Amnesty International denounces “massive human rights abuses” in El Salvador in a recent report. State violence began on March 27, after President Naib Bukele declared a state of emergency in response to a spate of gang violence that resulted in 87 murders in a single weekend.
During this time, authorities have detained more than 36,000 people suspected of links to these gangs, many of them arbitrarily. Violations of due process, torture, ill-treatment and the death of at least 18 people under state care are just some of the acts condemned by the international human rights organization. “In almost every case documented by Amnesty International, people said there were times when they didn’t know where their family members were being held. In at least one case, he remains unaware of what could constitute an enforced disappearance,” the organization said on a visit to El Salvador.
Over the past few weeks, the Amnesty International team has documented the arrests of hundreds of people without legal requirements and without an arrest warrant. Their arrest is due to the fact that the authorities perceive them as criminals, that a family member belongs to a gang or has a criminal record. In addition, only a minority of detainees had access to private lawyers, access to the file and information provided by the prosecutor’s office.
The Salvadoran government is “exposing the Salvadoran people to tragedy” as it rolls out a security policy aimed at punishing gangs, the organization says. “Victims of gang violence urgently deserve justice, but this can only be achieved through credible investigations and fair processes that guarantee due process and an effective conviction.” International human rights law, which also applies to El Salvador, does not allow them to be violated even in the event of a state of emergency.
The killings would have been in response to what the gang saw as a “betrayal” by Naib Bukele’s government of a pact they had adhered to for at least two and a half years. Gangs are a legacy of the civil war (1980-1992), they grew stronger with the deportation of criminals from the US to San Salvador and are gaining strength with the advancement of drug trafficking in the region. But among the reasons are not only the exceptional regime, but also the recent reforms of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, which have limited the right to a defense, the presumption of innocence, an effective judicial remedy and access to an independent judge. specialists.
“Three years ago we met with President Naib Bukele and he promised to respect human rights. However, since then, he has repeatedly failed to keep his word,” says Erica Guevara Rosas, Americas Director of Amnesty International.
Meanwhile, President Naib Bukele, in his speech to the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday in his third year in office, said he was “about to win” the so-called “gang war.” “I’m here to tell everyone what many thought was impossible and what until recently no one would have believed: We are about to win the gang war,” said Bukele, who has over 1,400 human rights complaints in under the exception regime.
The first step in the fight against the gangs, according to the government, was a plan launched in 2019 to cut off sources of gang funding and return gang-controlled areas, mostly popular areas. But the plan did not prevent an escalation of violence that left March 26 as the most brutal day in the country’s recent history, with 62 deaths.
Bukele urged all Salvadorans “to support this battle without hesitation”. He expects to maintain his high approval rating, which stands at 87%, according to a poll by La Prensa Gráfica newspaper.
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