Salvadorans Think Forced Displacement Should Be Officially Recognized and that the Extraordinary Measures Have Been Unsuccessful

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The University Institute on Public Opinion of the Universidad Centroamericana (IUDOP in Spanish) has released the results of a national survey on forced internal displacement and extraordinary security measures.  It provides some hopeful results in regards to human rights and shows that the citizens of El Salvador respect the human rights of victims of displacement and of incarcerated people. In the survey, the Salvadoran population signaled that the State should recognize forced displacement and issue special legislation to address the issue. With regards to the prison population, Salvadorans believe that the extraordinary measures have been ineffective at combating crime, and that the rights of incarcerated people should not be restricted. Furthermore, the survey results indicate that participants believe rehabilitation for incarcerated people is possible under the right conditions.

The need to protect victims of generalized violence who have been displaced is urgent. The survey data reveals that around 235,708 Salvadorans were displaced due to threats or acts of violence in 2018. On July 13, 2018, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court issued an amparo decision that, along with a series of other recommendations, recognized forced internal displacement caused by violence in El Salvador, and asked the State to create legislation within a six-month period that protects victims of displacement.

Of the people surveyed, 92% agree that the State should create a law to protect victims of displacement. This sends a message to the Legislative Assembly, specifically its Legislative and Constitutional Commission, which has a draft law on displacement that has been awaiting discussion since August 2018. Not approving this special law to protect victims implies that the problem will continue to be ignored, and the rights of people affected by displacement will continue to go unrecognized. Cristosal acknowledges the representatives who have supported the proposal before the Assembly.

The Salvadoran population also expressed solidarity with the victims of forced displacement due to violence; 51.5% of people surveyed affirmed that they would welcome people fleeing from violence into their community. In response to another question, 18% of people surveyed stated that deportees who cannot return home due to violence should turn to the State for help.

On the other hand, 75% of the survey participants believe the extraordinary measures did not reduce crime, which highlights the need for more comprehensive security policies. Nevertheless, there is hope that adequate programs can help rehabilitate people who have been in conflict with the law. Considering the survey results in relation to the total population, this opinion is shared by more than 2.5 million Salvadorans who recognize the need to create and finance comprehensive public policies to address insecurity. The majority of those surveyed believe that, even if someone has committed a crime and is imprisoned, that person  should maintain the right to receive visits, medical care, and job training. It should be noted that even though the majority of survey participants support the use of drastic sanctions, the majority (69.4%) also believe that the human rights of all people, even those who commit a crime, should be respected.

Before a State that has historically violated the rights of victims of violence and people in conflict with the law, public opinion sends a message of solidarity with these people and acknowledges the serious flaws of current public policies regarding attention to victims and rehabilitation.

The responsibility to create comprehensive public policies should be approached seriously from different angles: the creation of transversal strategies for attention to victims, support systems for victims of violence, and appropriate budgeting to address these issues, among others. Meanwhile, to truly acknowledge the problem, civil society invites the State to change its strategy, take on new obligations to guarantee protection, and prioritize protection and attention to victims of violence.

We believe that the general public willing to participate in comprehensive public policies on security that prioritize a respect for human rights, rehabilitation, and programs to assist victims of violence.

San Salvador, January 9, 2019

Paulina P