Nayib Bukele’s government of El Salvador declared a state emergency on 27 March 2022 which is still in existence in order to combat a wave of gang-related murders. The state emergency of El Salvador resulted in the militarisation of politics and the breakdown of democracy.
The state of the emergency allows the government to restrict rights: Right to the freedom of assembly and association, Right to the confidentiality of correspondence and of the inviolability of private communication without prior court approval, Right to appear before a court within 72 hours of arrest, Right to be informed of the reason for the arrest and Right to receive legal assistance and a fair trial.
El Salvador is once ruled by the Spanish Empire (1528-1821) and became part of Central America in 1823. In 1841 it became independent (presidential representative democratic republic type of government) by the dissolution of the United Provinces of Central America.
By the end of the 19th century and mid of 20th century, El Salvador endured chronic political and economic instability characterized by coups, revolts, and a succession of authoritarian rulers. El Salvador experienced a civil war from 1979 to 1992
between a military-led government backed by the US and a coalition of left-wing guerrilla groups and ended with the Chapultepec peace accords.
Mara Salvatrucha an armed group resulted in created disturbance by killing people in El Salvador. A state emergency was imposed on 27 March 2022 after dozens of people were killed in a weekend of mass
violence blamed on armed groups. Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is an international criminal gang that originated in Los angeles, California in the 1970s and 1980s and later spread to El Salvador. MS-13 established a reputation for extreme violence and for killing with machetes. Mara Salvatrucha along with Barrio created violence with the motto of kill, rape and control. These groups also resulted in the killings of children and many women atrocities. In the process of combating this violence, the government violated the human rights of its citizens.
At the commencement of the emergency, authorities have made more than 64,000 arrests including children as suspected gang members which are now more than 70,000. The government started detaining people without any evidence. Violation of prisoners’ rights became a serious issue which includes prolonged solitary confinement, improper medication to prisoners etc. Around 90 people have allegedly died in custody since the state emergency was first enacted.
The government also violated the Freedom of Expression which includes violation of press freedom by physical attacks, digital harassment, and restrictions on journalists.
Ms Hurtado, a journalist in Geneva said that “Some of the mass detentions may amount to arbitrary detentions as they appear to be based on poorly substantiated investigations on crude profiling of the physical appearance or social background of those detained”. El Salvador urged to uphold human rights amid state emergency. El Salvador National Human
Rights Institution has collected nearly 8,000 complaints of violation against prisoners. United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF) urging the Bukele government to repeal the criminal law reforms that legalise the detainment and sentencing of minors, as these do not align with the measures of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and accused there is no need of state emergency as the government already had sufficient powers to pursue criminal gangs under existing criminal-law toolbox.
United Nations Human Rights Commission called on authorities to allow the national human rights institutions unrestricted access to all prison facilities so they can conduct regular, independent reporting on prison conditions and said that the Right to life, the absolute prohibition against torture, the principles of a fair trial, and the procedural safeguards that protect these rights apply all the time, even during times of emergency.
Violation of Human Rights which includes arbitrary detentions, cruel or degrading treatment, sexual violence, torture, threats, police harassment, failure to receive a fair trial and insufficient access to health care etc showed the failure of the government of El Salvador in upholding the basic freedoms of the people.
The government itself creates violence instead of protecting citizens. States have a heightened duty to protect the lives of individuals deprived of their liberty. Violation of Human Rights and suppression of people will lead to the fall of the democratic system.