Daniel Ortega was inaugurated as President of Nicaragua on 10 January 2022. His wife, Rosario Murillo, serves as vice president. Their political party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) controls the country’s legislative body, the National Assembly. Under their leadership and especially in the period covered by this report, November 2021 to November 2022, the number and severity of human rights violations, including violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) has continued to grow.
Religious leaders who defend human rights or speak critically about the government face harassment and threats and the possibility of physical violence and arbitrary detention. The government monitors religious activities, putting pressure on many religious leaders to practice a form of self-censorship as one religious leader told CSW, preaching about unity or justice, for example, can be considered criticism of the government and therefore treated as a crime. Religious leaders and members of communities of faith, both those holding foreign citizenship and Nicaraguan nationals, have been forcibly exiled, in some cases expelled from the country and in others prevented from returning to the country after traveling abroad. Religious leaders and members of communities of faith have been subjected to short- and long-term arbitrary detention, with the number of imprisoned Roman Catholic priests rising sharply in Summer and Autumn 2022.
Nicaraguans are not allowed to hang symbols considered to be religious such as crucifixes or crosses, or the Star of David, outside their homes, nor are they permitted to display banners alluding to peace, justice, unity or democracy. Political prisoners are not permitted to receive or have a Bible or other religious literature in prison.
The number of civil society organisations (CSOs) and institutions stripped by the National Assembly of legal status and forced to shut down dramatically increased in 2022. These included CSOs of a religious nature or linked to a religious group or institution, and in some cases led to the confiscation of property by the government or the enforced exile of the respective members of communities of faith.
In 2022 the government became more aggressive in prohibiting public manifestations of a religious nature including outdoor worship services and religious processions. Pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders, members of the political opposition and others that the government considers to be critical of its policies regularly reported harassment and warnings from government security forces to separate themselves from communities of faith and not to participate in religious activities.