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Anti-Militarism: Widespread Arbitrary Arrests and Violations of Due Process In El Salvador Raise Concerns About Human Rights and Ongoing U.S. Security Cooperation

Over 65 U.S.-based groups release joint statement expressing “profound concern” about the Bukele administration’s State of Exception

Washington, DC, April 19, 2022: Over 65 U.S.-based human rights, faith, immigrant rights, diaspora and international solidarity organizations released a joint statement expressing “profound concern” about the Bukele administration’s mass arrests in El Salvador and reports of human rights violations at the hands of state security forces. Since early April, over 12,000 people have been arrested without warrants, predominantly in marginalized communities, in response to a tragic spike in homicides; many arrests have been denounced by witnesses and family members as arbitrary in nature.

As the 15-day administrative period for which people can be held without charges under a 30-day State of Exception comes to close for many, the groups are calling on the Salvadoran government to reinstate due process, lest a door be opened to “profound and lasting injustice.” 

The groups also expressed concern that “sweeping legal reforms, including the elimination of a two-year limit on provisional detention” will exacerbate an “already widespread problem of prolonged detention.” 

The groups also point to decades of U.S. security cooperation promoting “militarized, punitive policing” as part of the problem, and worry that more Salvadorans will be forced to migrate out of fear of wrongful incarceration.

Read the statement here

“For the past two decades, the U.S. has been a major partner in building up the Salvadoran security apparatus that the government is now taking to extreme and inhumane ends. So whether President Bukele is going after gang members, as he claims, or uses expanded state powers to target political opponents, the U.S. also bears responsibility for the state’s ability to carry out violence against the population,” said Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).

“The U.S. must immediately take steps to address its complicity in the human rights abuses, violations of due process, and political persecution in El Salvador by immediately ending all U.S. military and police assistance to El Salvador, including U.S. promotion of militarized policing and mass incarceration,” said Brigitte Gynther of School of the Americas Watch.   

“Working-class families in marginalized neighborhoods already have to live in constant fear of the gangs. Now, they are disproportionately susceptible to arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention, and a politicized justice system. What will be the response to this worsening situation? Many Salvadorans will naturally leave their homes or even the country to avoid becoming a victim of a lawless government, resulting in more mass displacement from El Salvador,” said Arturo Viscarra, International Program Manager at Coalition for Humane Immigration Reform (CHIRLA)