"The situation is critical”: displaced family’s lawyer

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Lawyer says they hope the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court will support the family and order the creation of an assistance program for displaced persons

 
Photo: Global Eyes Media

Photo: Global Eyes Media

 

An extended family with about 30 members began to receive attacks from the Barrio 18 gang in April 2017. Various family members endured injuries, rape, murder, and displacement from their homes. They knocked on the doors of several state institutions, but didn’t receive help from any of them until last Friday. That’s when the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ordered that measures be taken to protect the family. The attorney representing the family explains that, rather than just procuring temporary protection measures, they seek to make this case a reference for the creation of long-term assistance programs for victims of displacement in El Salvador.

"The State’s response is very limited, almost insignificant with respect to the scale of the problem... More than temporary measures of protection, we are looking for a precedent that establishes the obligation to create a broader program,” says Abraham Ábrego, coordinator of Cristosal’s Strategic Litigation Unit, which has accompanied the family in the amparo suit.

The defendants in the case, accused of failing to provide protection to the family, are the Minister of Justice and Public Security, the Coordinating Commission of the Justice Sector, and the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Technical Unit of the Justice Sector, among others.

"In some cases, the most that has come from activating the National Civil Police or the Attorney General’s Office is an alias for a victim. These institutions don’t even provide shelters," says Ábrego.

As a result of filing the amparo, petitioners hope the court will order the creation of programmatic and legal protections for victims of internal displacement, because right now there are none. The current system, says Ábrego, is very restricted. It is based on a law for victim and witness protection that operates within the framework of criminal proceedings, and only allows an individual to benefit from a protection program when they are part of a legal case.

"We work with these cases to emphasize that there is a fairly strong lack of protection for victims of violence. The situation is critical... The program is very limited, has few resources, and many of the beneficiaries are gang members who serve as judicious witnesses; there is no mechanism to separate gang members from victims of violence," adds Ábrego, who believes the institution that has been most interested in solving this problem is the Office of the Human Rights Procurator, because it created an assistance protocol.

Cristosal is one of the non-governmental organizations that makes up the Bureau of Civil Society against Forced Displacement by Violence and Organized Crime, which reported a 54% increase in cases in the first half of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016.

 

Translated from Ávalos. J. (11 de Octubre 2017). “La situación es crítica”: abogado de familia desplazada . La Prensa Gráfica. Recuperado de: https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/La-situacion-es-critica-abogado-de-familia-desplazada-20171010-0084.html

Hannah Rose Nelson