Crime & Justice

Protesters: Salvadoran judges are complicit in rights abuses

San Salvador, Nov 16 (EFE).- Some 200 people gathered Wednesday in this capital to demand that Salvadoran judges order the release of people wrongfully arrested under the state of emergency imposed in March with the stated aim of battling gangs.

The protest was organized by the Movement of Victims of the Regime (Movir), which said in a statement that El Salvador’s judiciary is guilty of “complicity” with right-wing President Nayib Bukele.

Judges are “responsible for the violations of human rights, mistreatment, torture, health degradation, deaths and grave injuries” that have befallen some of the more than 50,000 rounded up since late March.

The state of emergency entails the suspension of constitutional guarantees and allows police to detain people without warrants and in the absence of grounds that would stand up to judicial scrutiny.

In every case, according to Movir, judges operating anonymously have agreed to allow detainees to be held for up to six months.

The resort to longer periods of detention without charge shows that authorities “have not been able to find evidence that links the majority of detainees with crimes.”

Silvia Campos, two of whose sons have been in custody since April, told EFE that the boys were the main breadwinners for the household.

“We are advocating for the innocent, not for the criminals,” she said, urging Bukele to release law-abiding people such as her sons.

NGOs and the national ombud’s office have received more than 7,400 complaints about human rights violations in connection with the state of emergency, most of them for arbitrary arrest, and Salvadoran media report that more than 50 detainees have died in custody.

Tuesday night, the Legislative Assembly voted to extend the state of emergency for another 30 days.

It was in the wake of an eruption of violence in late March with 87 homicides in three days that Bukele persuaded congress to grant him special powers to battle the Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS13.

A succession of governments has struggled to subdue MS-13 and the other gangs, which actually originated in Los Angeles among the children of Salvadorans fleeing the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.

Convicted gang members deported back to their homeland from the United States established the gangs on Salvadoran soil, where the number of members is currently estimated at around 70,000.

Prior to the state of emergency, according to Bukele, some 16,000 gang members were behind bars. EFE

Though the draconian measures have spurred protests, Bukele enjoys tremendous popularity and is expected to win election to a second term. EFE


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