Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Nicaragua

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Nicaragua, 12 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467be3ccc.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Nicaragua (Tier 2)

Nicaragua is principally a source country for women and children trafficked internally and across borders for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Exploitation of minors in prostitution is believed to be the most prevalent form of internal trafficking. Some Nicaraguan victims are trafficked to neighboring countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States; El Salvador and Guatemala are the primary foreign destinations for young Nicaraguan women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation. Young men from border areas in southern Nicaragua also are trafficked to Costa Rica for labor exploitation; some Nicaraguan children are trafficked internally for forced labor as domestic servants. The government acknowledges that human trafficking for sexual exploitation and child sex tourism are significant problems; both phenomena appear to be growing in Nicaragua, especially in border towns and tourist destinations.

The Government of Nicaragua does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government took strong steps to prevent human trafficking by sponsoring high-profile media and education campaigns, and expanding anti-trafficking training for police personnel nationwide. In the coming year, Nicaragua should intensify its law enforcement efforts to prosecute, convict, and sentence human traffickers, especially in light of an increasing number of victims trafficked within the country. The government should also make every effort to bring its new anti-trafficking law into force, and continue to work closely with NGOs to improve victim services. Any identified acts of public complicity with human trafficking should be vigorously investigated, and any such corrupt officials should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.

Prosecution

The Government of Nicaragua increased efforts to investigate human trafficking during the reporting period, although its progress in bringing traffickers to justice remained uneven. Nicaragua does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, though it criminalizes trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation through Article 203 of its criminal code, which prescribes punishments of three to five years' imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent. In April 2006, the National Assembly passed a bill, which will be codified as Article 182 of the Nicaraguan penal code, to prohibit trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation, in addition to other sex-related crimes such as child pornography and the sexual exploitation of minors younger than 18. However, these new laws are not yet in force because they must be passed by the Legislature as part of a larger package of penal code reforms. Nicaragua's proposed anti-trafficking law, Article 182, prescribes penalties of 7 to 10 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent, and commensurate with those for other grave crimes. However, current and proposed laws do not adequately prohibit the trafficking of adults or children for forced labor. During the reporting period, the government investigated 24 trafficking cases, all involving sexual exploitation – a three-fold increase from seven known investigations reported in 2005. Of these, the government prosecuted four cases, obtaining convictions of five defendants who were sentenced to a range of 4 to 10 years' imprisonment. However, the government experienced difficulties in other cases. For example, in a prosecution in Bluefields, a judge convicted two of three defendants for trafficking a 15-year-old girl, but the defendants fled before their jail sentences were imposed. Additional training for judges and prosecutors would likely aid prosecution efforts.

In 2006, the government rescued seven Nicaraguan children from trafficking situations in Guatemala and El Salvador. Police also raided 22 nightclubs and other establishments catering to Nicaragua's sex trade in an effort to rescue exploited children. However, there were reports that some police turned a blind eye to potential trafficking activity. Known corruption in the court system and lack of witness protection may deter some trafficking victims from seeking justice. Credible evidence also indicates that sensitive sex trafficking cases involving senior government officials may not be investigated or pursued. In 2006, Nicaraguan authorities made concerted efforts to extend anti-trafficking training to more than 700 law-enforcement officials across the country. However, the recent resignation of Nicaragua's director of anti-trafficking programs is of concern; her strong commitment to combating human trafficking led the government's actions on this issue.

Protection

The government's protection efforts remained inadequate during the reporting period. Nicaraguan authorities continued to rely on NGOs and international organizations for the bulk of victim services, although the Ministry of the Family operates a shelter for child victims of abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. There are no government-run or -financed shelters for adult victims of trafficking. Social stigma and anti-victim bias may be discouraging some victims from assisting in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, although Nicaraguan authorities do not prevent victims from doing so. Greater support services for victims and sensitization campaigns (especially for judges, police, and prosecutors) would help in this area. There were no reports of victims being jailed or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked Nicaragua has no formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons detained for immigration violations. The government does not provide temporary or permanent residency or other relief from deportation for foreign adult victims of trafficking.

Prevention

The government increased efforts to raise public awareness during the reporting period. High-level government officials, including the newly-elected vice president, have condemned human trafficking; the vice president was a key player in moving anti-trafficking legislation before the National Assembly. The government also worked closely with international organizations and the Ricky Martin Foundation to launch a broad anti-trafficking education campaign and a 24-hour anti-trafficking hotline in November 2006; the government provides resources and personnel to operate the hotline. Within two months of operation, 690 calls related to child trafficking were received. The government continued to sponsor an anti-child trafficking education program in Granada, a suspected site of child sex tourism. The government also installed closed-circuit televisions to show anti-trafficking videos at immigration centers in Managua; the government estimates these videos reach 1,000 travelers per day during peak periods.

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