El Salvador must respect human rights even during the state of emergency

El Salvador must respect human rights even during the state of emergency

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has assured this Tuesday that the authorities of El Salvador have taken several measures that raise “serious concern” during the year that the state of emergency has been in force in the Central American country.

The spokesperson for the Office indicated that she “understands the serious challenges that gang violence poses for El Salvador” and “the duty of the State to guarantee the safety of its citizens.”

However, the state also has an obligation to comply with international human rights lawsaid Marta Hurtado.

The spokesperson recalled that the initial state of emergency, which was decreed on March 27, 2002, has been regularly renewed for one year and is still in force.

“During the last year, at least 65,000 people have been detained. Some of the mass arrests, which have included children, may constitute arbitrary detention, since they appear to be based on poorly substantiated investigations and crude profiles of the physical appearance or social background of the detainees,” Hurtado explained.

Conditions in the often overcrowded detention centers are also a matter of deep concern for the Office.

deaths in custody

“It is especially concerning that 90 people have died in custody since the state of emergency went into effectand only limited information is available on how the investigations of these deaths are proceeding,” he added.

Hurtado recalled that, in addition, “States have a reinforced duty to protect the lives of persons deprived of liberty.”

El Salvador’s National Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office has so far collected 7,900 complaints about human rights violations against detainees, said the spokeswoman, who asked the country’s authorities to guarantee that no one is arrested without sufficient legal authorization and that ensure that detainees enjoy all the fundamental guarantees required by international human rights law.

“We also ask the authorities to allow the national human rights institution unrestricted access to all prison facilities so that it can carry out periodic and independent reports on prison conditions,” he said.

A model that doesn’t work

The Office reminded the authorities of the international experience that shows that “relying on an excessively repressive prison model reduces the chances of prisoners successfully reintegrating into society”.

“The right to life, the absolute prohibition of torture, the principles of a fair trial, including the presumption of innocence, as well as the procedural guarantees that protect these rights apply at all times, even during declared states of emergency” Hurtado assured.

The Office also stresses that in order to find sustainable and long-term solutions to insecurity and crime, root causes of violence need to be addressed of gangs, such as social inequalities, marginalization and the lack of effective governance and social policies.

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