Press Release

IACHR Calls on El Salvador to Not Renew Extraordinary Measures in Detention Centers

March 26, 2018

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Washington, DC - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the Salvadoran State to comply with its duty to guarantee the life and integrity of persons deprived of their liberty, through the non-renewal of extraordinary security measures, to be decided by the Legislative Assembly in the following days. These measures, which have been in force for almost two years, have resulted in serious risks to the lives and integrity of those detained in the centers where such measures are in force.

Extraordinary security measures include, among other aspects, actions and prohibitions in the penitentiary area that seek to increase control in the prisons in order to stop the influence of criminal groups within these centers. These measures came into force in April 2016, and in February 2017, they were extended until April 2018. Before March 31, 2018, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador will approve the renewal of these measures, upon request of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security  this January.

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.

In the conclusions and observations on the visit to El Salvador on November 20-22, 2017, the IACHR expressed concern about the enforcement of these repressive measures and their consequences to the rights of persons deprived of liberty. The IACHR also notes that recently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, and UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Agnes Callamard, have spoken on the matter and have called the State to repeal such measures, as well as to allow access to independent monitoring bodies.

The Salvadoran State, as guarantor of the fundamental rights of persons deprived of liberty, has an inescapable duty to take concrete and immediate measures to guarantee the rights to life and integrity of persons deprived of their liberty. In this regard, El Salvador must apply the isolation regime in accordance with international standards, provide health services to the prison population, reestablish visits, and in general, guarantee decent conditions of detention.

"The adoption of such repressive measures in prisons does not in any way justify the prolonged isolation and inhuman conditions in which persons deprived of their liberty have lived for almost two years in El Salvador," said the Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, Commissioner Joel Hernández. "The termination of these measures in the penitentiary area, would demonstrate a true commitment of the Salvadoran State with the respect and guarantee of the rights of the persons deprived of liberty," he added.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 063/18