After conducting a crisis investigation in El Salvador, Amnesty International denounced, last Thursday, that within the framework of the emergency regime declared by the government of Nayib Bukele, “massive human rights violations have been committed, including thousands of arbitrary detentions and violations of due process, as well as torture and ill-treatment, and at least 18 people have died under State custody”.
Amnesty International’s Director for the Americas, Erika Guevara, noted that “three years ago we met with President Nayib Bukele and he pledged to respect human rights. However, since then he has repeatedly failed to keep his word”.
It should be recalled that Bukele decreed a state of emergency on March 27, following a rise in homicides allegedly committed by gangs, which was to be extended for a month but has already been extended twice to date. 76 homicides were registered in 48 hours, which led to the measure restricting freedom.
According to the NGO, in the last weeks, they have documented in detail 28 cases of human rights violations, corresponding to 34 people. All under the excuse of the war against gangs, which is one of the big bets of the government.
And despite national and international accusations of human rights violations during the state of emergency, this measure has 74% approval from Salvadorans, according to LPG Data. Thus, in a message in Congress and transmitted on radio and television, Bukele assured us that they are about to win the war against the gangs that controlled 80% of the country.
Among Amnesty International’s accusations, illegal detentions stand out, without an administrative or judicial arrest warrant or in a situation of flagrancy, but simply by stigmatization: having tattoos, having been accused by a third party of having links with a gang, having a family member belonging to a gang, having a previous criminal record, among others. Along these lines, the NGO documented cases of torture and ill-treatment inside detention centers. The testimonies reveal the level of control that gang members have inside the cells and the extreme conditions of overcrowding, which would be resulting in violations of the right to life and personal integrity, and causing serious health problems, shortages of food and basic hygiene supplies, seriously affecting the health of detainees.
On the other hand, Bukele’s government has been characterized by attacks on the press and journalists, who have been besieged and some even claim to be the target of possible criminal investigations against them as a form of retaliation.
In the context of the emergency regime, legal reforms have been approved that put at risk of criminalization those who report on the gang phenomenon with sentences of up to 15 years in prison. Likewise, public officials and pro-government media have publicly and without evidence accused journalists and investigators of having links with gangs, in an attempt to stigmatize and inhibit freedom of the press.
The same happens with the justice system, imposing a policy against judicial independence.
Amnesty International pointed out that “the magnitude of the human rights violations demands a forceful and immediate response from the international community”, and called for access to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN protection mechanisms.
“We call on the government of President Bukele to immediately reverse the recent measures violating human rights and to establish a dialogue with national and international civil society organizations and international human rights protection mechanisms, to establish an effective public security policy that respects human rights.”
Image: Infobae (Reuters)