Head of state and government: Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena
Death penalty: abolitionist for ordinary crimes
Population: 6.2 million
Life expectancy: 72 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 29/23 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 84 per cent

Impunity for past human rights violations continued, despite some positive developments. Violence against women and girls, including violations of their sexual and reproductive rights, remained a concern. The government deployed the armed forces in response to a rise in gang violence in the street and unrest in prisons. Indigenous Peoples continued to call for their human rights to be recognized in law and in practice.


The country was gripped by high levels of gang violence and disturbances in prisons. Calls from some members of Congress to reinstate the death penalty in response to the high levels of violence were quashed by the executive.

In February, El Salvador's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review and the Salvadoran authorities took the positive step of extending an open invitation to the UN and Inter-American special experts on human rights. The UN Human Rights Council urged El Salvador to improve public security, eradicate violence against women and ensure justice and reparation for victims of the internal armed conflict.


In January, President Funes signed into law an Executive Decree creating a new National Search Commission for Disappeared Children to look for children who were forcibly disappeared during the armed conflict (1980-1992). The Decree was a response to a 2005 Inter-American Court of Human Rights' order in the case of the Serrano Cruz sisters. The two girls were last seen in 1982, aged seven and three, when they were captured by the military. By the end of the year, however, the new Commission was still not operational and the whereabouts of hundreds of disappeared children remained unknown.

The 1993 Amnesty Law, which obstructs efforts to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations during the internal armed conflict, remained in place, despite public commitments by the government to take steps towards its repeal.

Violence against women and girls

High numbers of women and girls were abducted and killed. Many were raped and their bodies mutilated. According to the statistics of the National Police, some 477 women and girls were murdered between January and October, a rise of 224 compared with the same period in 2008. In November, thousands of women and girls took to the streets to protest at the failure to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice and to demand that the authorities develop and implement measures to prevent and punish violence against women and girls.

In October, the UN Human Rights Committee called on El Salvador to take action to prevent violence against women and girls and ensure justice for such crimes. The Committee also found that the total ban on abortion, including when pregnancy is a result of rape or endangering the life of women or girls, breached El Salvador's legal obligations to protect women and girls' human rights.

Indigenous Peoples' rights

The government failed to fulfil a pre-election commitment to recognize Indigenous Peoples' rights in law. By the end of the year, El Salvador had not recognized Indigenous Peoples' rights in its Constitution and had still not signed the ILO Convention No. 169.

In July, the Secretary for Social Inclusion announced that a memorandum of understanding had been signed by several government departments to work towards better protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous groups acknowledged that the memorandum was potentially positive, but reiterated the urgent need for their rights to be recognized in law.

Public security

In June, 17 people were killed when the bus they were in was set alight during gang violence in the city of San Salvador. In response to gang violence and disturbances in several prisons during June, the government deployed military personnel in several prisons and certain districts of San Salvador.

Membership of a gang was made a criminal offence in September. There were serious concerns about how the law would be implemented, including fears that it could be used to persecute former gang members, those working to rehabilitate them or people associated with members or former members of gangs.

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