El Salvador 2017/2018
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El Salvador 2017/2018

El Salvador’s high rate of gender-based violence continued to make it one of the most dangerous countries to be a woman. A total ban on abortion persisted, and women were convicted of aggravated homicide after suffering miscarriages or other obstetric emergencies. To combat violence, the government implemented a series of security measures, which did not comply with human rights standards. Measures were taken to address impunity for historical abuses; however, the executive and legislative branches of government admitted being in contempt of a 2016 Supreme Court judgment that declared the 1993 Amnesty Law unconstitutional.

Background

El Salvador continued to have one of the world’s highest murder rates, although the number of homicides fell from 5,280 in 2016 to 3,605 in 2017. The figure for 2017 included 429 femicides.

Women’s rights

Abortion continued to be prohibited in all circumstances, and carried criminal penalties for women and health care providers. Women from poor backgrounds were disproportionately affected.

In March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) admitted a petition in the case of Manuela, a woman convicted of homicide after having a miscarriage, and who died from cancer in prison while serving her sentence.

On 5 July, Evelyn Beatriz Hernández Cruz was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment after being convicted on charges of aggravated homicide after suffering obstetric complications resulting in a miscarriage. On 13 December, a court denied the release of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez; she had suffered a stillbirth in 2007 and was later sentenced to 30 years for aggravated homicide.

In August a parliamentarian for the opposition Nationalist Republican Alliance presented a new proposal to decriminalize abortion in two circumstances: when a woman’s life is at risk or when the pregnancy is a consequence of rape of a minor. The proposal remained pending in Parliament. This followed previous, unsuccessful attempts at partial decriminalization of abortion in 2016.

In August, Congress approved a law banning child marriage, without exceptions.

In November, the IACHR admitted a petition on the case of “Beatriz”, a woman who in 2013 was denied an abortion despite her life being put at risk by the pregnancy, and the foetus being diagnosed with fatal impairment, which would not have allowed its survival after birth.

Human rights defenders

In June the home of human rights defender Sonia Sánchez Pérez was illegally searched by National Civilian Police officers. In 2015 the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman had granted her precautionary measures for her environmental protection work.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In October, Karla Avelar, a human rights defender and founder of the first association of trans people in El Salvador, announced that she would claim asylum in Europe because of a lack of protection by the authorities, despite several security incidents, threats, and being the victim of extortion by criminal gangs. Between January and September, the Association for Communicating and Training Trans Women in El Salvador (COMCAVIS TRANS) reported 28 serious attacks, most of them murders, perpetrated against LGBTI people.1

Extrajudicial executions

In September the Human Rights Institute of José Simeón Cañas Central American University and the NGO Passionist Social Service reported before the IACHR that the armed forces and National Civilian Police were responsible for carrying out extrajudicial executions.

Police and security forces

In November the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged El Salvador to end the extraordinary security measures adopted since 2016 to combat gang violence and organized crime, which failed to comply with international human rights standards. The measures included prolonged and isolated detention under inhuman conditions, and prolonged suspension of family visits to prisoners.

Internally displaced people

On 6 and 13 October, for the first time, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice issued two injunctions (amparo) to protect internally displaced people. The injunctions included protective measures for a family that had been forcibly internally displaced due to rape, threats, beatings and harassment by a gang. The decision was welcomed by the IACHR and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

Impunity

Measures were adopted nationally and internationally to redress crimes under international law and punish perpetrators of human rights violations committed during El Salvador’s armed conflict from 1980 to 1992.

In May, a court ordered the reopening of the case of Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was murdered in 1980 by a death squad while celebrating mass.

Following a judgment by the Supreme Court in 2016 in which the 1993 Amnesty Law was ruled to be unconstitutional, the Court held a hearing in July to determine what steps the government had taken to comply with the ruling. In that hearing, both the executive and legislative branches of government admitted to being in contempt of the ruling.

In September the government created a commission to search for people who were subjected to enforced disappearance during the armed conflict.

In November, the Supreme Court of the USA cleared the way for Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano Morales to be tried in Spain on charges that he conspired in the killing of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador in 1989.

  1. Americas: “No safe place”  Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans seeking asylum in Mexico based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (AMR 01/7258/2017)

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