Nicaragua’s crackdown on civil society

DELIVERED BY Liz Throssell, UN Human Rights Office spokesperson

We are deeply concerned that a new law, which came into force in Nicaragua on Friday, further restricts the functioning of civil society, contrary to the country’s human rights obligations.

The law has the stated aim of preventing money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, but its provisions make it more difficult for non-governmental organizations to register, require them to seek Government approval for their activities, and impose new reporting constraints, including detailing sources of funding, financial statements, activities and beneficiaries. In addition, the law prohibits NGOs from conducting political proselytizing and party politics, without clearly defining what is meant by such activities.

The new law also caps at 25 per cent the proportion of what it terms NGOs’ foreign “members”, thereby also limiting the freedom of expression and association of foreign nationals residing in Nicaragua.

We fear all these restrictions will curtail the freedom of expression and association of any organization that may attempt to voice criticism of the Government.

It is all the more concerning that this legislation entered into force in a week when the National Assembly voted to strip 50 civil society organizations of their legal personality for allegedly failing to comply with other provisions of national legislation.

Since 2018, at least 209 organizations have been shut down in Nicaragua, of which some 137 so far this year. They include the country’s main human rights NGOs, including those working on women’s rights and indigenous peoples’ rights, groups working in the fields of education and development, as well as medical associations.

At least 12 universities have also had their legal personality cancelled and are now under control of the Government.

As recommended by the High Commissioner, it is crucial that the Nicaraguan authorities stop unduly closing NGOs and restore the legal personality of all organizations, political parties and media outlets that have been arbitrarily shut down. We urge the authorities to return all the assets, documents and equipment that were unduly seized.


For more information and media requests, please contact:
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / ravina.shamdasani@un.orgor
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / or
Lori Brumat - + 41 22 928 9149 /