On March 27, 2022, the President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, responded to a surge in homicides by enforcing a state of emergency regime. This decision came after a reported agreement breakdown between the Bukele administration and gang leaders, which aimed to lower homicide rates in exchange for prison benefits for these leaders. The implemented regime resulted in the incarceration of individuals with tattoos linked to notorious gangs like Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio-18.
Concerns Over Illicit Association Arrests
The state of emergency regime also led to arrests based on suspicions of illicit associations. These actions sparked concerns among lawyers and human rights advocates regarding potential violations of due process. Over the past year and eight months, El Salvador has seen more than 70,000 incarcerations, while 7,000 individuals were released in August after proving their lack of gang affiliations.
U.S. Voices Concern Over Hardline Security Policy
The United States has cautioned that such a stringent security policy is unsustainable and must incorporate aspects like community development, social integration for ex-prisoners, and preventive measures. Enrique Roig, a U.S. State Department official, underscored the importance of due process and human rights, stating that the satisfaction derived from reduced homicides and extortion must be balanced with respect for legal rights.
Amnesty International Report
Amnesty International reported human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, mistreatment, torture, breaches of due process, forced disappearances, and at least 132 deaths in state custody of individuals not convicted of any crime. Roig emphasized during his visit to El Salvador the necessity for a fair and swift legal process for detainees.