The government maintained uneven law enforcement efforts, which focused largely on sex trafficking. Law 896 of 2015 criminalizes all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties ranging from 16 to 18 years imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, the law’s definition of trafficking is inconsistent with international law; it conflates human trafficking with other crimes, such as illegal adoption, and establishes the use of force, coercion, or deceit as an aggravating factor rather than an essential element of most trafficking crimes.
Authorities reported initiating eight sex trafficking investigations and prosecuting 13 suspected sex trafficking offenders in seven cases in 2016, compared to 23 suspects prosecuted in eight cases in 2015. Under law 896, courts of first instance convicted nine sex traffickers in six cases, most of which included child victims, compared to10 sex traffickers convicted in six cases in 2015; in one case, the government reported convicting two individuals for knowingly soliciting a 14 year old to perform commercial sex acts. Convicted traffickers appealed the verdicts and sentences in four of these six cases; appellate courts upheld the convictions in two cases, overturned in one case involving two defendants, and one appeal remained pending. All convicted and sentenced traffickers were sentenced to 10 to 20 years imprisonment. The government did not provide information on the number of prosecutions ongoing from previous years, and reported no labor trafficking investigations or prosecutions. An NGO reported referring an additional four cases for investigation, none of which the government investigated. The government did not identify or prosecute any cases of forced labor, including child domestic servitude during the reporting period. Corruption is widespread in Nicaragua. There were no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government reported that its programs to improve awareness of trafficking crimes reached 743 government officials, including investigators, prosecutors, judges, and other law enforcement officials.