HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Security Forces Behind 90% of Reported Abuses: Official
BRIEF

El Salvador Security Forces Behind 90% of Reported Abuses: Official

EL SALVADOR / 10 DEC 2015 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

El Salvador's human rights ombudsman has presented findings on abuses reportedly committed by state security forces, noting an increase in police misconduct while at the same time appearing to downplay their actions.

On December 9, David Morales, who heads El Salvador's Attorney General's Office for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), announced that between June 2014 and May 2015 the PDDH received 2,202 complaints of human rights violations. Of these, 92 percent were against the National Civil Police (PNC), the army, and other state institutions responsible for combating crime, reported EFE. Those against the PNC alone represented 63 percent of all complaints, with the army accounting for 11 percent.

The majority of complaints pertained to mistreatment, intimidation, and arbitrary searches and arrests. However, Morales noted some violations were much more severe. 

"We have had cases of arbitrary deaths, situations that could verge on torture, and we are investigating possible executions at the scenes of armed confrontations between police and supposed criminals," noted Morales. The ombudsman added that seven cases are under consideration as potentially involving extrajudicial killings.

Morales petitioned the Salvadoran government to have a "firm hand" in exercising internal control and discipline over security forces, and called on the attorney general to take action against abuses. 

Nonetheless, Morales did not reject the government's hardening anti-gang actions, reasoning that "crime has escalated the violence," which has increased both the number of homicides and attacks against security forces.

"The [government] response must be greater and more forceful, the use of force is legitimate and an obligation the state can and must carry out within the law," said Morales.

InSight Crime Analysis

Perhaps just as concerning as the increase in reported human rights violations by security forces is what could be interpreted as the tacit acceptance of these abuses by the country's ombudsman. Morales' statement that the government's response to gang violence must be "more forceful" points to a culture of impunity and the "ends justify the means" mentality within the police ranks. 

This mentality has been buttressed by increasingly tough anti-gang rhetoric on the part of high-ranking police officials. Earlier this year, the director of the PNC urged his officers to use their weapons against criminals with "complete confidence." Police head of internal affairs Ricardo Salvador Martinez even suggested if officers killed more gang members in "legitimate self-defense," it might help pacify the country.

The apparent lack of government will to investigate human rights abuses is especially concerning given recent reports of police officers, as well as death squads dressed in police uniforms, massacring suspected criminals. 

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

While Morales is right to call attention to police abuses and lack of official oversight, he also appears to offer a degree of justification for these actions. Serving as an apologist for police overreach, however, may only serve to further encourage the heavy-handed and abusive actions he simultaneously condemns. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 20 SEP 2013

El Salvador's defense minister has labeled the country's principal drug trafficking organization a "baby cartel," but what does the term…

EL SALVADOR / 16 NOV 2016

Authorities in El Salvador have arrested 39 alleged members of the MS13 for planning to sell 5,600 pounds of contraband…

BARRIO 18 / 3 MAY 2017

Legislators in Guatemala have proposed a new bill aimed at attacking the country's gangs by increasing fines and prison…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.