Human rights in El Salvador to be examined by the United Nations

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San Salvador, March 12, 2017— On March 12th and March 13th, El Salvador will present its report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, to review the concerns and recommendations made by this committee four years ago and the progress the country has made since then, regarding the application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which El Salvador is a signatory nation.

Eight civil society organizations—the Pro-Búsqueda Association, Comcavis Trans, Cristosal, the Study on the Application of Law Foundation (FESPAD), the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), the Foundation for Justice and the Democratic State of Law in El Salvador, the Institute for Human Rights at the University of Central America José Simeón Cañas (IDHUCA), and the Passionist Social Service (SSPAS)— jointly prepared an alternative report on the main challenges and realities of serious human rights violations that persist in the country.

During these two days, the Salvadoran government will present the human rights progress it considers El Salvador to have made in the last four years to the Human Rights Committee, which is composed of experts in the field. Civil society organizations will also have a space to present the challenges and realities of serious human rights violations in the country. The committee reviews the written reports and listens to each group before discussing their conclusions with the country.

The civil society organizations hope their “shadow” report will serve to prevent, investigate, and sanction cases of extrajudicial executions, as well as secure reparation to victims of these events and guarantee their non-repetition. Between 2014 and 2016, the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDDH) registered at least 44 cases of possible extrajudicial executions by the National Civil Police (PNC) and the Armed Forces of El Salvador (FAES), in addition to 25 cases of attempted extrajudicial execution. These cases include more than 114 fatalities at the hands of the PNC-FAES.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions noted after visiting El Salvador, the lack of a decisive reaction to possible police abuse indicates a weakness in PNC leadership and systems.

Another important issue is access to justice, both as a means to help reduce impunity relating to civil-war-era crimes, and to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling that the post-war amnesty law was unconstitutional. These organizations consider it critically important for the FAES to grant access to files relevant to human rights violations from the civil war. The Attorney General’s Office, for its part, must develop and implement a policy specific to the criminal prosecution of war crimes.

The report also discusses the need to establish legal protective measures for the LGBTI population. A report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the PDDH, and civil society organizations indicates that 52% of trans women have received death threats or suffered acts of violence, mainly due to transphobia and extortion imposed by gangs on sex work.

Forced displacement is also a main concern. In 2016, the Civil Society Working Group against Forced Displacement by Violence assisted 699 victims, most of whom suffered threats, the murder or attempted murder of self or a relative, or an injury caused by gangs (83.7%), the National Civil Police or the Armed Forces (8.1%), or extermination groups (3.2%). In the first half of 2017, 328 victims (163 men and 168 women) were treated.

These recommendations and concerns, along with other relevant issues such as migration, the role of the PDDH, and others, will be disclosed before the United Nations Human Rights Committee as it examines El Salvador and issues a report to advance the fulfillment of civil and political rights.

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Hannah Rose Nelson