NICARAGUA: New Report finds worsening violations of freedom of religion or belief

CSW (13.02.2024) – Christian Solidarity Worldwide has published a new report which finds that the number and severity of violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Nicaragua have continued to grow.


The report, entitled ‘Hostile takeover: Tightening reins on freedom of religion or belief in Nicaragua’, covers the period from November 2022 through January 2024, during which CSW recorded 310 separate FoRB cases, most of which involved multiple FoRB violations and in some instances affected thousands of people. This is a significant increase on 156 cases which were documented in a previous report which covered the period of November 2021 through November 2022.


The report is based on firsthand documentation provided by Nicaraguan human rights defenders (HRDs) in the country, in co-ordination with other Nicaraguan HRDs who have been forced into exile.


The most commonly reported FoRB violations during the period covered by the report were those involving the arbitrary cancellation of religious events, activities or services as the government became more aggressive in its prohibitions on public manifestations of a religious nature including outdoor worship services and religious processions. Some religious groups, in particular those aligned with and supportive of the government, were exempt from this prohibition.


Other documented violations against members of religion or belief communities and religious leaders include, but are not limited to, threats, harassment, denial of entry or re-entry to Nicaragua, the forced closure of religious institutions among that of hundreds of independent civil society organisations, and the imposition of property taxes on religious institutions in contravention of domestic law exempting them from such taxes.

The report also finds that the number of cases of arbitrary detention of religious leaders more than doubled between November 2022 and January 2024, as compared to the previous CSW reporting period. In some cases, the detentions were short term. Many appeared to be, at least in part, an attempt to intimidate individuals into refraining from participating in religious activities.


The government also stepped up its drive to forcibly expel those deemed critical of the government, stripping them of their Nicaraguan citizenship. The practice appears to have become government policy, as exemplified by the expulsion of 222 political prisoners in February 2023, of 12 Roman Catholic priests in October 2023, and a further 19 Roman Catholic political prisoners in January 2024.


CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: ‘This report demonstrates just how severely the situation of freedom of religion or belief and other human rights has continued to deteriorate in Nicaragua over the past year, and how it will continue to do so if the international community does not increase its efforts to hold the Nicaraguan government to account for its crimes. In the bleakness of the situation, the Nicaraguans in the country, and in exile, who, despite grave risk, continue to defend human rights and to work to restore democracy cannot be forgotten. CSW thanks all those still inside Nicaragua who went to great lengths to carry out the documentation on which this report is based. CSW stands with all those working for a free and democratic Nicaragua in which the rights of all are respected.’

Click here to download CSW’s new report on Nicaragua as a PDF.


Further reading about FORB in Nicaragua on HRWF website