Thousands detained in El Salvador without warrants amid gang killings

A United Nations agency said it was “deeply concerned” about El Salvador’s response to a recent uptick in gang-related violence and killings, including the detention of thousands of people without proper warrants.

Last month, the government declared a state of emergency after El Salvador had 87 murders in one weekend. The move loosened policies surrounding arrests for at least 30 days.

But now, the country has detained well over 5,700 people without warrants in a response of “unnecessary and excessive use of force,” according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights

Spokesperson Liz Throssell said in a Tuesday statement that 5,747 people have been detained, some of whom have been “subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Throssell also voiced concerns over the country’s criminal justice system, which allows for the rule of “faceless” judges, long pre-trial detentions and for teenagers to be tried and detained as adults. 

Specifically, 12- to 16-year-olds must serve 10-year prison terms instead of seven, and 16- to 18-year-olds must serve 20-year terms, Throssell said. 

“We remind El Salvador that the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture, principles of fair trial and the presumption of innocence, as well as the procedural safeguards that protect these rights, apply at all times, even during states of emergency. This is especially with regard to children,” her statement added.

At the end of last month, El Salvador had arrested over 1,000 gang suspects under the state of emergency declaration.

At that time, President Nayib Bukele rationed meals for the country’s 16,000 imprisoned gang members in an effort to spread the current food supplies to provide for the new detainees as well.

“Don’t think they are going to be set free,” Bukele said of the alleged gang members at the time. “We are going to ration the same food we are giving now.”

“And if the international community is worried about their little angels, they should come and bring them food, because I am not going to take budget money away from the schools to feed these terrorists,” he added.

Tags Nayib Bukele

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