El Salvador’s Supreme Court Accepts Fourth Amparo in the Area of Internal Forced Displacement

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November 29, 2017, San Salvador On November 22, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court accepted the fourth amparo lawsuit regarding internal displacement by violence. The four lawsuits, filed on various dates since June, were submitted by families who were forced to leave their homes because of threats or attacks from gangs. Cristosal accompanied and supported the victims in the presentation of their appeals.

The lawsuits claim violations of the rights to security, free movement, and jurisdictional and non-jurisdictional protection. Violations of some economic, social, and cultural rights were also included as effects of displacement.

The rights violations are due to the failure of the police and the Attorney General’s Office to activate ordinary or extraordinary protective measures (established by the Special Law for the Protectio of Victims and Witnesses) in a timely manner, despite knowing the facts of the cases and the risks to the families. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Coordinating Commission of the Justice Sector, the Executive Technical Unit, and the Legislative Assembly were also named as having failed to create effective policies, programs, and legislation for the protection of victims of internal forced displacement.

Two of the lawsuits also denounced against the lack of due diligence in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for attacks against the families.

The Court accepted the demands, determining that they meet the requirements of law. These are the first cases of internal displacement recognized by the constitutional courts.

The Court orders the National Civil Police and the Attorney General’s Office to adopt appropriate measures to ensure the personal integrity and security of the plaintiffs with respect to the gang threats against them, in addition to appropriate measures to prosecute those responsible for the crimes denounced by the plaintiffs and any other crime is investigated in relation to the case.

In addition, due to the reasonable existence of threatened or actual damage to the life, personal integrity, liberty, property, and possessions of the plaintiffs, the protection of their identity is ordered as a protection measure. Access to the case and judicial files is restricted from the general public.

The acceptance of these amparos constitutes a relevant precedent related to protecting the rights of victims of violence. This decision has the approval of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), which congratulated the Salvadoran Supreme Court. A few weeks ago, the IACHR also granted precautionary protective measures in favor of one of the cases.

The admission of the amparos comes at a time when both the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Internal Displacement and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who visited the country in recent months, have said that the Salvadoran government must accept the phenomenon in order to face it.

In the coming days, two new amparos that show how the problem of forced displacement by violence affects Salvadoran families will be presented to the Court.

Hannah Rose Nelson