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El Salvador: Are Crimes Against Humanity Being Comitted in El Salvador's "War On Gangs?"

The people of El Salvador have been living under a State of Exception, purportedly implemented to combat gang violence, for two years now. During that time, Salvadoran civil society groups and international organizations have documented serious human rights violations committed against thousands of people detained under the pretext of this security policy. The question now being raised is: might the violations being committed under El Salvador’s current security policies amount to crimes against humanity?


Throughout the early 2000s El Salvador was plagued by violence: gang-related violence in particular. The numbers of homicides were staggering for such a small country. In 2015, for example, the murder rate was over 104 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world.2 Since taking office in June 2019, President Nayib Bukele has claimed that public security is the top priority of his administration, seeking to position himself as the leader of a “war on gangs” by adopting harsh policies to combat organized criminal groups that have long held significant power in the country. March 2022 saw a spate of violence—allegedly carried out by gang members—that killed 87 people over a three-day period. 3 Independent investigative media sources have alleged that the violence followed the collapse of secret negotiations between the Bukele government and gang leaders.4 In response, President Bukele asked Congress to approve a State of Exception (also referred to as a State of Emergency). El Salvador’s Constitution, like that of other States in the hemisphere, allows for the temporary suspension of certain constitutional rights under a State of Exception, designed to operate as a time-limited response to extraordinary circumstances that pose a dire threat to national life. The relevant articles of El Salvador’s constitution, Article 29, specifies ‘war, invasion, sedition, catastrophe, epidemic or other grave catastrophe, or grave alteration of public order,’ and Article 30 stipulates that states of exception and their associated suspensions of rights should last no longer than 30 days and can be renewed only once.5 Despite this, El Salvador’s ongoing State of Exception has now been renewed 23 times since its introduction.


Read more here: 2024_dplf_are_crimes_against_humanity_commited_in_el_salvador_war_on_gangs_-_article_state_of_exception.pdf