Nicaragua: Protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence, and legal recourse available to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, particularly those who have been assaulted by military personnel
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||3 September 2003|
|Citation / Document Symbol||NIC41905.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Nicaragua: Protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence, and legal recourse available to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, particularly those who have been assaulted by military personnel, 3 September 2003, NIC41905.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/403dd20b0.html [accessed 6 March 2015]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
No references to specific legal protections or recourse for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse perpetrated by military personnel could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. Information on general protection and legal recourse for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse can be found in NIC41906.E of 28 August 2003 and earlier Responses, as well as in sections of Country Reports 2002 that deal with the right to fair trial (Section 1.e) and women (Section 5). All of these documents are available at Regional Documentation Centres.
Please note that, under section 1.e, Country Reports 2002 states that "the 1994 military code requires the civilian court system to try members of the military charged with common crimes" (31 Mar. 2003). More recent contrasting or corroborating information on this point could not be found among the sources consulted.
A five-year action plan prepared in 2000 by the Nicaraguan Women's Institute (Instituto Nicaragüense de la Mujer, INIM) and the National Commission of Violence Against Women, Children and Adolescents (Comisión Nacional de Lucha contra la Violencia hacia la Mujer, Niñez y Adolescencia) reports on the situation of women who are victims of violence at the time, including shortcomings in the state response to violence against women and children (Nicaragua 2000). For the handling of violence against women and children at the time, the report notes the following:
- [translation] 50 per cent of cases received by police stations are settled without resorting to or outside the courts;
- only 12 per cent of cases studied were forwarded to the pertinent local and district courts;
- 43 per cent of reports did not proceed through legal channels because persons reporting the abuse withdrew their initial claims;
- attackers go free on bail upon payment of "ludicrous" (irrisoria) amounts;
- limitations on access to justice for women and children, and impunity for victimizers, is worse in rural areas of Nicaragua (ibid., 18)
The report provides, among various other comments, the following assessment of the legal and support services for victims of violence:
- most institutions lack adequate protocols, norms and procedures to assist children and other victims of sexual or domestic violence, as well as adequate budgets;
- government and non-governmental organizations agree that the existing legal framework (including the Youth and Children's Code) are adequate, but their application is sparse or inadequate;
- not all sexual and domestic violence cases reach the courts, and in those that do, victimizers are not always punished because of an ineffective application of laws and procedures, difficulties in providing adequate evidence, or reluctance of victims to continue with legal procedures against a victimizer who provides the means of subsistence for the home;
- in cases of domestic violence there is a tendency to arrange out-of-court settlements or agreements between victims and victimizers;
- evidence-gathering techniques for forensic experts need improvement;
- the is a need to improve coordination between government and non-government institutions;
- access to the court system is hindered because of case overload and the state of its facilities and equipment;
- some judges and court officials lack sensitivity towards sexual and domestic violence and are reluctant to enforce existing legislation;
- with varied performance noted within the police and the courts, as well as between rural areas and the capital, there is no homogeneous treatment of domestic violence cases in the courts (ibid., 21-22).
More recently, a report by the secretary general of Nicaragua's Women's Network against Violence (Red de Mujeres contra la Violencia) describes the problems faced by victims of sexual or domestic violence who seek redress (Delgado August 2002). Among the various points discussed in the report, the secretary general mentions the following:
- few cases complete their legal course, which includes sessions before juries in which the victim is subject to offenses, derision;
- rape victims are subjected to denigrating interrogations that can be practically accusatory, based on the presumption of provocation by the victim, and physical examinations can be conducted in ways that are a violation in themselves;
- victims have to recount their ordeals before a jury and even before their attacker, and many child witnesses retract their testimonies at that point;
- in the case of children and youth victims, attempts to blame their mothers for their alleged inability to look out for their children might occur;
- in some cases, women's and children's testimonies are not given much weight by juries, and attackers may be released for lack of witnesses even if other evidence seems adequate;
- the slow pace of proceedings can be both frustrating and dangerous; when there is no person in detention, there is no hurry to proceed; if there is no mediation and a sentence against the attacker is issued after six months, he or she is entitled to a suspended sentence; bail is never set above the minimum legal requirement, which is 100 cordobas;
- in certain communities, local community chiefs are usually men and take upon themselves the resolution of problems that they regard as being of community interest;
- the economic, social or political status of victimizers can help protect them from accusations of crimes committed against women or children, and corruption in the judiciary can manifest itself through influence peddling, bribery, blackmail, or collusion with political, business or religious leaders (ibid., 4-6).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002. 31 March 2003. United States Department of Staet. Washington, DC.
Delgado, Violeta. August 2002. "En Nicaragua: La justicia para las mujeres es cosa de suerte y no de ley." Paper presented at the Conferencia Centroamericana y del Caribe – Reducción de la Pobreza, Gobernabilidad Democrática y Equidad de Género, Managua, 28-30 August 2002.
Nicaragua. 2000. Institution Nicaragüense de la mujer (INIM) and Comisión Nacional de Lucha contra la Violencia hacia la Mujer, Niñez y Adolescencia. Plan Nacional para la prevención de la violencia intrafamiliar y sexual: Nicaragua 2001-2006 (Versión Electrónica). Managua: Proeycto de Promoción de Políticas de Género.
Additional Sources Consulted
Central America Report [Guatemala City]. 2000-2003
Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 2000-2003
Internet sites and search engines, including:
El Nuevo Diario [Managua]. Searchable archives
Fempress [Santiago]. Searchable archives, 2000-2003
La Prensa [Managua]. Searchable archives
United Nations (UNICEF and CEDAW)