Thursday, March 09, 2006

US Human Rights Report criticizes Salvadoran judicial system

The US State Department has released its annual report on the human rights conditions in countries around the world. And while one can fault the US for not evaluating its own record on human rights (consider Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib), this annual report does a good job of providing an overview of conditions around the world.

The report for human rights conditions in El Salvador is summarized this way:

Although the government generally respected the rights of its citizens, protection of human rights was undermined by widespread impunity, corruption among the security forces and other governmental authorities, and gang violence.

The most problematic area according to the report were the inadequacies in the justice system:
Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary suffered from inefficiency and corruption. Corruption in the judicial system contributed to impunity from the country's civil and criminal laws. Impunity remained a significant problem, undermining respect for the judiciary and the rule of law. A September CID-Gallup poll revealed citizens' belief that judicial system inefficiencies allowed criminals to escape from justice. Many judges allowed unjustified trial delays, but few were ever sanctioned for this practice. NGOs such as the Foundation for Studies in Legal Application (FESPAD), the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development, and the Human Rights Institute of the University of Central America (IDHUCA) claimed that the Supreme Court did not respond adequately to public criticism and did not make a comprehensive effort to remove unqualified and corrupt judges.

The PNC, prosecutors, public defenders, and the courts continued to have problems with criminal investigations. Inadequate government funding of the PNC and intimidation of victims and witnesses made it difficult to identify, arrest, and prosecute criminals, thus diminishing public confidence in the justice system.

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