Human rights in El Salvador

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El Salvador


  • La Matanza was a suppression of a 1932 peasant uprising which resulted in the death of tens of thousands of civilians and ethnic genocide of indigenous Salvadorans.

Salvadorian Civil War[edit]

Human rights abuses were rampant during the decade-plus Salvadoran Civil War, including El Mozote Massacres, the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980, the Zona Rosa attacks, and the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests. Human rights abuses were examined by the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador and the Ad Hoc Commission. An amnesty law passed by the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador five days after the release of the Truth Commission report prevented judicial prosecution of perpetrators of human rights abuses. The peace accords also required the establishment of the Ad Hoc Commission to evaluate the human rights record of the ESAF officer corps.

In 1993, the last of the 103 officers identified by this commission as responsible for human rights violations were retired, and the U.N. observer mission declared the government in compliance with the Ad Hoc Commission recommendations. Also in 1993, the Government of El Salvador and the UN established the Joint Group to investigate whether illegal, armed, politically motivated groups continued to exist after the signing of the peace accords. The group reported its findings in 1994 stating that death squads were no longer active but that violence was still being used to obtain political ends. The group recommended a special National Civilian Police (PNC) unit be created to investigate political and organized crime and that further reforms be made in the judicial system. Not all the group's recommendations were implemented. The peace accords provided for the establishment of a Human Rights Ombudsman's Office (National Counsel for the Defence of Human Rights).[1]

Current situation[edit]

Amnesty International, in a 2008 report that "Widespread human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict (1980-1992) remained unpunished".[2] They also assert that the government is currently misusing anti-terrorism laws to detain and harass political opponents of the government. In addition, Amnesty International drew attention to several arrests of police officers for unlawful police killings. Other current issues to gain Amnesty International's attention in the past 10 years include missing children, failure of law enforcement to properly investigate and prosecute crimes against women, and rendering organized labor illegal.[3]


The latter has resulted in union activists being targeted with harassment, violence, and imprisonment. Some, such as Gilberto Soto, the former leader of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, have been murdered, while others have disappeared. Salvadoran activists working against CAFTA, the abuse of prisoners, the privatization of water, and environmental destruction have all encountered various forms of repression.

Human Rights Watch has released a report on hazardous child labor in the sugarcane industry, claiming,

Businesses purchasing sugar from El Salvador, including The Coca-Cola Company, are using the product of child labor that is both hazardous and widespread. Harvesting cane requires children to use machetes and other sharp knives to cut sugarcane and strip the leaves off the stalks, work they perform for up to nine hours each day in the hot sun. Nearly every child interviewed by Human Rights Watch for its 139-page report said that he or she had suffered machete gashes on the hands or legs while cutting cane.[4]

El Salvador also features prominently in a Human Rights Watch report documenting abuses of women and children working as domestic help, both in terms of being the country of origin of abused workers, and a country where abuse takes place[5] few people were tried for war crimes. The December 2014 U.S. Department of Labor's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor reported 4 goods produced exclusively by child labor; manely coffee, fireworks, shellfish and sugarcane.


Abortion in El Salvador is strictly illegal, and the law allows for no exception. In El Salvador, if a woman miscarries it is frequently assumed she deliberately induced an abortion or could have saved the baby. Women who did not know they were pregnant or who could not have prevented a miscarriage face long prison terms.[6][7]

There has also been progress in the country in regard to women's rights. The 2011 Law for a Life Free of Violence against Women (Ley Especial Integral para una Vida Libre de Violencia para las Mujeres) contains 61 articles that criminalize various forms of violence against women, such as domestic violence, including marital rape, psychological abuse, and economical abuse.[8]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]