[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

NICARAGUA (TIER 2 Watch List)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Nicaragua is principally a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women and children are trafficked within the country and to neighboring countries, most often to El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States, for commercial sexual exploitation. The most prevalent form of internal trafficking is the exploitation of children, both boys and girls, in prostitution. NGOs identify Managua, Granada, Esteli, and San Juan del Sur as destinations for foreign child sex tourists. NGOs report instances of forced child marriages between young girls and older foreign men, particularly in San Juan del Sur. Children are trafficked within the country for forced labor in construction, agriculture, the fishing industry, and for domestic servitude. Young Nicaraguan men and boys are trafficked from southern border areas to Costa Rica for forced labor in agriculture and construction. To a lesser extent, Nicaragua is a destination country for women and children trafficked from Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. All forms of human trafficking appear to be growing in Nicaragua, which NGOs indicate is underreported to authorities.

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. Despite such efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in combating human trafficking, particularly in terms of providing adequate assistance to victims and confronting trafficking-related complicity; therefore, Nicaragua is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for Nicaragua: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including government officials who may be suspected of complicity with trafficking activity; increase law enforcement efforts against forced labor; dedicate additional resources for victim assistance; provide adequate care for adult trafficking victims; and raise public awareness about human trafficking, particularly among young Nicaraguans seeking gainful employment.

The Government of Nicaragua demonstrated inadequate efforts to combat human trafficking through law enforcement during the reporting period. Nicaragua criminalizes all forms of human trafficking. A penal code reform law, which was passed by the Nicaraguan National Assembly in November 2007, came into force in July 2008. Article 182 of the new code prohibits trafficking in persons for the purposes of slavery, sexual exploitation, and adoption, prescribing penalties of from seven to 10 years’ imprisonment. A separate statute, Article 315, prohibits the submission, maintenance, or forced recruitment of another person into slavery, forced labor, servitude, or participation in an armed conflict; this offense carries penalties of from five to eight years’ imprisonment. These prescribed punishments are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape. During the reporting period, the government investigated 13 trafficking cases, filed 10 prosecutions, but achieved no convictions. Such results represent diminished efforts compared to the previous year, when the government investigated 17 cases, filed two prosecutions, and achieved two convictions, securing sentences of more than four years’ imprisonment for each trafficking offender. The government opened no investigations of suspected official complicity with human trafficking, despite credible reports of trafficking-related corruption in the judiciary, in addition to police and immigration officials accepting bribes, sexually exploiting victims, or turning a blind eye to such activity, particularly at the nation’s borders.

The Nicaraguan government made inadequate efforts to protect trafficking victims during the last year, and NGOs and international organizations continued to provide the bulk of assistance to victims. The government provided basic shelter and services to child trafficking victims, but such assistance was not readily accessible in all parts of the country, nor was it generally available for adult trafficking victims. Last year the government’s donor-funded anti-trafficking telephone hotline was reported as not working regularly. With assistance from IOM and OAS, the government trained diplomatic and consular personnel in identifying trafficking victims abroad. Consular officials assisted six Nicaraguan trafficking victims last year, aiding repatriation efforts from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Guatemala, and France. The government encouraged victims to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions, though many were reluctant to do so due to social stigma, fear of retribution from traffickers, and long court delays. The government provided a temporary legal alternative to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

The Nicaraguan government made inadequate efforts to prevent trafficking, such as through awareness-raising campaigns, during the last year. The government conducted no anti-trafficking outreach or education campaigns in 2008, relying on NGOs and international organizations to sponsor such activities. The government maintained an interagency anti-trafficking committee to direct anti-trafficking efforts, but it conducted few activities during the reporting period. Government collaboration with NGOs on anti-trafficking activities is reported to be better on the local level. The government reported no efforts to reduce demand for commercial sexual acts, such as enforcement of Article 177 – its penal code provision against child sex tourism -- or awareness-raising campaigns on child prostitution; nor did it undertake efforts to reduce demand for forced labor.