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TITLE:  NICACARAGUA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                           NICARAGUA


Nicaragua is a constitutional democracy, with a directly 
elected President, Vice President, and a 92-member unicameral 
National Assembly.  President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro was 
elected in a free and fair election in 1990, defeating the 
incumbent Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).  She has 
delegated significant executive authority to her son-in-law, 
Presidency Minister Antonio Lacayo.  The executive branch 
coexists with an increasingly independent National Assembly, 
which has become the central forum for political debate.  With 
an unprecedented degree of cooperation among the FSLN, key 
parties belonging to the National Opposition Union (UNO) 
coalition that had supported President Chamorro's election in 
1990, and several moderate parties, the Assembly passed 
significant legislation on labor, civil-military relations, and 
property compensation bonds, and is currently working on 
constitutional reforms.

The President, in her capacity as commander in chief and 
Minister of Defense, and the Ministry of Government are legally 
responsible for overseeing the Sandinista Popular Army (EPS) 
and the National Police, respectively.  In practice, however, 
in the absence of a defense ministry, Nicaragua's security 
forces continued to be led by senior officers who maintained 
ideological and political links to the FSLN and who operated 
with substantial institutional and legal autonomy.  
Nevertheless, civilian control over the National Police was 
more evident in 1994, particularly during two transportation 
strikes.  Moreover, on September 2, President Chamorro signed 
into law a Military Code, passed by the National Assembly, 
which established institutional mechanisms intended to 
strengthen civilian control of the security apparatus.  The law 
provides for the retirement of current EPS Commander General 
Humberto Ortega in February 1995, presidential appointment of 
his successor to a term limited to 5 years, civilian court 
jurisdiction over common crimes committed by military and 
police personnel, prohibition of "political intelligence 
activities" by the EPS's Defense Intelligence Directorate 
(DID), and civilian oversight of the newly created military 
social security system and of EPS-operated private 
enterprises.  By the end of 1994, it was not clear whether all 
of these provisions would be implemented sucessfully.

The economy is predominantly agricultural, dependent on sugar, 
beef, seafood and banana exports, with some light manufacturing.
After years of hyperinflation and negative growth, the 
inflation rate was about 20 percent and real growth 
approximately 3 percent in 1994; per capita annual income was 
estimated at $410.  Unemployment and underemployment totaled 
over 50 percent, while the investment climate remained 
unsettled.  Although the Government's fiscal deficit has been 
cut by 80 percent since 1990, Nicaragua remained heavily 
dependent on foreign aid.

The security forces persisted in committing significant human 
rights abuses, although they are declining in number.  Murders, 
extrajudicial killings, torture, widespread mistreatment of 
detainees, and violence by paramilitary and criminal bands in 
rural areas were common.  Since President Chamorro assumed 
office, the focus of international attention has been on 
safeguarding the human rights of former members of the 
Nicaraguan Resistance (RN) since most human rights observers, 
including the Sandinista human rights organization CENIDH, 
acknowledge that more ex-RN than FSLN members have been 
homicide victims.  The Organization of American States 
International Support and Verification Commission (OAS/CIAV) 
estimates that 270 ex-RN were killed from June 1990 through 
1994.  The conviction rate among killers of ex-RN is so low 
that a state of impunity for abuses committed against ex-RN can 
still be said to exist.

The Tripartite Commission, composed of the Government, the 
Catholic Church, and OAS/CIAV, has issued recommendations which 
the security forces continued to resist implementing in 1994.  
The Commission, whose meetings the Government convenes, met 18 
times during the year, a reduction from 48 meetings in 1993, 
and failed to produce any reports.

A weak judiciary continued to hamper prosecution of human 
rights abusers.  An office of human rights within the Attorney 
General's office, created in 1992, remained unstaffed; 
discussions about creating a human rights ombudsman independent 
of the executive continued during the year.  Violence against 
women, including rape and domestic violence, continued to be a 
serious problem, with the Government taking little effective 
action to counter it.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Extrajudicial Killing

The civil war formally concluded in June 1990 with the 
demobilization of the Nicaraguan Resistance.  However, 
politically motivated or connoted violence continued into 1994, 
as Nicaraguan society continued to be both politically 
polarized and heavily armed.  The police, army, and Sandinista 
militants continued to kill demobilized RN combatants, but the 
number of such murders dropped from a monthly average of 6.1 in 
1990 to 4.0 in 1994.  With the demobilization of the 380 
Northern Front (FN-380) in April and smaller bands of rearmed 
ex-RN (recontras) in August, the situation in the 
trouble-ridden north calmed somewhat.  According to OAS/CIAV, 
the National Police or EPS killed 7 former combatants through 
November 1994, unknown assailants killed 11, and rearmed EPS 
veterans (known as recompas) killed 3.  However, it attributed 
the majority--23 deaths--to other ex-RN members or recontras.  
The total of 44 deaths in 1994 brought to 270 the number of 
ex-RN members who died under violent circumstances since the 
beginning of the Chamorro administration.  OAS/CIAV and 
national human rights group continued to report details of 
these human rights abuses to the Government and the media.

To address the issue of ex-RN deaths, President Chamorro 
established the Tripartite Commission in late 1992.  The 
Commission, composed of the civilian Government, the Catholic 
Church, and CIAV, issued three reports during 1993, covering 
investigations of 88 deaths and including 120 recommendations 
for government followup action, ranging from arrest of known 
perpetrators to investigations for obstruction of justice.  Of 
these, the Commission has verified that the Government complied 
fully with three of the recommendations in the first report.    
Consistent with an expanded mandate granted to CIAV by the June 
1993 OAS General Assembly, a fourth Commission report discusses 
33 additional cases of both Sandinista and ex-RN deaths, plus 
an evaluation of the compliance level of all the recommendations
contained in the 1993 reports.  This report was expected to be 
released in late 1994 but was delayed into 1995.  Senior EPS 
and police officials continued to impede the work of the 
Commission by their refusal to implement its recommendations or 
respond to its requests for information.  Only a handful of 
officials named in the first report, dated January 1993, 
received criminal or administrative sanctions.  Although the 
EPS claimed that it had punished several soldiers named by the 
Commission's report as wrongdoers, by year's end the Commission 
had not received any confirming documentation to this effect.

Of those perpetrators named by the Commission, CIAV later 
listed five who later committed additional human rights 
abuses.  They are police officers Johny Jose Rugama (cases 110 
and 113), Captain Benito Diaz Perez (case 149), and Santiago 
Irias (mentioned in the special case of La Trinidad in the 
third Tripartite Commission report) as well as Etnio Obregon 
Ruiz of the EPS (case 61).  In December the Nicaraguan 
Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) released the names of four 
police officials and three EPS officials who were involved in 
five separate human rights incidents.  It said the military 
convicted and sentenced them, but none is behind bars.  One 
soldier, EPS Lieutenant Jose Antonio Barberena, had been 
sentenced once before for killing a fellow soldier.  In neither 
instance has he served time in prison.

Human rights groups such as CIAV and CENIDH have witnessed 
continued violence in rural areas of northern Nicaragua, 
primarily as a result of land disputes and criminal activity.  
Since July 1993, CIAV has calculated that 45 percent of the 
homicides it investigated were committed by rearmed former 
Resistance members (recontras).  The majority of the victims 
were demobilized resistance members or their families who lived 
in the community.  CENIDH reported that during the first 
quarter of 1994, there were 3 homicides of FSLN members, 
bringing the total number of FSLN homicides from May 1990 
through March 1994 to 169.  During the same period, CENIDH 
reported that 513 "ex-RN and recontras" were homicide victims.  
Due to the remoteness of many of the conflict zones, coupled 
with popular fear of retribution or apparent frustration with 
the inability to bring the perpetrators to justice, an 
undetermined number of other deaths are believed by some 
resistance members to go unreported.

Other incidents of political and extrajudicial killing dating 
from 1990 remained unsolved.  On March 21, a band of renegade 
recontras led by Jose "Omar" Castro kidnaped Javier Barahona, a 
prominent local FSLN offical and ex-mayor of Wiwili in Juigalpa 
department.  They seized Barahona from a public bus in broad 
daylight and later tortured and murdered him, despite 
negotiation efforts by both the church and CIAV to secure 
Barahona's release.  At year's end, the authorities had not 
brought Barahona's killers to justice.  In November 1991, the 
Government dissolved the special presidential commission 
charged with investigating the February 16, 1991, assassination 
of former RN commander Enrique Bermudez, claiming a lack of 
evidence.  A British investigative team found no new evidence 
in 1993, and the Government took no further action in the case 
in 1994.

In June 1994 a military court declared EPS General Humberto 
Ortega and his bodyguards innocent of organizing or covering up 
the 1990 killing of high school student Jean Paul Genie, but 
declared the case still unresolved.  This followed the December 
1993 decision of the Supreme Court to remand the case to the 
military courts.  Several human rights groups criticized both 
the Supreme Court's ruling, which rejected an appeal by Raymond 
Genie, the boy's father, to order the case tried in a civilian 
court, and the military court's acquittal.  They cited numerous 
irregularities, including the nonadmissibility or disappearance 
of certain key pieces of evidence, as well as the conflict of 
interest of one of the Supreme Court judges who, after his 
retirement, acted as defense attorney for the bodyguards.  
Raymond Genie filed two appeals with the military court:  The 
court rejected an appeal regarding the June verdict, but in 
August it accepted the second, requesting the trial be sent to 
the Supreme Court where the case currently awaits judgment.  At 
the same time, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 
referred the Genie case to the Inter-American Court of Human 
Rights, which heard the case on November 18 on the issue of 
delay of justice and is expected to render a decision in the 
spring of 1995.  The Government had argued that the Court could 
not rule on the murder itself, as it took place prior to 
Nicaragua's acceptance of the Court's special jurisdiction.

On March 10, the Leon appellate court reinstated the 20-year 
prison sentence given to former EPS Lt. Colonel Frank Ibarra, 
leader of a pro-FSLN paramilitary group, Punitive Forces of the 
Left (FPI), for the November 23, 1992 assassination of Dr. 
Arges Sequeira Manga, then director of the Association of 
Nicaraguan Confiscated Property Owners.  The same court 
overturned an earlier ruling granting Ibarra immunity under an 
August 1993 amnesty.  Ibarra's lawyer appealed the matter to 
the Supreme Court, which had not ruled by year's end.  Ibarra 
remained at large, and no apparent effort has been made to 
capture him; the police at one point claimed there was no 
warrant out for his arrest.  The Government petitioned the Leon 
appellate court to obtain such a warrant, although it continued 
to argue that Ibarra's conviction made this step superfluous.  
On March 12, the EPS publicly denounced the Leon court's 
ruling, claiming it would lead to instability regarding those 
who had received previous amnesties from the Government.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights recorded 118 cases 
of inhuman and degrading treatment in 1994.  In the majority of 
the cases, those accused of the abuses were the National 
Police, who often held the victims for days, only to release 
them without formally charging them with any crime.  There were 
other credible reports during the year that the police beat and 
otherwise physically mistreated detainees, often to obtain 
confessions.

Three nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) worked together in 
1994 to improve prison conditions as a result of innumerable 
complaints regarding police brutality in prisons as well as in 
police holding cells.  Following complaints of mistreatment in 
police detention cells, representatives from the Nicaraguan 
Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) visited the holding cell of 
the criminal investigation office and found the cells poorly 
ventilated due in part to solid metal doors and metal sheeting 
in the ceiling.

In June the prison population was 2,900, of which more than 10 
percent were between ages 15 and 18, owing to the complete lack 
of juvenile detention facilities.  The prisons had overcrowded 
cells, medical attention was nonexistent, and there was 
extensive malnutrition.  Following accusations that prisoners 
received dietary intake of only 500 calories per day, the 
Government announced plans to increase the budget by $1 
million, allowing each prisoner an average of $0.91 per day for 
food.  Ministry of Government officials stated that they did 
not have sufficient funds to improve the conditions of prisons 
under their jurisdiction.  The office of civil inspection for 
professional responsibility of the Ministry of Government, 
established in 1991, is charged with monitoring prison 
conditions.  However, due to the unit's small budget and staff, 
it is able to investigate few complaints.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention by the police were common.  The 
Police Functions Law establishes procedures for the arrest of 
criminal suspects, which require police to obtain a warrant 
from a police official prior to detaining a suspect.  The law 
requires police to notify family members of a detainee's 
whereabouts within 24 hours, but the police rarely comply.   
Detainees do not have the right to an attorney until they have 
been formally charged with a crime.  Local human rights groups 
criticized the law for providing inadequate judicial oversight 
of police arrests.

The Constitution declares that all detained persons have the 
right to be brought before a judge within 72 hours, but the 
authorities frequently ignored this in practice.  Local human 
rights groups reported that the authorities routinely detained 
suspects far beyond the limits established under the 
Constitution.

The civil inspection unit also monitors police wrongdoing, 
including illegal detention.  Through October 1994, the civil 
inspection unit received 360 complaints of abuse of power, 
illegal detention, and negligence.  Victims filed 80 percent of 
the complaints against the police and the other 20 percent 
against prison guards, immigration officials, and other 
enforcement authorities.  No internal mechanism exists to 
verify what official actions, if any, the Ministry of 
Government takes against these officials, once the unit submits 
the complaint to it.  The location of the civil inspection unit 
in the Ministry building, which during the Sandinista era was 
the site of the feared Interior Ministry, is cited by members 
of the unit as an intimidating factor for those seeking to 
lodge complaints of police or prison abuse.

Although the Constitution provides access to legal counsel for 
detainees after they have been charged with a crime, in 
practice police do not act to protect this right.  The Reform 
Law of Penal Procedures provides for the release on bail of 
persons accused of certain crimes.  Previously, the law 
permitted detainees to remain at liberty prior to trial only 
for compelling personal reasons, such as ill health.

ANPDH recorded 183 complaints of illegal detention through 
1994.  Over half of the incidents of illegal detention occurred 
in the north central region of the country, most of which were 
attributable to the National Police.  CENIDH also criticized 
the police, noting that, from January 1993 to March 1994, 
48 percent of all complaints involved abuses by the police.  
CENIDH and other observers cited many impediments to improved 
police performance and responsiveness to the public, including 
the lack of professional training, low salaries, and inadequate 
resources, as well as the physical remoteness of judicial 
centers that prevented relatives of prisoners from personally 
inquiring into the status of ongoing cases.

Exile is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system, comprising both civilian and military 
courts, is headed by a nine-member Supreme Court of Justice.  
The Supreme Court names appeals court and lower court judges.  
On December 13, 1993, the National Assembly approved the 
nominations of four Supreme Court replacements, giving the 
court a non-Sandinista majority for the first time since 
President Chamorro took office.  Nonetheless, the inability to 
obtain a working quorum hampered the work of the Supreme Court, 
in part due to internal divisions in the Court and in part due 
to the Assembly's refusal to act on an executive branch 
nomination in May to fill a vacancy on the Court.  Two of the 
nine seats on the Supreme Court remained vacant at the end of 
the year.

The Ministry of Government and Attorney General's office 
attempted several times during 1993 and 1994 to issue summonses 
to former Sandinista Ministry of the Interior and Immigration 
Service official Luis Guzman to testify in the Santa Rosa arms 
cache investigation.  The Sandinista judge in charge of the 
case has repeatedly failed to meet legal deadlines for 
rendering a decision on whether or not the authorities should 
arrest Guzman for refusing to appear for questioning.

Police authorities commonly refused to implement decisions of 
lower court judges with which the police disagreed.  Many 
Nicaraguans who returned to the country following the 1990 
election after a decade in exile sued for the return of their 
properties confiscated under the Sandinista regime.  In several 
cases, after the presiding magistrate ordered the return of an 
illegally confiscated property to the original owner, the 
police refused to enforce eviction orders against occupants, 
who were frequently prominent members of the FSLN or security 
forces.  In the widely reported case of Jaime Solorzano, police 
repeatedly refused to arrest the illegal occupants even after 
they fired on the judge who attempted to serve the eviction 
order and wounded Mr. Solorzano's son.  This case remains 
unresolved.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 
ruled on February 1 that the Government had violated the 
American Convention on Human Rights by refusing to return 
properties owned by the Marin family which the Government 
illegally seized in 1979.  The Libyan-Nicaraguan Friendship 
Association--an arm of the Libyan Government--currently 
occupies the properties.

Until the enactment of the new Military Code on September 2, 
the military court system was responsible for investigating, 
prosecuting, and trying common crimes committed by or against 
members of the armed forces or police.  Military courts often 
failed to investigate complaints or try cases against members 
of the military brought under the old code.  They frequently 
imposed only light sentences against soldiers, and military 
authorities often failed to enforce them (see Section 1).  The 
military court's acquittal of General Ortega and his bodyguards 
of the murder of Jean Paul Genie and the military's lack of 
compliance with the recommendations of the Tripartite 
Commission are cases in point.  The new Military Code specifies 
that all common crimes committed by members of the military 
will be tried in civil court.  By year's end, the authorities 
had begun processing three cases, two involving the police and 
one involving the EPS, under the new Code.

In all criminal cases, the accused has the right to legal 
counsel, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven 
guilty.  Publicly funded attorneys to represent indigent 
defendants do not exist.  Obtaining justice is a slow, 
uncertain process, and the authorities regularly arrested 
persons and held them without bail for months before they 
appeared in court.  The CPDH estimated that nearly half of all 
those incarcerated in the prison system had been awaiting trial 
for between 6 months and 2 years.

There were no known political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Constitution establishes that all persons have the right to 
privacy of their family and to the inviolability of their home, 
correspondence, and communications.  It also requires warrants 
for searches of private homes and excludes from legal 
proceedings illegally seized letters, documents, and private 
papers.  However, in April the police burst into the home of 
the Bishop of Leon looking for the driver of an illegally 
parked truck.  The driver and two workmen were delivering 
material to a nearby chapel and had sought refuge in the 
Bishop's residence after being chased by the police.  The 
police entered the residence without a warrant, caught the 
workmen, and beat them in front of the Bishop.  The police 
later released the three uncharged persons, and Vice Minister 
of Government Frank Cesar personally visited and apologized to 
the Bishop (the police also apologized).  The Bishop made no 
formal complaint.

Article 26 of the new Military Code prohibits the Defense 
Intelligence Directorate from undertaking "political 
intelligence activities" and places it under the authority of 
the President as head of all armed forces.  Despite the new 
law, several political parties have complained that 
infiltration by the DID into their groups has not ceased.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

In several instances, police and the EPS used indiscriminate or 
unnecessary force, resulting in deaths or injuries to 
civilians.  Despite the efforts of local human rights 
organizations, the authorities took no action to discipline 
senior officials nor to punish those who committed the abuses.

An EPS patrol wounded 11 persons on February 8 when it 
indiscriminately opened fire with machine guns and rocket- 
propelled grenades on the town of Tomayunca in the mistaken 
belief that it harbored an armed recontra group.  In fact, the 
group had passed through hours earlier.  Both CPDH and ANPDH 
later testified to the absence of combatants in the village.  
The EPS publicly acknowledged the attack and accused the patrol 
leader of "negligence" but took no further action.

On May 2, some 300 police officers armed with clubs and guns 
violently evicted 450 families of squatters, many of whom were 
former members of the EPS and the RN, and destroyed their 
makeshift homes in an area known as "Villa Reconciliacion."  
The land was claimed by a cooperative represented by a former 
Sandinista official, Oscar Loza, accused of murdering two 
prisoners during his tenure as operations chief of the FSLN 
security service.  Although the police maintained that they 
were acting under official orders, the magistrate publicly 
stated that he had never issued an eviction order, and the 
police never produced any evidence that one existed.

A group of EPS soldiers reportedly chasing a group of local 
bandits entered the village of Puerto Viejo on April 23 and 
claimed that several men fired at them from the house of 
Porfirio Rayo.  Mrs. Rayo later said the army opened fire 
without warning, killing a stranger and her husband, mortally 
wounding her 23-year-old son and injuring her two other 
children.  She denied any involvement of her family in criminal 
activity; investigations by ANPDH, CIAV, and CPDH supported 
Mrs. Rayo's testimony.  The authorities took no action to 
resolve this incident.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and a free 
press, and the Government in large measure respects these 
rights.  Diverse viewpoints were freely and openly discussed in 
public discourse, in the privately owned print media, in the 
broadcast media, and in academic circles.

The news medium with the largest audience is radio, but polls 
show that television is the primary source of news, 
particularly in the cities.  Listeners can receive a wide 
variety of political viewpoints, especially on Managua's 
45 radio stations.  In 1994 there were no incidents of radio 
stations being attacked or subjected to incidents of sabotage, 
as occurred in previous years.  There are seven television 
stations, five of which carry news programming with marked 
political overtones.  The remaining two stations carry no local 
news.  There is no official state censorship, nor is 
self-censorship practiced.

As a consequence of the lack of complete civilian control over 
the police, police harassment of journalists has continued.  In 
July police attacked journalist Melba Sanchez as she covered 
the assault by ex-RN members on local government buildings in 
Chinandega.  The police beat her with fists and rifle butts and 
destroyed her camera.  Partly as a result of this action, the 
representatives of the two journalists' unions, the three main 
human rights NGO's, the president of the National Assembly's 
human rights commission, and the chief of police signed a 
cooperative agreement for the protection of the human rights of 
journalists on July 27.  In an unprecedented move, the 
Inspector General of Police disciplined the officer involved in 
the Sanchez beating.  The punishment of 15 days' confinement to 
desk duty, however, was widely regarded as too light to be an 
effective deterrent.

Freedom of the press is also potentially qualified by several 
constitutional provisions, one of which stipulates that 
Nicaraguans have a right to "accurate information," thereby 
providing a legal basis by which the freedom to publish 
information the Government deems inaccurate could be abridged.  
Although the right to information cannot be subject to 
censorship, there is retroactive liability established by law, 
defined as a "social responsibility," implying sanctions 
against irresponsibility by the press.  Finally, the 
Constitution provides that "the mass media are at the service 
of the national interests," implying that the Government may 
suppress media activity it decides is not in the national 
interest.  There were no instances of the Government citing 
these provisions to suppress the media, although in early 
October the Government closed down an independent news show on 
government-owned Radio Nicaragua for 24 hours after it 
unfavorably reported a meeting of the Social Democratic Party 
attended by Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo.  The 
Government gave no justification for the closure, nor for the 
quick reopening under heavy press pressure.

The Constitution recognizes, and the Government respects in 
practice, academic freedom in higher education.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution recognizes the right to peaceful assembly 
without prior permission.  It also recognizes the right to 
public assembly, demonstration, and mobilization "in conformity 
with the law."  Demonstrators must obtain permission for a 
march after registering its planned size and location with 
police.  The authorities routinely grant such permission.

The Constitution provides for the right to organize or 
affiliate with political parties, and opposition and 
independent associations functioned freely without government 
interference or restriction.  Private associations do not have 
legal status until they receive this designation from the 
National Assembly, which it routinely confers.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the 
Government respects this in practice.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for the right to travel and reside 
anywhere in Nicaragua and to enter and exit the country 
freely.  There are no government restrictions on movement 
within the country.  The right of citizens to return to 
Nicaragua is not specifically established in the Constitution, 
but, in practice, the Chamorro Government has not restricted 
anyone's return.  The Constitution provides for asylum, and 
political refugees expelled from Nicaragua cannot be sent back 
to the country persecuting them.  In 1994 there were no reports 
of political violence against any returning Nicaraguan citizens.

In 1993 the Government attempted to strip former Red Brigade 
terrorist, Alessio Cassimirri, of his citizenship and to deport 
him.  Cassimirri has been accused in the 1978 murder of Italian 
Prime Minister Aldo Moro.  At year's end, the Supreme Court was 
still debating the case, which must decide whether the 
annulment of the citizenship which the Sandinista government 
granted him in 1988 was legal.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens exercised their right peacefully to change their 
government in the first election under the 1987 Constitution, 
which took place in February 1990.  The 14-party UNO coalition, 
the FSLN, and several smaller parties contested the election, 
which international observers declared free and fair.  The 
Constitution centers political power in the executive branch, 
which consists of the President, Vice President, and a Cabinet 
appointed by the President.  The President is both Head of 
State and Head of Government, as well as commander in chief of 
the defense and security forces.  Currently the President is 
also Minister of Defense, but this is not constitutionally 
mandated.  The Vice President has no constitutionally mandated 
duties or powers.  Both are elected for 6-year terms by direct 
popular vote.

The National Assembly exercises legislative power.  Its members 
also serve 6-year terms.  Ninety members are elected under a 
proportional representation system from nine departments or 
regions; defeated presidential candidates, of which there are 
two, also receive seats in the Assembly, provided they won a 
certain minimum percentage of votes in the previous 
presidential election.  In December 1993, the National Assembly 
resumed operation following a 15-month period during which the 
withdrawal of the UNO coalition, which had moved into 
opposition to President Chamorro's Government, denied the 
legislature a working quorum.  Deputies from the FSLN, the 
center group (former UNO deputies who had defected to a 
progovernment stance in mid-1992), and three parties which had 
either defected or been expelled from UNO joined to reactivate 
the Assembly and consider a legislative agenda that included 
constitutional reform.  Although the remaining UNO members 
continued to insist that only a special constituent assembly 
should enact constitutional reform, the UNO deputies gradually 
rejoined the Assembly in January.  Later in the year, the 
coalition espoused constitutional reform by the Assembly in 
which the UNO deputies participated.

Local elections held in the two Atlantic Coast departments in 
February were witnessed by over 150 international election 
observers and judged free and fair.

An independent branch of government, the Supreme Electoral 
Council, administers elections.  All elections are by secret 
ballot, with all citizens aged 16 and over having the right to 
vote.  There are no restrictions in law or practice against 
women, indigenous groups, or other minorities voting or 
participating in politics.  A woman serves as President of the 
Republic, and women hold a ministerial-level post and other 
senior positions in government.  Two members of the National 
Assembly are Miskitos; indigenous people are represented in 
government at both the local and national levels.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Four major local nongovernmental human rights organizations 
operate freely without government interference:  the Nicaraguan 
Center for Human Rights, the Permanent Commission for Human 
Rights, the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, and 
Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo's verification commission.  In 
addition, CIAV, pursuant to its expanded mandate authorized by 
the June 1993 OAS General Assembly, carries out human rights 
related activities covering all those affected by the 
Nicaraguan civil war, whatever their political affiliation.

Human rights groups operated without impediment in Nicaragua.  
However, their reports of human rights abuses committed by EPS 
and police personnel to responsible officials of these 
institutions or to concerned civilian authorities seldom 
elicited concrete responses.  The Government took no action 
regarding the unsolved March 1993 murder of CENIDH activist 
Leonel Gonzalez despite repeated requests from that 
organization to reopen the case.

Since its establishment in September 1992, the Tripartite 
Commission has been the most effective mechanism for raising 
human rights allegations to an official level and eliciting a 
response from government authorities.  However, the Government 
has implemented only three of the Commission's recommendations.
On December 1, police lieutenant Julio Cesar Toledo threatened 
a CIAV official attempting to serve a judge's release order for 
a former resistance member being illegally detained in a Somoto 
prison.  The day before, Lieutenant Javier Martinez and Captain 
Denis Tinoco had threatened the judge who signed the order.  
Despite formal complaints lodged by both CIAV and the judge, 
the three police officials received only mild administrative 
reprimands.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of 
"birth, nationality, political belief, race, gender, language, 
religion, opinion, national origin, economic condition, or 
social condition."

     Women

While there is no legal discrimination against women, they 
continued to suffer discrimination in the male-dominated 
culture prevalent in much of society.  Women occupy senior 
positions in government, the trade union movement, and social 
organizations, but are underrepresented in management positions 
in the private sector.  They are the majority of workers in the 
traditionally low-paid educational, textile, and health service 
sectors.  A report the International Foundation for Global 
Competitiveness published in August claimed that women worked 
on average 21 more hours per week than men, 77 hours to 
56 hours.  Moreover, the report concluded, 41 percent of all 
households headed by women in 1993 lived in a state of poverty 
(up from 32 percent in 1992).

In a July report covering the southwestern portion of the 
country, the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSSBI) 
stated that "every 24 hours five women are sexually assaulted 
by strangers, five more by members of their own family."  The 
report claimed that the majority of the assaults took place in 
the countryside and in the poorer areas of the cities.  CENIDH 
quoted police statistics for 1993 of 1,741 cases of assault 
against women, of which 40 percent were crimes of rape.  
Because victims often were reluctant to publicize their 
charges, it is likely that such abuse was significantly 
underreported.

Local human rights groups reported that police sometimes 
intervene to prevent injury in cases of domestic violence but 
that they rarely charge the perpetrators because they consider 
domestic violence a "private" crime for which the victim, not 
the State, should press charges.  A victim wishing to prosecute 
must first have an injury examined and registered by a forensic 
doctor; women's groups complained of the scarcity and 
inaccessibility of female forensic doctors.  Most domestic 
violence cases thus go unreported, not only because of the 
difficulty of prosecution but also for fear of spousal 
reprisal.  Those cases that actually make it to court usually 
result in a not guilty verdict due to judicial inexperience 
with and lack of legal training related to such violence.

The Ixchen centers and the Luisa Amanda Association of 
Nicaraguan Women, a Sandinista mass organization, provided 
medical and psychological counseling to women, as well as legal 
advice in divorce cases and to victims of rape and other 
violence.  In November these groups joined with some 20 other 
Nicaraguan NGO's dedicated to women's issues to create the 
"Women's Network Against Violence" to promote women's rights 
and to pressure the Government to ratify the Inter-American 
Convention for the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of 
Violence Against Women, which Nicaragua signed on June 9, 1994.

Judging from available statistics, women appear to have equal 
or better access to education than men.  For example, net 
enrollment for girls in the primary grades is 79 percent, 
compared to 76 percent for boys.  An the secondary level, it is 
33 percent for girls and 26 percent for boys.

     Children

Children 15 years and younger make up 46 percent of Nicaragua's 
population.  The Government is publicly committed to children's 
human rights and welfare, but resources for programs for 
children are inadequate.  The INSSBI estimated that it receives 
from 5,000 to 6,000 cases of mistreatment annually for children 
under the age of 10.  The authorities conduct investigations if 
a parent makes a formal complaint, but this rarely happens.  
Every year the media carry stories of dozens of children 
abandoned or killed by parents who are too poor or otherwise 
unable to take care of them.  Because of the economic situation 
of many families, thousands of children must work in the fields 
alongside their parents or in the streets as vendors or beggars.

     Indigenous People

The indigenous people are concentrated in four major areas.  On 
the Atlantic coast and in the eastern highlands are the Miskito 
(numbering 160,000), the Sumu, the Rama, and the black Carib 
(these last three exist in very small numbers).  The Government 
considers these peoples identifiable tribes.

The Miskito tribe is the largest ethnic group in the North 
Atlantic Autonomous Region (the RAAN, one of two such regions 
created in 1987 from the former department of Zelaya).  The 
indigenous people of the RAAN (the Miskito and the Sumu) have 
their own political party, the Yatama, with strong 
representation in regional and municipal councils.  Indigenous 
people participate in government at both the local and national 
levels.  However, in many instances, the Government makes 
decisions at the national level without adequate departmental 
or community consultation.  Therefore, as in previous years, 
there were complaints that the authorities exclude the 
indigenous peoples of the Atlantic coast from meaningful 
participation in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, 
traditions, and the allocation of natural resources.

The fledgling, Atlantic coast-based Center for Human, Citizen, 
and Autonomous Rights strongly links autonomous rights with 
human rights for the inhabitants of the region and contends the 
central Government has granted business concessions in the 
autonomous regions without consulting the two relevant regional 
governments.  The 1987 autonomy law deals with the ethnic 
minorities of the Atlantic Coast.  It pledges that indigenous 
people shall have the right to participate in the exploitation 
of the resources of the region.  While the law stipulates the 
structure of the Atlantic Coast governments, it does not 
outline any specific mechanism or regulations the central 
Government should employ to determine use of local resources.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Most Nicaraguans are of mixed mestizo background, and ethnicity 
does not appear to be a barrier to political or economic 
success.  Various indigenous groups from both the northern and 
the southern Atlantic regions have criticized the Government 
for its failure to expend resources in support of the Atlantic 
coast population, which mainly comprises ethnic, racial, and 
religious minorities (particularly, members of the Moravian 
church).  Successive central governments in Managua have 
traditionally neglected the minorities on the Atlantic coast.  
This has often taken the form of making decisions on 
exploitation of resources in the region without adequate 
consultation.

     People with Disabilities

The Government has not legislated or otherwise mandated 
accessibility for the disabled.  In August the FSLN's 
Organization of Handicapped Revolutionaries joined with the 
ex-RN-based Institute of War Victims in petitioning the Social 
Security Institute to provide aid to victims of Nicaragua's 
civil war--some of whom have been waiting over 30 months for 
such help.  The Social Security Institute says that it pays 
benefits to some 30,000 victims of the civil war, including 
partly or totally handicapped victims, widows, orphans, and 
mothers of war victims, each of whom receives an average of 
$21 monthly.  The Institute claims that those who protested in 
August either had verification cases pending or are ineligible 
for the benefits because they have outside employment or other 
disqualifications.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution guarantees the right of workers to organize 
voluntarily in unions.  Legally, all public and private sector 
workers, except those in the military and the police, may form 
and join unions of their own choosing, and they exercise this 
right extensively.  New unions must register with the Ministry 
of Labor, which must grant legal status before they may engage 
in collective bargaining; some labor groups report occasional 
delays in obtaining this status.  It is likely that in some 
cases, the Labor Ministry has deliberately interfered with the 
already lengthy bureaucratic process to make it lengthier.  
Nearly half of the work force, including agricultural workers, 
is unionized, according to labor leaders.

Nicaragua's unions are independent of the Government.  
Affiliation to or activity in political parties or associations 
is grounds for dissolution of a trade union under the existing 
Labor Code; however, the Government does not enforce this 
provision.  Many unions and federations are affiliated with 
political parties, most notably with the FSLN, the Nicaraguan 
Socialist Party, the Christian Democratic Union, and, until 
1992, the Nicaraguan Communist Party.

The Constitution recognizes the right to strike.  The Labor 
Code requires a 60-percent majority of all the workers in an 
enterprise to call a strike.  It also restricts strikes in 
rural occupations where produce may be damaged.  Workers may 
strike legally only after they have exhausted other methods of 
dispute resolution, including mediation by the Ministry of 
Labor and compulsory arbitration.  As a result, unions regard 
these lengthy procedures as too expensive and time-consuming 
and frequently ignore them when initiating a strike; this 
practice continued in 1994, with the majority of strikes 
declared illegal.

The Labor Code prohibits retribution against strikers and union 
leaders for legal strikes.  However, this protection may not 
extend to illegal strikes.  In June the Supreme Court voted to 
uphold a 1993 government decision to fire 144 customs workers.  
The Court justified its decision in part by citing an unrelated 
1992 strike, in which the authorities claimed lives were 
endangered when demonstrators blocked the runway of the 
international airport.  Transportation strikes to protest high 
fuel prices occurred in January and August, with relatively 
little violence.

The 1994 International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee on 
Freedom of Association issued a report critical of the 
Government for various 1992 arrests of union officials without 
sufficient cause, who were later released without charge.  The 
ILO's Committee of Experts (COE) noted that the draft text of 
the new Labor Code (which the National Assembly passed on 
December 22 but was not signed into law by year's end) did not 
remove restrictions on the right to strike of rural workers, 
grant the right to associate of public servants, or reduce the 
number of workers in an enterprise required to call a strike to 
a simple majority.

Unions freely form or join federations or confederations and 
affiliate with and participate in international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution provides for the right to bargain 
collectively.  The Chamorro Government's labor negotiations 
continued primarily to be ad hoc efforts to resolve pressing 
labor conflicts, usually in the public sector.  Despite 
unfavorable economic conditions and unfamiliarity with the 
practice, following 10 years of central planning, collective 
bargaining is becoming more common in the private sector.  In 
1994 the ILO's COE argued that the labor law provision 
requiring Ministry of Labor approval of collective agreements 
violates Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective 
Bargaining ratified by Nicaragua in 1967.

During 1994 13 firms, employing some 5,000 workers, operated in 
the single export processing zone.  Although the zone's firms 
receive tax concessions, Nicaraguan law does not exempt them 
from compliance with any of its labor provisions.  Nevertheless,
of the 13 enterprises, only 1 (a state-owned firm) has a 
union.  Labor leaders and employers have provided conflicting 
accounts as to why unions do not represent workers in the other 
firms.  Labor leaders contend that employers have told workers 
that they will be fired if they join a union.  Free trade zone 
officials maintain that no union has received sufficient 
support from the workers to allow one to form and that the 
workers already receive more than adequate benefits.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and 
there is no evidence that it is practiced.  In 1991 the 
Assembly repealed the decree which empowered the police to 
impose penalties involving compulsory labor, a move 
specifically applauded in the ILO's 1994 COE report.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution prohibits child labor that may affect normal 
childhood development or interfere with the obligatory school 
year.  Education is compulsory to age 12, and the law prohibits 
employment of children under the age of 14.  Nevertheless, 
because of the prevailing economic conditions, more than 
100,000 children reportedly work up to 12 hours a day.  Many 
are employed on family farms.  Many children aged 10 or older 
work for less than $1.00 per day on the same cotton farms, 
banana plantations, and coffee plantations where their parents 
are employed.  Many small children work in the busy streets of 
Managua hawking merchandise, cleaning automobile windows, and 
begging.  Although the Ministry of Labor rarely enforces it, 
the child labor law is generally observed in the small modern 
sector of the economy.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Over the objections of the labor representatives, a commission 
made up of representatives from government, labor, and the 
private sector set sectoral minimum wages in mid-1991.  The 
labor groups argued that the monthly minimum wage rates 
(ranging from $30 in the agricultural sector, through $39 for 
central government employees, to $65 in the banking sector) 
were inadequate, given the high cost of living.  According to a 
1991 estimate by the Government's National Commission on the 
Standard of Living, the minimum wage did not provide a family 
of four with the income to meet its basic needs.  Enforcement 
of the minimum wage is lax, and some employers reportedly pay 
less, particularly in the agricultural sector.  However, 
Ministry of Labor surveys indicated that some 86 percent of 
urban area workers earned more than the minimum wage.

The Constitution establishes an 8-hour workday with weekly rest 
and establishes the right to a safe and healthy workplace.  The 
standard legal workweek is a maximum of 48 hours, with 1 day of 
rest.

The Ministry of Labor's Office of Occupational Health and 
Safety is responsible for verifying compliance with health and 
safety standards.  The Office lacks adequate staff to enforce 
these extensive standards.  The ILO's COE criticized the 
Government for the Ministry's failure to enforce standards 
Nicaragua has committed to implement regarding the threat of 
occupational cancer, including measures for special protection 
for workers at risk and periodic medical examinations of these 
workers during and after their exposure.  Workers have no 
specific right to remove themselves from dangerous work 
situations without jeopardy to continued employment.


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[end of document]

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