Country Listing

Nicaragua Table of Contents


Human Rights

During the Sandinistas' eleven years in power, the Sandinista security forces were accused of widespread repression and numerous violations of human rights, often acting in conjunction with the army. These violations included the murder of perceived Contra supporters, kidnappings, disappearances, illegal detentions, and mistreatment and torture of prisoners. According to the human rights group Americas Watch, a high percentage of DGSE prisoners were coerced into signing confessions by deception, physical force, or deprivation. The security forces were also responsible in 1982 for the summary relocation of the Miskito under cruel conditions. Gross human rights abuses were also committed by the Contras. These abuses included systematic murder, torture, and kidnapping of civilian supporters of the FSLN. Undefended farm cooperatives and other facilities such as clinics associated with the Sandinistas were attacked, and many civilian casualties and executions often accompanied the raids.

According to local human rights groups, as many as 1,000 persons remained unaccounted for at the close of the Contra war in 1990. Numerous clandestine grave sites--most ascribed to the Sandinistas but some to the Contras--were discovered, providing evidence of the whereabouts of some persons who had disappeared. At one site, Correntada Larga on the south Caribbean coast, witnesses reported the torture and killing of sixty-seven peasants by the DGSE during a two-week period in 1981.

The end of armed conflict in 1990 brought improvement in the human rights situation, however, sporadic incidents of political or extrajudicial killings continue to occur. Rural violence is often associated with disputes in which demobilized Contras and peasants seek to negotiate a share of state-owned cooperatives, producing clashes with police and often resulting in peasants occupying the cooperatives. The number of violent deaths of former Contras at the hands of the police, the army, or FSLN militants rose in 1993. In some incidents in which civilians were killed, the government security forces were provoked by unruly and sometimes violent protesters. Nevertheless, even when it seems that the police have used disproportionate force or committed wanton murder, police actions are rarely investigated or punished.

Data as of December 1993