The US State Department issued its report on Human Rights Practices in El Salvador for 2011 this week. This is the Executive Summary:
El Salvador is a constitutional multiparty republic. In March 2009 voters elected Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) as president for a five-year term in generally free and fair elections. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.
The principal human rights problems were widespread corruption, particularly in the judicial system; weaknesses in the judiciary and the security forces that led to a high level of impunity; and violence and discrimination against women.
Other human rights problems included isolated unlawful killings by security forces; lengthy pretrial detention; harsh, overcrowded, and dangerously substandard prison conditions; child abuse and child prostitution; trafficking in persons; violence and discrimination against sexual minorities; child labor; and inadequate enforcement of labor laws.
Although the government took steps to dismiss some officials who committed abuses in the penitentiary system and the police, impunity persisted.Some of the harshest words of the report were directed at the judicial system:
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary suffered from inefficiency, corruption, political infighting, and insufficient resources. Substantial corruption in the judicial system contributed to a high level of impunity, undermining the rule of law and the public’s respect for the judiciary. The criminal conviction rate was less than 5 percent. An ineffective public-security strategy, inadequate government funding and training of the PNC, and ineffective senior-level leadership made it difficult to identify, arrest, and prosecute perpetrators of human rights abuses and other crimes, thus diminishing public confidence in the justice system. Intimidation and killing of police officers, crime victims, and witnesses created a climate of fear, complicating investigation of violent crime and other alleged human rights abuses.Also criticized were the inhumane conditions of El Salvador's prisons:
Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and dangerous. Overcrowding constituted a serious threat to prisoners’ health and lives. In many facilities provisions for sanitation, potable water, ventilation, temperature, and lighting were inadequate. In October 2010 the IACHR termed prison conditions deplorable, stating that there were construction deficiencies that led to safety hazards and a lack of sanitation. Also, the lack of potable water contributed to a high incidence of disease. On June 18, approximately 2,740 inmates in prisons in San Miguel, Ciudad Barrios, La Union, Usulutan, Jucuapa, Gotera, and Chalatenango suffered food poisoning. On July 18, the PDDH stated that the penitentiary system had “collapsed.” On October 5, the General Prison Directorate announced that the inmate population had increased 47 percent during the preceding five years.
Prison authorities reported that during the year 48 prisoners died due to natural causes, homicide, and suicide and that 22 prisoners died in prison riots and fights. For instance, on July 1, the Santa Ana Prison director declared a state of emergency after a riot in which three prisoners, two of whom were gang members, were killed and seven others injured.
The Prison Directorate reported that as of December 20, there were 25,294 prisoners, including 2,440 women, held in 21 correctional facilities and two secure hospital wards that have a combined capacity of 8,090. The prison population included 18,139 convicted prisoners and 7,155 inmates held in pretrial detention.Read the entire report here.