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El Salvador’s exception regime renewed despite claims of severe human rights violations

This regime permits detentions without the right to counsel, arrests without warrants, and allows government access to private conversations.

  • 10 months ago
  • April 23, 2023
2 min read

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Recently, fearful relatives of citizens detained in El Salvador under the exception regime spoke out. They brought attention to what they call arbitrary arrests and the death of prisoners in custody. They organized marches, demanding the release of family members, who they say were detained unjustly.

Since March of 2022, El Salvador’s government implemented and extended a state of exception, called an emergency regime. The vote served as a response to battle escalating gang violence. The state of exception temporarily limits constitutional rights of citizens. Many say it leads to a lack of transparency and accountability. While the emergency regime gave the people of El Salvador a sense of safety, it may lead to collateral damage. According to families, the authorities have unjustly detained thousands of people, and human rights violations continue to resurface.

Read more stories from El Salvador at Orato World Media

Does a regime intended to protect do more harm than good?

From March 25-26, 2022, gang members in El Salvador massacred over 60 people. The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador sprang into action, initiating a 30-day state of exception. They suspended certain civil liberties to facilitate arrest conditions. Since its approval on March 27, 2022, the country saw a major decline in homicides. Hundreds of communities, once controlled by criminal groups, witnessed a new reality. Gang members no longer roamed the streets. Their children could come outside to play, and criminal statistics went down in many areas. However, questions remain whether the regime does more harm than good.

Authorities are accused of unjustly detaining thousands of people, simply for belonging to areas previously ruled by violent gangs. According to data from the human rights organization Cristosal, the National Civil Police (PNC) violated the rights of over 3,403 people. These violations included illegal home invasions to unfair treatment. Almost 63,000 people have been detained. This regime permits detentions without the right to counsel, arrests without warrants, and government access to private conversations.

International and local organizations have repeatedly voiced concerns about human rights violations. Nevertheless, the Legislative Assembly recently approved its thirteenth month-long extension. Due to the increase in detentions, Human Rights Watch condemned severe prison overcrowding in January. Authorities released only 5 percent of those detained, leaving a large number still unjustly imprisoned.

All photos courtesy of Kellys Portillos.

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