Salvadoran authorities are committing ‘massive’ human rights violations

Jun 2, 2022, 9:04 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 7:27 pm

Salvadoran soldiers guard the outskirts of La Esperanza prison while relatives of men with suspecte...

Salvadoran soldiers guard the outskirts of La Esperanza prison while relatives of men with suspected gang links captured during the state of emergency wait for information in San Salvador, on May 17, 2022. - President Nayib Bukele's government declared "war" on the gangs operating on its territory, following the murder of 87 people between 25 and 27 March, crimes that the authorities attribute to the actions of these groups. As of May 16 night, the police had arrested 31,024 alleged gang members since it began its at the end of March, backed by a state of emergency decreed by Congress. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Salvadoran authorities have committed “massive” human rights violations, including thousands of arbitrary detentions and violations of due process, torture, and ill-treatment, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

The report, released Thursday, found that since late March, nearly 2% of the country has been detained, with at least 18 people having died in state custody.

On March 27, the country was placed under a state of emergency to tackle an uptick in homicides, driven by gangs Barrio 18 and MS-13. The country’s Legislative Assembly passed the measure at the request of President Nayib Bukele after an upsurge in violence left 62 dead in a single day. It has been extended twice.

More than 36,000 people have been detained since, according to a Tuesday statement from the Salvadoran government.

Salvadoran authorities are “committing widespread and flagrant violations of human rights and criminalizing people living in poverty,” on the “pretext of punishing gangs,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International said.

“Instead of offering an effective response to the dramatic violence caused by gangs and the historic public security challenges facing the country, they are subjecting the Salvadoran people to a tragedy,” she added.

In what appeared to be a pre-emptive response to the report, which had been distributed to the media on embargo on Wednesday night, Bukele said “these organizations should also worry about the victims of gangs.”

“Hopefully, just as they care because we have captured criminals, they would care about our children, about our elderly, about our working people, about the innocent Salvadorans who have suffered at the hands of those same criminals,” he said during a speech before the Legislative Assembly.

According to Amnesty, at least 1,190 children have been detained and held in youth facilities, with many of them charged with being a member of an illegal group of terrorist organizations.

In one case, two cousins, aged 14 and 15, were detained in April while playing outside their house, just outside of San Salvador. Their families told Amnesty that police accused them of “looking like criminals,” and told their mothers that they would spend 30 years behind bars, according to the report. Since, the mothers have been unable to communicate with their children and are unclear about the trial that they will face — with a public defender assigned to the case “barely” arguing on behalf of their clients, Amnesty reported.

The state of emergency suspends constitutional guarantees, including freedom of association, and an alleged offender’s right to state-sponsored legal defense in court. It also extends provisional detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allows authorities to intervene in telecommunications without needing a judge’s authorization.

Those in detention face tough circumstances, according to Amnesty, which has documented cases of torture and ill-treatment inside detention centers.

Amnesty detailed cases of such alleged abuse in their report.

In one instance, a 16-year-old, who was arrested in April and held for 13 days for being an alleged member of an illegal group, was chained to a wall of the detention center, where he said he was beaten by police. Later, he was transferred to youth detention center, where he was beaten by gang members, who he said also threw a bag of urine at his head, it said.

Many of the detainees are being held without due process “purely because the authorities view them as having been identified as criminals in the stigmatizing speeches of President Bukele’s government, because they have tattoos, are accused by a third party of having alleged links to a gang, are related to someone who belongs to a gang, have a previous criminal record of some kind, or simply because they live in an area under gang control, which are precisely the areas with high levels of marginalization and that have historically been abandoned by the state,” according to Amnesty.

El Salvador has a long history of organized crime groups fighting against security forces and among themselves to control territory and drug routes across Central America. The small Central American country — roughly the size of Massachusetts — led the world for the number of homicides related to the size of its population for several years in a row in the 2010s.

Bukele, the self-proclaimed “world’s coolest dictator,” took office in June 2019 with broad support, after promising to stand tough against gang violence, which has racked El Salvador for decades.

In February 2020, Bukele sent armed troops into Congress as he demanded that lawmakers approve his plan to secure a $109 million loan to tackle gang violence. In June, he pulled El Salvador out of an anti-corruption accord backed by the United States.

And last September, El Salvador’s highest court ruled the president can serve two consecutive terms in office, paving the way for Bukele to run for re-election in 2024.

Bukele’s hard line remains popular among voters however, who have lauded an overall decrease in violence to his presidency.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Some fast food customers have complained that AI can get their orders wrong, a result of the techno...

 Erika Tulfo, CNN

McDonald’s pulls AI ordering from drive-thrus — for now

McDonald’s is pulling the plug on artificial intelligence ordering technology it was testing at more than 100 restaurant drive-thru systems in the US.

19 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 09: Justin Timberlake attends the Los Angeles Premiere FYC Event for ...

Associated Press

Singer Justin Timberlake arrested, accused of driving while intoxicated on New York’s Long Island

Singer Justin Timberlake was arrested early Tuesday and is accused of DUI on New York’s Long Island, authorities said.

23 minutes ago

Curator Lily Carhart shows a pipette they used to extract liquid from a few dozen 18th-century glas...

Associated Press

No lie: Perfectly preserved centuries-old cherries unearthed at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

George Washington never did cut down the cherry tree, despite the famous story to the contrary, but he did pack away quite a few bottles of the fruit at his Mount Vernon home.

18 hours ago

A reflective monolith found by Vegas Metro Search and Rescue near Gass Peak over the weekend....

Michael Houck

A reflective monolith appears in outskirts of Las Vegas

Three years since a mysterious monolith appeared in the Utah wilderness, a new one was found in the mountains near Las Vegas.

18 hours ago

A fan cools off in a mister before a baseball game between the Kansas City Royals and the New York ...

Mary Gilbert and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Heat wave not seen in decades will send temperatures soaring for more than half the US population

A long-lasting and expansive heat wave fueled by an intense heat dome is underway for the Midwest and Northeast. Record-breaking high temperatures will last into next week, ushering in the start of summer with this year’s most significant heat event yet.

20 hours ago

Gordon Ramsay pictured at the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Rangers FC and Celtic FC at ...

Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

Gordon Ramsay says he’s ‘lucky’ to be alive after cycling accident

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay said that he's lucky to be alive after a recent cycling incident in Connecticut. In an Instagram post, he revealed a massive purple bruise on his torso.

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Salvadoran authorities are committing ‘massive’ human rights violations