A new report from two local Salvadoran rights groups has provided further evidence of extrajudicial killings carried out by El Salvador’s police forces, in a case that now appears to be entering the international judicial stage.
In the report, which was presented September 5 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Verónica Reyna of the Passionist Social Service (Servicio Social Pasionista – SSPAS) and Arnau Baulenas of the Institute of Human Rights of the Central American University (Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana – IDHUCA) chronicled three cases of alleged extrajudicial killings carried out by El Salvador’s National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC), El Faro reported.
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The three cases presented to the commission were a massacre at the San Blas Estate, the murder of a police officer’s sister and her husband, and the murder of Ángel Ábrego in February 2016, according to El Faro.
Additionally, El Salvador’s Office of the Procurator for the Defense of Human Rights (Procuraduría para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos) has investigated 47 cases of extrajudicial killings since 2015, according to El Faro. And official figures from the Attorney General’s Office report a 630 percent increase in security officials accused of homicide between 2014 and 2016.
The report presented to the IACHR also says that between 2014 and 2017, 238 security forces were allegedly killed by gang members while 1,415 people — 90 percent of whom are suspected gang members — have been killed in “alleged confrontations” between security forces and alleged gang members since 2015. For IACHR Commissioner James Cavallaro, the disproportionate ratio of slain gang members to slain police was troubling.
“When there are figures like this, it’s about some clashes and many execution cases. We are already working with a pattern of extremely excessive use of deadly force by state agents,” Cavallaro said during the hearing. (See video below)
Video c/o El Faro
After the presentation, El Salvador Deputy Minister of Security Raúl López vehemently denied any state responsibility in possible human rights violations.
“I totally reject and deny any responsibility of the Salvadoran government in illegal acts that violate fundamental rights or human rights of the people,” he said.
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The alleged death squad case in El Salvador is quickly becoming an international judicial case, which could have implications for foreign assistance to El Salvador’s security forces. The US government is still figuring out how to allocate a large assistance package for the region, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) works closely with the Salvadoran police.
But so far, the international attention hasn’t appeared to have any consequences in El Salvador. On September 4, the officers accused of extrajudicial killings were released and put on administrative leave, although final judgements have yet to be made as investigators are still in the preliminary stage.