Deep flaws in criminal justice system says UN

The United Nations issued a report last week pointing to the serious problems in El Salvador's criminal justice system:
2 February 2012 – A United Nations expert human rights panel has voiced concern about the right to security impinging on the right to be free from arbitrary detention in El Salvador, as well as extreme overcrowding in prisons and police facilities in the Central American nation.

Wrapping up a 10-day mission to the country, the five-member UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also highlighted the lack of written notification of sentences to the defendant and the lack of effective access to defence counsel.

Another concern was the “over-reliance on informers and testimony by opportunistic witnesses,” the Group said in a news release issued in the capital, San Salvador.

“This practice not only affects the credibility of testimonies due to the incentives offered, but also jeopardizes the fairness of the judicial process as the procedure of cross-examination is often not made possible,” said the Group’s Chair-Rapporteur, El Hadji Malick Sow.Prisoners who were interviewed privately complained of the invasive and humiliating searches faced, including of their relatives and lawyers, introduced since the armed forces were charged with security in prisons.

The Group questioned the effectiveness of the judiciary, particularly concerning the right to be brought promptly before a judge. “The fact that some individuals wait eight years for an appeal, with minimal intervention from judges, is disconcerting,” said Mr. Sow. (more).


Dave Kinnear said…
The article that you linked acknowledged the severe problems that gangs pose in El Salvador. Surely the need to control runaway crime has something to do with the reduction in civil liberties. This seems similar to the way the U.S. reduced some civil liberties protections after 9/11 and other terrorist attacks and threats. While I can appreciate the plight of people who are arrested, I can also understand the desire of some Salvadorans and their government to use extraordinary measures in an attempt to protect public safety. Should they err in favor of giving too many civil liberties to the guilty or too few civil liberties to the innocent?
Unknown said…
i surely hope we get some help in there education and hope of a betterlife for these kids who look like thinking of you travieso
Unknown said…
unknown above is me regina
@Dave Kinnear--The report documents problems that undermine the purpse of a prison system: rehabilitation. Due to overcrowding and corruption, Salvadoran prisoners are more likely to turn to crime when they get out. A better run and more humane system--ie, one that protects the rights of the prisoners--would result in less crime.
Dave Kinnear said…
Lawrence M. Ladutke: Of course, I was suggesting that a purpose of a prison system is to remove dangerous people from society. It sounds as if El Salvador is currently tilting in this direction.
Update--Plans to add 5,400 prisoners to the system that is already 300% capacity, using an unconstitutional "ilicit association" law:
Carlos X. said…
The Quakers get the credit for having introduced Americans in the 19th Century to the idea that a worthy goal of incarceration should be to reform and rehabilitate prisoners so that they emerge from prison better prepared to assimilate into free society. Before that, the leading thought was that the reasons to lock men away were: (1) to PROTECT law abiding citizens from the harm that they might do by removing them from society; (2) to PUNISH the guilty by taking away rights and privileges that the law abiding enjoy; and (3) to thus DETER others from commiting similar crimes. It probably follows that rehabilitation of criminals follows behind those three goals, in that order, as the aims which states should strive to attain with their criminal justice system. When a government, like El Salvador, is perceived to be failing to meet goal no. 1, it is very hard to convince the public that we ought to be aiming for goal no. 4. Some argue that the perception is exaggerated in El Salvador, and that the conservative media is fanning sensationalist impressions in order to harm the image of the leftist government. But the ordinary citizen is very concerned and, with more people were killed in El Salvador than in Iraq from 2004-2009, it's hard to argue that the situation is not dire.
Unknown said…
thank you for that insight and i wish there was something i could do to change that i really feel these children that r left behind have had no chance and wish they had programs for them and recognise by doing so crime can go down my thoughts and gaols r directed at travieso diego antonio revelo and im sure there are more like him but it bothers me deeply if you have any info on this guy let me know he is in a documentary 18 with a bullet
Prevention and rehabilitation programs protect society by decreasing the likelihood that an individual will commit further crimes. Putting someone in jail might keep him from killing while he is in jail--might, I say, because we know that prisoners can order hits from inside. But conditions in the jail will have an important impact on whether or not he kills someone AFTER he is released. Salvadoran jails currently increase the probability that prisoners will commit crimes once they are released. Focusing on the three goals suggested without rehabilitation/prevention is shooting yourself in the foot--or, at least, giving criminals a gun and holding out your foot for them to shoot it.
Carlos X. said…
Lawrence, I totally agree that you want prevention as well as punishment. All I'm saying is that when your cash strapped, the public tends to jettison prevention goals.
Carlos X. said…