Skip to main content


Leaked database reveals large-scale abuses in Salvadoran prisons

“This leaked database points to serious human rights violations committed during the state of emergency,” said the Human Rights Watch

January 27, 2023 7:37pm

Updated: January 29, 2023 12:21pm

A leaked database obtained by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that there are large-scale due process violations, overcrowding of prisons, imprisonment of children, and even deaths taking place inside Salvadoran prisons. 

The database, which belongs to the Ministry of Public Safety, includes the personal information of the individuals prosecuted between March and August 2022, after President Nayib Bukele declared a state of emergency to crack down on gang violence. 

The data seems to indicate that thousands of individuals, including children, have been arrested by Salvadoran authorities and charged with broadly defined crimes linking them to gang violence. 

According to the database, more than 39,000 individuals have been charged with the crime of “unlawful association,” while an additional 8,000 with being members of a “terrorist organization.” More than 50,000 of those arrested were sent to pre-trial detention.

More than 1,082 children—918 boys and 164 girls—have been arrested during the state of emergency, some as young as 12 or 13 years old. Most of them were sent to pre-trial detention as well. 

“This leaked database points to serious human rights violations committed during the state of emergency,” said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “According to the data, Salvadoran authorities have inhumanely packed detainees, including hundreds of children, in crowded detention sites, while doing very little to ensure victims’ access to justice for gang violence.”

President Bukele declared a state of emergency in March, and temporarily suspended constitutional protections after the country saw a dramatic rise in homicides. Since then, Bukele has extended the state of emergency several times, limited freedom of association, and reformed the country’s penal code to increase jail time for gang members and try minors who are involved with gangs as adults. 

Salvadoran authorities have detained more than 61,000 people through its massive arrest campaign—more than 2% of the Central American country’s adult population