On March 14, 2023, it was reported that the Nicaraguan government had revoked the permits of two private universities: Pan-American University of Nicaragua (Upan) and the University of the Pacific of Nicaragua.
The Nicaraguan government claimed that the reason for its actions was the universities’ failure to meet financial and academic requirements under Nicaraguan law. However, the seizures appear to be part of a broader pattern, ongoing since 2018, in which the government has taken over a number of institutions seen as opposed to the Ortega regime (see report). Indeed, in a report issued in September 2023, an expert body established under the auspices of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found that 27 private Nicaraguan universities had had their legal status revoked and their assets confiscated.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the delicensure of higher education institutions by national policymakers, apparently as retaliation for expressive activity or political opinion – conduct which is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nicaragua is a party. Enforcement of administrative laws and regulations, such as financial disclosure requirements, must be transparent, non-partisan, and proportionate, taking into account relevant human rights concerns including academic freedom and university autonomy. The summary government takeover of multiple higher education institutions severely undermines these values, and harms democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)