The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Tuesday called for authorities in El Salvador to address human rights concerns as the nation marks one year in a state of emergency. Authorities enacted the state of emergency on March 27, 2022 following a wave of gang-related murders. The measure was initially for 30 days but has been regularly renewed.
Since March 2022, 65,000 people have been detained, and 90 people have died in custody. OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado stated that 7,900 human rights complaints have been made by prisoners to El Salvador’s national human rights body. According to report, many detentions were arbitrary and founded on “poorly substantiated” investigations and physical or social profiling. Conditions in detention have also allegedly declined significantly, and the UN has received reports of prolonged solitary confinement and inmates being denied prescribed medications.
The UN called on El Salvador authorities to ensure that people are not being arrested without “sufficient legal authorisation,” that detainees’ rights are protected and that the UN can independently investigate and report on prison conditions.
Hurtado urged authorities to protect citizens’ non-derogable rights, saying:
The right to life, the absolute prohibition against torture, the principles of fair trial, including the presumption of innocence, as well as the procedural safeguards that protect these rights apply at all times, even during declared states of emergency.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report documented repeated violations against detainees during the state of emergency. The report cited instances of “arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, and significant due process violations.” Mass incarcerations have aggravated already inhumane conditions in detention, and HRW recorded reports of extreme overcrowding, violence and limited access to essential resources.