WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
4 Apr 2016 | Video

Citizen Security Strategies, Hardline Policing, and Human Rights Issues in El Salvador

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) invite you to a discussion on

Citizen Security Strategies, Hardline Policing, and Human Rights Issues in El Salvador


Abraham Ábrego
Director, Foundation of Studies for the Application of the Law (FESPAD)

Verónica Reyna
Deputy Director of Human Rights, Passionist Social Service (SSPAS)

Leanor Arteaga
Senior Program Officer, DPLF

Moderated by

Adriana Beltrán
Senior Associate for Citizen Security, WOLA

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
4:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

1666 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20009

Last year, El Salvador became the most violent country in the hemisphere with a murder rate not seen since the end of the country’s civil war. The violence has continued into 2016, exceeding an average of over 20 murders per day. President Sánchez Ceren took office in 2014 promising a new approach to the endemic levels of violence and insecurity. In 2015, the government launched an ambitious, multi-year plan, “Plan El Salvador Seguro,” which prioritizes prevention, community policing, rehabilitation, and reinsertion. Yet at the same time, the Salvadoran government has enacted a forceful crackdown on gangs, carrying out neighborhood raids and massive arrests that have resulted in confrontations between the gangs and security forces, as well as an increase of reports of human rights abuses—including extrajudicial executions—carried out by police and military forces.

In this panel discussion, citizen security experts and human rights defenders from El Salvador will discuss the current security dynamic in the country, the policies and measures being implemented by the Sanchéz Ceren administration, and the role of the Attorney General. The panelists will examine the impact of the current hardline law enforcement policies on communities across the country as well as their implications for human rights and due process.


Abraham Ábrego is the Director of the Foundation of Studies for the Application of the Law (Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho, FESPAD), a Salvadoran organization that works to build a constitutional and democratic rule of law and to defend human rights through wider knowledge and the correct application of the law. Mr. Ábrego has worked at FESPAD since 1991, taking on various roles including Legal Services Coordinator, Director of the Constitutional Studies and Human Rights Center, and Director of the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Center. He has been the organization’s director since 2014. A lawyer and notary, Mr. Ábrego has led hundreds of human rights workshops for communities, unions, cooperatives, and other social organizations, and has been involved in human rights cases as an advisor and attorney. He holds degrees from both Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas in San Salvador and DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

Verónica Reyna is the Deputy Director of the Human Rights program at Passionist Social Services (Servicio Social Pasionista, SSPAS) a Salvadoran non-governmental organization with more than fifteen years of experience in violence prevention programming in communities facing high rates of crime and social inequality. In this role, Ms. Reyna coordinates the Rufina Amaya Human Rights Observatory and publishes reports on human rights violations that occur within the areas in which SSPAS works. She has six years of experience working on issues related to violence prevention, citizen security, and youth in El Salvador.

Leonor Arteaga is a Salvadoran attorney with fifteen years of experience in the field of human rights, both within civil society and as a public servant in El Salvador. She currently coordinates the Transitional Justice Program at the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF). Before joining DPLF, Ms. Arteaga worked as a litigator in criminal proceedings and in the Inter-American human rights system in cases of disappeared individuals for the Association for the Search for Disappeared Children (Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos), a Salvadoran organization dedicated to seeking truth and justice for the victims of the internal armed conflict. She previously held the position of Deputy Ombudsman for Youth and Children in the Office of the National Human Rights Commission.