After authorities declared an emergency and arrested 14,000 suspected gang members, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urged El Salvador to respect human rights.
According to the Organization of American States, the arrests are often arbitrary.
The commission stated that “many detentions were carried out illegally, arbitrarily, and through the use violence,” in a statement. Many detainees are taken into custody “for belonging to criminal organizations.”
Salvadoran prison inmates have been denied food rations and mattresses, and they were frog-marched about.
The late March declaration of a state of emergency restricts the rights to gather, be informed about rights and access to legal counsel. The time someone can be held without being charged is extended to 15 days.
The commission cautioned the government that, even with the decree, its power was not unlimited. It has to at all times comply with applicable rules and respect all rights.
Rights groups expressed concern that innocent people could be caught up in sweeps against notorious street gangs.
The gangs were responsible for 62 deaths in one weekend in March. This is a level of violence that the country of 6.5million has not experienced in many years. President Nayib Bukele sought approval from Congress for the emergency decree. Since then, he has taken a number of other steps.
They also increased sentences and reduced the age of criminal liability to 12.
The El Salvadorian congress approved prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years for news media who reproduce or disseminate messages issued by gangs or alarming press freedom groups.
Bukele filled his social media accounts with images of bloodied and handcuffed gang members. He has also attacked international agencies and human rights organizations that are critical of certain measures.
Bukele, for example, has started calling Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy group, “Homeboys Rights Watch.”
Gangs have taken control of large swathes of territory by using fear and brutality. They have forced thousands of people to flee to protect their lives and those of their children, who are often forcibly recruited. They are strongest in El Salvador’s most poorest areas, where the state is long absent. They drain the economy by extorting money even from the lowest income earners and forcing businesses to close if they can’t or won’t pay.