El Salvador approves state of emergency over increased gang killings News
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El Salvador approves state of emergency over increased gang killings

The El Salvador Legislative Assembly approved a state of emergency Sunday at the request of President Nayib Bukele to deal with the increased number of killings by criminal gangs. As a result of this state of emergency, certain constitutional freedoms have been suspended.

The emergency regimen adopted by the assembly seeks to dismantle criminal structures by prohibiting associations and intervening in their communications. It will also extend the administrative detention procedure so that the public prosecutor can collect evidence.

For the declaration, the assembly relied on Article 29 of El Salvador’s Constitution. In times of serious disturbances of public order, Article 29 allows for the suspension of constitutional guarantees. This includes the right to freedom of association and the right to presumption of innocence. The state of emergency will remain in effect for 30 days, in conformity with Article 30 of the constitution.

El Salvador is currently experiencing a dramatic upsurge in gang-related killings. The police reported 62 homicides on Saturday alone. In 2021, El Salvador recorded a record low for the country of 1,140 murders. According to the latest data by the World Bank, the country still records roughly 52 intentional homicides per 100,000 people per year. MS-13 and Barrio-18 are the chief gangs named by the authorities as perpetrators of homicides and drug trafficking.

In a tweet, President Bukele assured that:

the measures to be taken will be implemented by the relevant institutions and announced only when necessary. For the vast majority of people, life goes on as normal . . . [R]eligious services, sporting events, commerce, studies, etc., can continue to be carried out as normal. Unless you are a gang member or the authorities consider you suspicious. However, there will be some targeted and temporary closures in some areas.

He ordered a 24/7 lockdown in all security and maximum security prisons. He also announced that almost 600 arrests had been made in just the first two days of the emergency. 

Human Rights Watch investigator Juan Pappier expressed concerns regarding the suspension of fundamental rights under the emergency regime. He said, “Today’s state of emergency in El Salvador is very worrying—especially because there are no independent institutions in the country.”