WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

28 Mar 2022 | News

El Salvador: State of Exception Contradicts International Human Rights Standards

(Washington, DC) The state of exception approved in response to the alarming wave of violence in El Salvador does not adhere to the international human rights standards that the country has committed to uphold, the Washington Office on Latin America said today.

At least 62 people were victims of violent deaths between March 25 and 26, according to official sources cited by the media. On that day, President Nayib Bukele summoned the Legislative Assembly which, in the early hours of March 27, approved a state of exception that suspends certain constitutional guarantees by 67 of 87 votes.

The decree suspends guaranteed rights that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have designated as rights that cannot be suspended in a state of exception, such as the right to due process and the right to defense. The decree also suspends the right to freedom of assembly and association and permits the intervention of private communications without the need for a court order. Given the recent reports of spyware being illegally used against journalists and activists, this extreme poses another threat to human rights and freedom of the press.

States of exception serve the primary purpose of, in emergency situations, the maintainance and preservation of constitutional order. They should not, instead, undermine it or permit security forces and other agents and officials of the State to act arbitrarily and at their discretion.

The government’s actions before, during, and after the wave of violence are a high level threat against human rights, citizen security, and the rule of law in El Salvador.

In order for the Salvadoran government to ensure a de-escalation of the violence and guarantee measures that respect and protect the human rights of the population, authorities must act in accordance with democratic rules and principles and repeal any provision that contradicts norms of international human rights law. In addition, it is essential that the government guarantees other fundamental rights that may be threatened by the state of emergency, such as the right to freedom of thought and the right to life and physical integrity, among others.

WOLA stands in solidarity with the victims of violence and reiterates that all persons who live in and transit Salvadoran territory have the right to protection of their lives and physical integrity. The duty of the government is to guarantee such protections through measures that respect the framework of democracy and the fundamental principles of human rights.