You are here


El Salvador: State of Exception and Attacks against Human Rights Defenders and Organizations Facilitate State Abuses

Washington DC., March 31, 2022.- This past weekend was one of the most violent in El Salvador. At least 80 people were killed in different parts of the country, allegedly by gang members. We condemn this situation, and stand in solidarity with the families of victims, local communities, and with the entire population that suffers because of these crimes. We reaffirm their right to live in peace and without violence.

In response to this situation and at the request of President Nayib Bukele, the Legislative Assembly approved a broad state of exception for thirty days through Decree No. 333. The state of exception authorizes the suspension of constitutional guarantees such as the right to assemble, the intervention of private communications without a court order, and even more concerning, the suspension of basic procedural rights such as to the right to be informed of the reasons for an arrest, the right not to be forced to testify against oneself, and to have legal representation.

This measure poses a disproportionate threat to the protection and fulfillment of fundamental freedoms in the current context in the country, which is characterized by the abuse of power, excessive use of force by police officers, and harassment and digital surveillance of journalists and human rights defenders.

While the Constitution of El Salvador allows for states of exception in the events of war, disasters or serious disturbances of the public order, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court has stated that an increase in crime, though it may be an emergency, does not fit the criteria. In these cases, the duty of the government is to make efficient use of existing laws and established institutions to respond to  the increase in homicides and create comprehensive public policies to prevent violence. The Salvadoran government has not fulfilled its duty to protect the life and physical integrity of its people, despite the sustained increase in the budget allotted for public security.

Notwithstanding the need to engage in a public debate on the current situation of citizen security in the country, the government of El Salvador has launched a media campaign against civil society organizations, including direct harassment from the inner circles of President Nayib Bukele himself. These types of actions reduce the space for dialogue and hinder the work of defenders to support  the development and well-being of society. Historically, the international organizations that have worked on El Salvador have accompanied victims of human rights violations and have collaborated constantly with public policy proposals to improve the lives of Salvadorans.

We urge the international community to remain alert and vigilant in the face of the situation in El Salvador, especially around the measures that have been taken under this state of exception and that confirm the dangers that we have reported repeatedly: mass arrests young people in vulnerable situations who are not subject to judicial control, indiscriminate searches of the population living in poverty, and prolonged periods of isolation and detention of persons deprived of liberty, as well as undue restrictions on their rights to food and health.

Lastly, we call on the government of El Salvador to comply with its international commitments on human rights and cease attacks against national and international civil society organizations that work for the protection of fundamental rights.


Acción Ecológica

Acceso a la Justicia

Article 19 – Oficina para México y Centroamérica

Asociacion Caminos de la Memoria

Asociacion Paz y Esperanza

Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH)

Asociación Nacional de Centros

Borde Jurídico A.C

Caleidoscopio Humano

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS)

Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR Centre)

Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo SJ” (CSMM)

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH)

Civilis Derechos Humanos

Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Nicaragua Nunca Más

Colectivo Hasta Encontrarte Guanajuato

Colectivo Hora Cero

Colectivo Seguridad Sin Guerra

Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU)

Comisión Mesoamericana de Juristas, AC

Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH)

Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos de la Federación de Colegios de Abogados de Venezuela

Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos de la República Dominicana (CNDH-RD)

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

Conectas Dereitos Humanos

Convite AC

Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH)


Derechos Humanos y Litigio Estratégico Mexicano (DLM)

Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)

Espacio Público

Equipo Pueblo de México

Federación Internacional por los Derechos Humanos (FIDH)

Federación Nacional de Sociedades de Padres y Representantes (FENASOPADRES)

Fundación Aguaclara

Fundacion Construir

Fundación para el Desarrollo Integral (FUNDESI)

Guernica 37

Hearts On Venezuela

Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL)

Instituto de Estudios Comparados en Ciencias Penales de Guatemala

Instituto de Justicia Procesal Penal, AC

Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras)

Impunity Watch

Justicia Transicional México

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Laboratorio de Paz

Latin America Working Group (LAWG)

Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos A.C (LIMEDHH)

Londres 38, Espacio de Memorias

Mexiro AC

Observatorio Derechos y Justicia

Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano de Seguridad, Justicia y Legalidad (ONC)

Organización de Víctimas de Abril

Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA)

Propuesta Perú

Promoción, Educación y Defensa en Derechos Humanos (Promedehum)

Protección Internacional Mesoamérica

Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia (REDLAD)

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Seattle International Foundation


Tejiendo Redes Infancia en América Latina y el Caribe

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)

Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social

Urnas Abiertas

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Witness at the Border