El Salvador


El Salvador Human Rights

Human Rights Concerns

El Salvador has the distinction of not only having the highest homicide rate in the world, but also the highest rate of killings by police, and rising.

On May 1, 2021, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly dismissed all five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as the Attorney General.  Amnesty International’s Americas Director, Erika Guevara-Rosas, called these moves “yet another attempt by Salvadoran authorities to take the country back to those moments in its history where human rights were trampled on a daily basis.”  By attacking judicial independence, she stated, “the Legislative Assembly has shown the world its contempt for these rights, including access to justice.”  At the August, the Assembly further weakened judicial independence by approving legal reforms that will dismiss a third of the judges and magistrates nationwide.

The climate of attacks and harassment against activists and organizations, particularly those who demand more transparency and accountability from the government, has increased in recent years, and especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  High-ranking government officials, including President Bukele, have dismissed the work of human rights organizations, accusing them of being “criminals”, “seeking the death of more people”, and of being “front organizations” and part of the political “opposition”.   “In identifying human rights organizations as scapegoats for the problems that El Salvador is facing, President Bukele is not only restricting freedoms, but is wasting the talent and constructive opinions of those who want the best for their country,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Salvadoran journalists have reported an escalation of the campaign of attacks and harassment on social media, to which tactics such as monitoring and legal harassment have been added.  The attacks against journalists have intensified so much recently that the country has dropped eight places on the Reporters Without Borders ranking of freedom of the press in 2021.  In November 2021, Apple alerted several Salvadoran journalists and members of civil society organization that they were possibly being subjected to targeted surveillance  by “state-sponsored attackers”.   Amnesty International has verified independent investigations that found that the journalists’ and civil society members’  devices were infected with the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware starting at least as early as July 2020.  In January 2022, Amnesty International responded to these developments, stating “It’s “It’s unacceptable that reports of harassment and threats against journalists and human rights defenders, who work in a hostile environment and are at serious risk, are becoming more and more common in El Salvador”.

On November 9, 2021, the Salvadoran Minister of the Interior presented the legal initiative “Ley de Agentes Extranjeros” (Foreign Agents Law) to the Assembly that would prohibit “foreign agents” from carrying out activities that have “political or other purposes, with the objective of altering public order, or that endanger or threaten national security, social and political stability of the country”, will restrict and hinder the operations and activities of civil society organizations working in the defense of human rights and independent journalism. The bill establishes requirements that will have a disproportionate effect in those NGOs that receive funding from abroad. If passed, the law would affect funding, operations, and freedom of association for those who protect human rights in the country and/or disagree with the government.

The Assembly has shelved a series of draft bills aimed at improving protection for those who defend human rights. The same day that the Special Commission was created, for example, the Justice and Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Assembly shelved the draft bill for the Law on the Comprehensive Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the Guarantee of the Right to Defend Human Rights, the proposal for which was presented to the Assembly some years ago.  The draft Law on Gender Identity, the Special Law on Equality and Non-Discrimination, the Law on Protection of Journalists, the proposals for reform of the Criminal Code in regard to the four grounds for abortion and the legislative initiatives for the laws on Creation of the System for Disappeared and Unidentified Persons and the National Genetic Data Bank also suffered the same fate.

Following a drastic increase in homicides on March 26, 2022, President Bukele and National Assembly declared a 30-day State of Emergency.  Amnesty International recognizes the urgent need to protect the lives and physical safety of the Salvadoran population from crime.  It also recognizes that anti-crime measures must be effect, proportionate, and consistent with international human rights standards.  The State of Emergency Decree issued on March 27, 2022 suspends rights, that under international human rights law, cannot be restricted, including elements of due process and judicial guarantees.  The State of Emergency has been accompanied by a confrontational presidential discourse that stigmatizes and attacks human rights defenders, civil society organizations, international bodies, and the independent media for simply expressing concerns or criticism about the measures taken in this period.  The Salvadoran government has also passed amendments to several laws, including removing the limits on pre-trial or provisional detention without charges.  Amnesty International continues to be concerned about the Salvadoran government’s strong preference for the militarization of public security

El Salvador Newsroom

June 2, 2022 • Press Release

President Bukele Engulfs El Salvador in a Human Rights Crisis After Three Years in Government

Under the current state of emergency, the Salvadoran authorities have committed massive human rights violations, including thousands of arbitrary detentions and violations of due process, as well as torture and ill-treatment, and at least 18 people have died in state custody, Amnesty International said today, following its research into the crisis in the country. President Bukele’s government declared a state of emergency on March 27, following a spike in homicides allegedly committed by gangs, which has since been extended twice.

May 11, 2022 • Press Release

Sentence in El Salvador for Obstetric Emergency is a Travesty of Justice

In response to a court ruling in El Salvador that sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide after suffering an obstetric emergency, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

January 13, 2022 • Press Release

Amnesty International verifies use of Pegasus spyware for surveillance of journalists in El Salvador

A joint investigation by Access Now and the Citizen Lab has identified the use of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware against journalists and members of civil society organizations in El Salvador on a massive scale. Technical experts from the Amnesty International Security Lab have peer-reviewed the report and independently verified forensic evidence showing that Pegasus has been misused in the country.

February 27, 2020 • Report

Countries cracked down on asylum and the right to protest in the Americas in 2019

As millions took to the streets to protest rampant violence, inequality, corruption and impunity, or were forced to flee their countries in search of safety, states across the Americas clamped …

November 27, 2017 • Report

No Safe Place: LGBTI Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans Seeking Asylum in Mexico

The lives and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) from violence-ridden El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are at an increased risk as authorities in their countries fail to protect them, leaving them with no choice but to flee their countries and face further dangers in Mexico, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

October 17, 2014 • Report

On The Brink Of Death: Violence Against Women And The Abortion Ban In El Salvador

Every year, thousands of women and girls are denied their rights and choices by El Salvador’s total ban on abortion and its criminalization. Women and girls who are carrying an unwanted pregnancy are confronted with two options: commit a crime by terminating the pregnancy, or continue with the unwanted pregnancy. This report details the pervading cultural and institutional barriers that women and girls in El Salvador face in exercising their human rights, particularly those barriers that obstruct the realization of their sexual and reproductive rights.

September 26, 2014 • Report

My Body My Rights

All over the world, people are coerced, criminalized and discriminated against, simply for making choices about their bodies and their lives. In the face of these continuing violations, Amnesty International launches MY BODY MY RIGHTS, a new global campaign to defend sexual and reproductive rights for all.

September 25, 2014 • Report

On the Brink of Death: Violence Against Women and the Abortion Ban in El Salvador

Every year, thousands of women and girls are denied their rights and choices by El Salvador’s total ban on abortion and its criminalization.