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Human rights organizations denounce El Salvador's anti-gang crackdown as human rights violations

The measures have resulted in widespread violations of due process in the country, leading to “systematic” human rights abuses, according to human rights organizations

El Salvador
Miembro de la banda Mara Salvatrucha-18 (MS-18) | Shutterstock

April 7, 2023 9:18am

Updated: April 7, 2023 9:18am

Several human rights organizations are urging El Salvador’s anti-gang crackdown, describing the state of emergency measures ashuman rights violations. 

In a statement released on Thursday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which is part of the Organization of American States, urged Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele to restore the human rights that were halted in the country under the state of exception implemented a year ago. 

"IACHR calls on the government of El Salvador to restore the full validity of the rights and guarantees suspended during the last 12 months within the framework of the emergency regime," the body said in a statement.

On March 27, 2022, Bukele requested special powers to crack down on gangs after there was a surge in homicides in which 62 people were killed in 48 hours. The measures, which were initially only meant to last a month, have been extended to more than a year. 

The special powers temporarily suspended constitutional protections and freedom of association in the Central American country and allowed police to arrest and jail anyone under suspicion of being a gang member, even if the evidence is questionable. 

The measures extended pre-trial detention for suspects and do not allow them the right to consult with a lawyer. Out of the more than 66,000 suspected gang members imprisoned, 58,000 of them are still awaiting formal charges of a trial. 

According to Amnesty International, the measures have resulted in widespread violations of due process in the country, leading to “systematic” human rights abuses committed by the government. 

“The deaths of 132 people in state custody, arbitrary detention, mass criminal prosecutions and the indiscriminate imprisonment of tens of thousands of people are incompatible with an effective, fair, and lasting public security strategy,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“The systematic violation of human rights and the dismantling of the rule of law are not the answer to the problems facing the country."