At least 241 people die in El Salvador prisons during ‘war on gangs’, rights group says

SAN SALVADOR (AP) — At least 241 people dead El Salvador jail since the beginning of the year President Nayib Bukele According to Humanitarian Legal Relief, the “war on gangs” began two years ago.

Ingrid Escobar, the rights group’s director, said they had received 500 reports of deaths in state custody but that they had identified about half, including two minors. Last year, the organization recorded 126 deaths, half the number recorded this year.

El Salvador has 40,000 children in prison, 1% of the population has lost a parent

In March 2022, Bukele declared a “state of exception” and gave up many constitutional rights to combat gangs that terrorize people. Central America nation.

Men detained under the state of emergency are transported in a truck to the detention center in Soiapango, El Salvador, Friday, October 7, 2022. Lawmakers on Friday, March 8, 2024 approved President Nayib Bukele’s request for the 24th consecutive one-month extension of the anti-gang emergency decree. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Since then, El Salvador has arrested 80,000 people – more than 1% of the country’s population – and jailed them, often with no evidence of gang affiliation and little recourse to due process. The prisons have been likened to torture chambers and the conditions are horrific.

According to the NGO report, “Of these deaths, 44% were caused by violence, severe torture, and 29% were caused by lack of medical care.”

Bukele remains popular in El Salvador because of a sharp drop in homicide rates after detention, even as the government is accused of committing massive human rights abuses during the crackdown. The Central American country went from being one of the most dangerous in the world to having the lowest homicide rate in the region.

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This popularity allowed Bukele to be re-elected in February despite the country’s constitution barring the president from re-election.

The government has already had to release 7,000 people due to a lack of evidence, and El Salvador’s vice president told The Associated Press in January that the government “made mistakes” in arresting them.

The human rights group estimated that 35% of those arrested within two years of the exceptions system were innocent and confirmed that 94% of those who died had no gang connections.

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“The majority are working people such as informal traders, taxi drivers and/or informal transport workers, farmers, fishermen, evangelical pastors and missionaries, municipal employees and one trade union member,” the report states.

The humanitarian legal relief organization also asked the Salvadoran government to investigate “homicides” in prisons and “the forced disappearance of all detainees.”

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By Ali Raza

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