Extension of El Salvador State of Emergency Will Lead to More Human Rights Abuses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 26, 2022
CONTACT: 
Elyssa Pachico  | +1 503 347 23 29 | [email protected] 
Myneilles Negron | +1 703 585 6727 | [email protected] 

 

On May 25, El Salvador’s Congress voted to extend for a second time a state of emergency — which significantly limits constitutional rights and which has led to widespread human rights abuses —  for an additional 30 days. 

 

Alianza Americas, a coalition of migrant-led groups based in 18 states across the United States, expressed deep concern that repeatedly extending the state of emergency will lead to additional human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests; cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees; torture, disappearances, violations of due process rights, and persecution of journalists. 

 

Following an upsurge in violence, El Salvador’s government initially declared the state of exception on March 27 for a 30-day period (Congress previously extended it on April 24). The state of exception suspends a wide range of constitutional rights and grants significant powers to the government, including the right for police to arrest people without a warrant. Reportedly over 30,500 people have been arrested so far, amidst widespread human rights violations

“El Salvador’s increased violence cannot be solved with states of emergency,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director at Alianza Americas. “Tougher prison sentences and detaining people en masse does absolutely nothing to address the contexts and conditions that lead people to join gangs. By suspending due process rights, doing away with the presumption of innocence, and stripping other basic freedoms like the freedom of the press and the freedom to gather in large groups, El Salvador’s government isn’t fighting lawlessness, it is actively undermining the rule of law.” 

 

Because parts of the state of exception are worded vaguely, those accused of publishing “messages or statements” about gang activity could face prison time. It is a gag order that affects freedom of speech and press work in El Salvador. 

 

“Freedom of expression and of the press are essential to democracy,” said Chacón. “Silencing the press does nothing to support efforts to respond to the root  causes of violence, nor does it stop organized crime actors. On the contrary, the press plays an essential role when individual rights and liberties are being suspended. Salvadorans need to be informed, and they need publicly available information to understand how gangs operate.”

 

Beyond El Salvador’s state of exception, Central America is facing significant challenges in terms of upholding independent and competent justice systems — as seen recently in Guatemala. In order to administer justice effectively, long-term reforms are needed, including appointing and electing competent, impartial, and honest public officials in transparent processes, and supporting them with training and resources to conduct investigations. 

 

 “El Salvador’s state of emergency undermines rather than strengthens the administration of justice,” said Chacón. “Across Central America, what’s needed are efforts to build strong and independent justice systems. States of emergency do nothing to help in this regard.” 

 

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Alianza Americas is the premier transnational advocacy network of Latin American migrant-led organizations working in the United States, across the Americas, and globally to create an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way of life for communities across North, Central and South America. Alianza’s digital organizing powerhouse is Presente.org.

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