SAN SALVADOR (HPD) — Seven social organizations reported Friday that they have managed to document more than 4,000 cases of human rights violations during the first six months of the emergency regime decreed in El Salvador to combat the maras or gangs.
The government of President Nayib Bukele holds these groups responsible for most of the crimes committed in the Central American country and has succeeded in extending that regime despite questions from social and human rights activists.
According to a report presented to the press, the organizations give accounts of people who they say have been victims of abuse by the police and the military, with arbitrary arrests, harassment, threats and even injuries. He explained that they managed to document 4,071 complaints from March 27 to September 30.
The report was prepared by Cristosal, the Foundation for the Application of Law, the Passionist Social Service, the Salvadoran Network of Human Rights Defenders, AMATE, AZO, and the Human Rights Institute of the José Simeón Cañas Central American University.
Faced with criticism from national and international NGOs that have called for better treatment for inmates, President Bukele responded that while prisoners have human rights, “the human rights of honest people are more important than those of criminals.”
According to the organizations’ report, one of the most evident social stigmas under the exception regime is that experienced by young people and that impacts their chances of accessing basic rights such as education, work and health, it adds. Most of the victims recorded in the complaints range between 18 and 30 years of age.
They detailed that most of the complaints are for arbitrary arrests, and they point to the National Civil Police as the main perpetrator with 76.1% of the cases.
Cristosal assures that he has reports of 105 disappeared people, whose families do not know the whereabouts after the captures and at the time of filing the complaint. He also claims to have documented that 80 people have died while in state custody.
The organizations made a call to stop what they consider injustices and arbitrariness due to the lack of due process and abuses of power by the authorities.
The state of emergency was approved on March 27 at the request of President Bukele after 62 homicides were reported, a level of crime that had not been seen in El Salvador for a long time.
The state of emergency limits freedom of association and suspends the right of a person to be duly informed of their rights and reasons for arrest, as well as the assistance of a lawyer. In addition, it extends the term of preventive detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allows the authorities to seize the correspondence and cell phones of those they consider suspicious.
The exception regime was extended for the last time on October 14, and the authorities announced that they will continue to request further extensions until the last gang member is removed from the streets.
With the exception regime, the authorities say they have captured more than 55,000 gang members and that 850 people have already been released since the measure was approved.