Amnesty International Report 2005 - El Salvador
|Publication Date||25 May 2005|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005 - El Salvador , 25 May 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/429b27f67.html [accessed 6 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Covering events from January - December 2004
Attempts to make permanent an unconstitutional law penalizing "mara" (gang) members were abandoned following widespread criticisms. Impunity continued in cases of human rights violations committed during the 1980-1991 armed conflict and in relation to more recent cases, including violence against women.
In the presidential election in March, Elías Antonio Saca, from the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, ARENA), was elected and took office on 1 June. During the campaign he promised tougher measures to quell criminal violence.
The government persisted in its stance that seeking to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations perpetrated during the 1980-1991 armed conflict should not be done as it would reopen the wounds of the past. This was despite recommendations by the UN Truth Commission and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the violations should be investigated. However, civil organizations continued their efforts to get justice.
In June the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the authorities to assume an active role in efforts to trace children who "disappeared" during the armed conflict. In October the government unexpectedly issued an Executive Decree to form an "Inter-institutional Commission for the Search of Children who disappeared as a result of the armed conflict in El Salvador". Pro-Búsqueda, an organization working to find those children, had been seeking the creation of such an entity for many years. However, it considered that the government decision fell short of its proposal as the decree did not have the force of a legislative decision and did not include the participation of relatives.
- In September the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard the case of Ernestina and Erlinda Serrano Cruz, two girls aged seven and three respectively when they "disappeared" in 1982 during an army operation in Chalatenango Department. A decision was pending at the end of the year. Their mother, who worked tirelessly to find them, died in March.
- In September a judge in California, USA, held Alvaro Saravia, a former captain in the Salvadorean army now resident in California, responsible for the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in March 1980 in San Salvador. The judge said it was a "crime against humanity". Alvaro Saravia was ordered, in absentia, to pay US$10 million in compensatory damages to a relative of the Archbishop.
Violence against women
Few efforts to obtain justice for murdered women succeeded and more women were murdered. Only two of around a dozen cases involving the murder, decapitation and mutilation of women in early 2003 were investigated and those responsible for the crime sent to prison.
In February the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women visited El Salvador and recommended that the government exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women and end impunity for perpetrators of such violence. Her final report was due in early 2005.
At least 159 women were murdered during the year as a result of domestic or social violence. Some of the killings were particularly brutal.
- In May the burned remains of two young women were found on the side of a road in Aguilares, Chalatenango.
- The body of a pregnant 17-year-old girl found in June in an open space in Apastepeque, San Vicente, had 150 wounds inflicted with a knife or similar weapon. The government blamed mara members for the violence, but there was no proper evidence to support this assumption.
The controversial temporary Anti-Maras Act (AMA) to deal with the crimes of youth gangs, which was approved in October 2003, was not renewed. In April the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court of Justice found all articles to be in breach of the Constitution because they violated basic principles of equality before the law. In a report issued in June, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considered the AMA to be in breach of the UN Children's Convention and recommended its suspension.
Attempts were made to have the legislation approved permanently but, in the face of strong criticisms from the judiciary and civil society, a consultation exercise was begun instead. It included judges, police, attorneys, members of parliament and representatives of civil society. It resulted in proposals to amend the Penal Code, Penal Procedure Code and legislation on juvenile crime. The reforms were approved in July by the Legislative Assembly.
Deaths in prison
- In August, 31 prisoners died in the La Esperanza Prison (previously known as Mariona) allegedly as a result of disputes among prisoners, some of them members of maras. Most of the victims had been stabbed. In October, two prison guards and one prisoner were charged with offences including homicide, attempted homicide, illegal association and allowing forbidden materials (which were used in the murders) to be brought into the prison.