IACHR

Press Release

IACHR and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Welcome Decision Made by El Salvador’s Constitutional Chamber on Internal Displacement Caused by Violence

August 10, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, welcome the decision made by the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador’s Supreme Court of Justice to acknowledge the existence of a phenomenon marked by the forced displacement of persons stemming from the context of violence and insecurity in El Salvador. That context has a systematic impact on human rights, which entails an unconstitutional scenario. The IACHR and the UN’s Special Rapporteur urge the Salvadoran State to comply with the ruling and to keep taking action towards the prevention of internal displacement, the protection of internally displaced persons, their assistance while the displacement lasts and their return, resettlement and reintegration.

In ruling 411 of July 13, 2018, the Supreme Court said that there is an ongoing phenomenon marked by the forced displacement of persons stemming from the context of violence and insecurity in El Salvador. That context, the Court added, has a serious impact on vulnerable groups in various geographical areas of the country that are controlled by gangs. It also systematically affects fundamental rights like the rights to life, physical integrity, liberty and property, among others, given the presence of organized crime, and particularly of those gangs, which entails an unconstitutional scenario. The Supreme Court based its decision on information held in the IACHR’s report Movilidad Humana and on the report drafted by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons on her visit to El Salvador, among other documents.

In that ruling, the Supreme Court ordered i) that the victims of violence and forced displacement be recognized as such, as subjects of rights, and that they be normatively categorized; (ii) that public policies and protocols be designed and implemented with a view to preventing forced displacement, including moves to recover territorial control over areas that are currently controlled by gangs; (iii) that protection measures be granted to people who are already effectively displaced and that those people be guaranteed the option to return to their homes; and (iv) that national and international cooperation agreements be made to ensure protection for victims and witnesses.

“The judiciary has played a fundamental role in acknowledging and addressing the problem of internal displacement in countries around the region. The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador’s Supreme Court shows good practice, since it proposes structural solutions for the adoption of measures and practices in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and with the international obligations regarding human rights acquired by the Salvadoran State. That is why we call upon all authorities, so they may take any measures they can to address the serious situation of internally displaced persons,” said Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, the IACHR’s Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants.

“I welcome this important and timely ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador’s Supreme Court which will help raise awareness about the problems and the many hidden victims of violence and internal displacement in El Salvador who are highly vulnerable and need protection, support, and access to justice,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary.

In a statement at the end of her visit to El Salvador, in August 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, highlighted the dangers of not recognizing the phenomenon of internal displacement caused by generalized and gang-related violence in El Salvador, affecting thousands of individuals, families, and whole communities. She called for strengthened institutional attention to internal displacement in El Salvador and for establishing a legal, policy, and institutional framework to specifically address the needs and vulnerabilities of internally displaced persons, as a category of victims, saying this is essential and overdue in El Salvador.

The IACHR and the UN’s Special Rapporteur stress their concern over the internal displacement caused by the violence that has affected El Salvador in recent years. In order to protect the people who have been forced into internal displacement, the IACHR and the UN’s Special Rapporteur insist on their call upon the State of El Salvador, so it may continue to gather data on the various forms taken by this problem. In line with the ruling, the IACHR and the UN’s Special Rapporteur urge the Salvadoran State to draft and implement adequately funded public policies and a specific law that focus on preventing internal displacement. They further ask the State to ensure protection, humanitarian assistance and lasting solutions for internally displaced persons, in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and with the international obligations regarding human rights acquired by the Salvadoran State. These measures must ensure the participation of civil society organizations and of persons who have been forced into internal displacement.

“Moreover, with 2018 being the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, it is important to reiterate that States have an obligation to comply with the obligations set forth in the Guiding Principles and to adopt measures in line with the efforts promoted through the recently launched Plan of Action for Advancing Prevention, Protection and Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons 2018-2020” said Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs and Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the IACHR.

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.

Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, a human rights lawyer specialized in forced displacement and migration, has over two decades of experience in nongovernmental organizations that advocate for human rights. She was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016. As Special Rapporteur, she is part of the “special procedures” of the Human Rights Council. Special procedures—the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system—is the general term for the Human Rights Council’s investigative and monitoring mechanisms to address country-specific or thematic situations around the world. The special procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff members and do not receive financial remuneration for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and serve in a personal capacity.

No. 178/18