IACHR reports on human rights in El Salvador
The InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights issued a report today on its working visit to El Salvador in November 2017. The IACHR's report has a particular focus on the human rights of women and girls. The press release announcing the report summarizes its findings:
The IACHR observes that the State of El Salvador has made some progress in the areas of citizen security and the rights of women and other groups at special risk, such as the “Safe El Salvador Plan” or the Ciudad Mujer (“Women’s City”) program. At the same time, the IACHR expresses its deep concern about violations of human rights stemming from citizen insecurity, the lack of universal access to basic services, and the lack of budgetary resources to ensure the proper functioning and development of human rights policies. With regard to the rights of women and girls, the IACHR notes the prevalence of violence and discrimination against them, which is clearly reflected in the total criminalization of abortion in the country.
As stated in the Conclusions and observations from the visit of the IACHR to El Salvador, annexed to this Press Release, the IACHR has observed several issues of concern, including the issues related to citizen security and military presence in public security tasks; the disproportionate impact that the current context of criminality has upon women, girls, migrants and other groups in vulnerable situations; to the criminal policy and the situation of persons deprived of liberty; the situation of discrimination and structural violence against LGBTI people; the human rights situation of women with disabilities; as well as the prevalence of threats and harassment suffered by women human rights defenders, women journalists and women who are political representatives or candidates.
Likewise, in the Conclusions of the IACHR working visit to El Salvador, the Commission notes with great concern the situation of the rights of women and girls in relation to the prevalence of violence against them, including murders, disappearances and sexual violence committed in many cases against young women and girls. Also, the Commission notes the general situation of impunity relating these cases. The IACHR also refers to the prohibition of child marriage in the country, as well as the high number of adolescents in de facto unions in El Salvador, and the various negative impacts suffered by the rights of girls and adolescents who enter into a de facto union before age 18....
As the Commission has reiterated in previous reports, the absolute criminalization of abortion has direct consequences on maternal morbidity and mortality rates. Without legal, safe, and timely options, many women have to subject themselves to dangerous and even fatal practices; they refrain from seeking medical services or experience obstetric emergencies without the medical care they need. The Commission reiterates that the absolute criminalization of abortion in El Salvador, by imposing a disproportionate burden on the exercise of the rights of women and girls and creating a context that facilitates unsafe abortions, ignores the State’s international obligations to respect, protect, and guarantee women’s rights to life, to health, and to integrity.
The Commission also expresses its concern over the fact that, even though the Criminal Code establishes sentences of up to 12 years for abortion, many women who suffer obstetric complications or miscarriages are convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison, based on the suspicion of having induced an abortion and in possible violation of their right to due process. As indicated by the IACHR in the Conclusions of the working visit to El Salvador, sentences are said to be occurring in the context of proceedings that allegedly fail to respect the right of the accused to a fair trial by not recognizing the principle of presumption of innocence and not assessing the evidence in accordance with inter-American standards on due process protections. In addition, the law on which these sentences are based appears to be in clear contradiction to the right to medical privacy, which reportedly keeps health professionals from having the necessary conditions of legal certainty to be able to properly exercise their responsibility as guarantors of their patients’ health.