An extension for exceptional measures
In coming weeks, legislators will be considering whether to extend the "extraordinary measures" currently in place to combat gang violence, and which human rights groups have decried for creating cruel, dehumanizing and deadly conditions in El Salvador's overcrowded prisons.
Today the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights issued a call for El Salvador's lawmakers to allow the exceptional measures to lapse:
In the penitentiary context, in addition to increase incarceration rates, these measures have resulted in serious violations of the human rights of thousands of persons deprived of their liberty, such as prolonged and indefinite isolation under inhumane conditions, suspension of visits, and forced transfers to separate detainees from their families. Likewise, the adoption of these measures represents serious violations to the due process of the inmates that have led to the arbitrary prolongation of detention. These violations include obstacles to access to legal defense, limited participation in their legal processes and in remote access through videoconferences, and constant suspension of judicial hearings. Of particular concern to the Commission is the information of the Office of the Procurator for the Defense of Human Rights (Procuraduría para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos), which indicates that since the application of the extraordinary measures, and as a result of the inhumane conditions of isolation and confinement, there is an increment of the rates of tuberculosis by 440% and of the consequent number of deaths due to this disease. This entity also highlights the significant increase in complaints submitted which relate to violations of the human rights of persons deprived of liberty.The IACHR position was mirrored by Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions, who tweeted:
Instamos a la Asamblea Legislativa del #ElSalvador a no extender las medidas extraordinarias en su version actual y cumplir con las obligaciones internacionales en materia de derechos humanos.— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) March 21, 2018
We urge the El Salvador Legislative Assembly not to extend the extraordinary measures in their current version and comply with international human rights obligations
Journalists at RevistaFactum published an article highlighting the problems of the prisons through the story of Juan, a young man caught up in one of the regular roundups of hundreds of males under age 25. Juan has not been convicted, he is awaiting a hearing in the horribly overcrowded Salvadoran prisons. Juan has now contracted tuberculosis for which he is not receiving treatment. His time awaiting trial may be a death sentence.
Despite the human rights criticisms, a measure was moving through El Salvador's National Assembly to approve an additional one year extension of the exceptional measures when ARENA legislators announced they would not support the extension without further study. The prospects of the extension are unclear, but I expect the votes will be found. The National Assembly will take the extension measure back up after the Holy Week recess and before the current legislative term ends at the end of April.
Some have suggested that ARENA had understandings with the gangs to oppose the extension of the extraordinary measures in return for electoral support in gang controlled territories.