Nicaragua: Update to Responses to Information Requests NIC29553.E and NIC29554.E of 17 June 1998 on protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence and recourse to the law available to sexual abuse victims, particularly those who are assaulted by military personnel
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 July 1998|
|Citation / Document Symbol||NIC29755.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Nicaragua: Update to Responses to Information Requests NIC29553.E and NIC29554.E of 17 June 1998 on protection available to women who are victims of domestic violence and recourse to the law available to sexual abuse victims, particularly those who are assaulted by military personnel, 1 July 1998, NIC29755.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aab980.html [accessed 22 May 2013]|
|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.|
The following information was provided by the Executive Secretary of the Network of Women Against Violence in Nicaragua (Red de Mujeres contra la violencia) in a 17 June 1998 letter to the Research Directorate. The electronic version of the translation of the letter (PWGSC Translation Bureau 29 June 1998) is presented below in its entirety:
In response to your request of June 15 for information on women's rights in access to justice, may I inform you of the following:
1.Information on the effectiveness of Law 230 in preventing domestic violence
Law 230 is a recent law which, in addition to addressing problems relating to the justice system in Nicaragua and the lack of access to justice by most of the population, also grapples with serious difficulties in application stemming from the male-centred and patriarchal vision of our justice system.
Women's centres and groups, most of which are members of the Network of Women against Violence, have tried to make use of this law in the courts and have met with different responses, ranging from refusal to admit and try charges laid by women who are victims of domestic violence, to demands that go far beyond what the law requires, thus making it inapplicable.
Specifically, in the departments of Granada, Rio San Juan and Puerto Cabezas, magistrates have stated that they will not hear any case under Law 230 since that law is not clear. In the departments of Matagalpa, Masaya, Rivas, Leon and others, the law is applied illegally. In the case of the offence of abuse leading to psychological injury, which is covered in this law, it is stipulated that district criminal courts are competent to hear and investigate cases. However, in some departments they are heard by local criminal courts which are inferior courts and do no have the power to try them, which can lead to cases being annulled.
Another problem is that in measures to protect the victims of domestic violence established in the law (provided the events do not constitute offences), magistrates require certain kinds of evidence and even a trial, which is not provided for in the law for measures that are intended to prevent abuse that do not involve criminal charges against the abuser. Recently, the Supreme Court issued an opinion to the effect that protective measures should be ordered through a summary hearing (less complicated).
With regard to psychological injury, the legislation stipulates that a legal medical opinion is required to prove this offence. However, Nicaragua has no forensic physicians who specialize in psychology and are able to issue an opinion. What happens in practise is that forensic physicians turn to psychologists for assistance, but this has been challenged by defence counsel.
Another limitation is that Law 230 does not make provision for minor psychological injury, thus leaving victims without legal recourse.
On the institutional level, the Network of Women against Violence, as a civil organization, participates in different activities with the government and social sectors, through policy, negotiation and consultation, to seek solutions for proper application of the law. We recently participated in an inter-institutional committee that issued proposals to solve the problems regarding application of Law 230, Law 150 which regulates sexual offences, and Law 143 on Alimony. In parallel, as a network we held consultations on application of the law and used the results to make proposals to achieve effective access to justice for female victims and/or survivors of domestic violence.
Work has been done with the national police force to prevent the police from reaching extra-judicial settlements, which is still a common procedure that minimizes the problem of domestic violence and allows for impunity from offences that are formally established as such in Law 230.
For more information in this regard, we are attaching the results of the consultation on the application of Law 230 that the Network of Women against Violence held last year and the results of the inter-institutional committee consultations.
2.Number of cases of domestic violence reported to the authorities since the law was passed
To date, we have not made a study to quantify the number of cases tried under this law. What we can say is that it was used very infrequently last year, but this year most of the women's groups and centres in the network have been turning to the courts to demand enforcement of the law, but with the results described above.
3.Are there legal options for women abused by the military in Nicaragua?
Yes, they are the same ones established in common criminal legislation (for civilians). Since 1995, when the Law on Military Organization, Jurisdiction, and Procedures came into effect, offences committed by members of the Nicaraguan army are heard in criminal courts (although military offences continue to be dealt with under military law).
A member of the armed forces was recently tried in a criminal court in Managua on charges of sexual abuse against a young girl of foreign nationality. Unfortunately, the superiors of the accused asked to have the trial suspended since he was an honourable and obedient member of the military structure. This demonstrates that in some military structures cases of this kind are viewed as part of the institution and not as cases where the accused should be answerable to the courts.
4.On the law establishing the Ministry of Family Affairs
In March of this year, the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the State was finally passed, which includes the creation of the Ministry of Family Affairs, ignoring the contributions and demands made by civil society for over a year to the effect that the ministry was illegal and that public policies were needed to counteract the inequality between men and women. The law must still be published in the Official Gazette before it will become effective.
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.
Red de Mujeres contra la violencia, Managua. 17 June 1998. Letter sent to the Research Directorate by the Executive Secretary. Translation by Public Works and Government Services Canada, Translation Bureau (29 June 1998).