a court order, and keeping detained persons incommunicado

Failure to present to the judicial authority within the legal timeframe

Numbers of persons deprived of liberty


Conditions of detention

Most persons detained and criminalized since April 18, 2018 continue to be deprived

of liberty under conditions contrary to human dignity.


Lack of access to health services

Inadequate nutrition and lack of drinking water


Photo: Jorge Mejía Peralta

Malos tratos


Testimony received by the IACHR reveals that most detentions carried out in the context of demonstrations and social protests in Nicaraguahave been accompanied by different forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, with some of the treatment described reaching the threshold of torture:


Groups particularly affected


Grupos afectado
Respuestas el sistema
Copy of IMG_7093.jpg

Responses of the justice system

The lack of independence in the system for the administration of justice in Nicaragua allowed criminal law to be used and manipulated to criminalize and prosecute voices critical to or opposing the government, leading to hundreds of court proceedings for unfounded and disproportionate charges as well as serious impacts on the judicial rights of detainees.

Photo: Nuevo Diario

Situación excarcelados

Situation of incarcerated persons

Information available to the IACHR indicates that the prison releases announced by the State of Nicaragua in 2019 did not consider all persons deprived of liberty for actions linked to the social protests, particularly because arbitrary detentions have continued in the country. 

Persons who were deprived of their liberty in the context of the social protests in Nicaragua have suffered emotional, psychological, physical, and economic effects that continue today and are felt in various aspects of their lives.

Smear campaigns

Rights of persons deprived of liberty

in view of the effects of the covid-19 pandemic

In the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the situation of persons deprived of liberty in Nicaragua due to the risk of contagion in which they find themselves is a concern.


Family members of detainees have reported restrictions on letting in packages as well as more water than allowed, masks, or alcohol gel.  These restrictions could increase the health risks to detainees and their family members.


The IACHR calls on the State of Nicaragua to guarantee the immediate release of all persons who remain arbitrarily deprived of liberty for actions linked to the social protests that began on April 18, 2018.





Prepare and publish a registry with the number of persons who have been detained since the start of the protests on April 18; the causes, duration, and place of detention; the number of persons who are still detained now; the number of persons released. The information should include gender, age, and occupation.



Officially and immediately initiate an effective investigation to identify, prosecute, and punish those responsible for mistreatment and torture.



Guarantee dignified treatment for persons in the custody of State authorities:

  • Ensure the right to a legal defense from the moment of detention

  • Inform family members immediately regarding where detainees are being held, as well as the reasons for the detention

  • Ensure they receive medical care according to their particular health conditions, sufficient and highly nutritional food, and that they are living in healthy conditions.



Provide immediate medical care to all detainees with health conditions requiring such care.



Create the conditions necessary to effectively ensure contact between persons deprived of liberty and their families.



Guarantee that the use of isolation measures is exceptional, short, and as a last resort.



Eliminate the practice of detaining people without a court order nor in the commission of some crime.



Present detainees to the judicial authority within a legal period of no more than 48 hours.



Immediately verify that preventive detention is applied in accordance with international standards on the practice: exceptional nature, legality, proportionality, and reasonability.



Reconsider indictments issued for terrorism.



Guarantee due process for detainees.



As for the judicial branch, fully exercise its independence to judge the accused under the highest international human rights standards.


16 - 18

Ensure respect for the rights of women in detention, investigate cases of violence against women with due diligence, punish those responsible and provide reparations to the victims.


19 - 22

Implement measures to prevent violence against LGBTI persons deprived of liberty



Guarantee that all adolescents accused of violating criminal law are immediately submitted to the special juvenile justice system, separated from the adult criminal system.



Release persons who have been detained illegally or arbitrarily.



Immediately cease arbitrary or illegal detentions of those who participate in protests or demonstrate against the government.



Ensure that security operations related to protests and demonstrations are conducted according to action protocols consistent with international standards regarding the use of force by agents responsible for law enforcement.

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