Marchers took to the streets this week to demand freedom for the "Suchitoto 13" who are now being called political prisoners. In addition, respected human rights organizations have issued statements and reports on the protests on July 2 outside Suchitoto and the subsequent prosecution of 13 persons under the new Anti-Terrorism law.
Tutela Legal, the human rights office of the Catholic archbishop in San Salvador, investigated and released a report on the events in Suchitoto. The report is harshly critical of the actions of the government finding that:
- There was a disproportionate use of force by the riot police.
- The armed forces were used in violation of the consitution in an internal security matter with an intention to arbitrarily dissuade legitimate social protest.
- The arrests made were arbitrary and unjustified.
- Physical and psychological torture was exacted on those arrested.
- "The agents of the police and high officials who ordered the arbitrary use of force against peaceful demonstrators, without trying mediation in order to guaranty the free transit of vehicles, acting moreover with the aim of punishment and terror, should be criminally investigated."
- The prosecutor and judge acted improperly in allowing the incarceration of those arrested under the anti-Terrorism law without individualized proof and without evidence of more than sticks and stones against police firing rubber bullets and tear gas.
The Human Rights Institute at the University of Central America (IDHUCA) released its statement titled Saving El Salvador on the events in Suchitoto. Echoing many of the themes of the Tutela Legal report, the IDHUCA warned that the real threat of terrorism in the country comes from the fertile soil of exclusion, marginalization, intolerance and social, economic and political confrontation. The threat is not citizens exercising their right to engage in social protest.
Amnesty International expressed its concerns in a press release:
Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the use of anti-terrorist legislation against thirteen demonstrators who are leaders of social organizations. The reaction of the authorities would appear to indicate improper and disproportionate use of the Special Law against Acts of Terrorism (Ley Especial contra Actos de Terrorismo) which was approved by the Legislative Assembly in September 2006. In this instance, the organization fears that those concerned were arrested to punish them for their involvement in legitimate acts of protest and to prevent similar such acts in the future...
According to international human rights standards, this was a lawful demonstration and that is why Amnesty International is concerned that the Special Law against Acts of Terrorism should have been applied to the accused. It is also concerned about the current situation of the thirteen detainees since they are reportedly being held with convicted prisoners, many of whom were found guilty of violent offences.
Thanks to Ixquic, Larry and Geoff for sending me the reports.