International Organizations Demand Justice for Political Prisoners in El Salvador

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The following statement was printed on Monday, August 23 in El Salvador's largest newspaper, La Prensa Grafica

We, the undersigned international organizations, in defense of human rights, declare our profound concern regarding Salvadoran authorities’ detention of former officials and members of the Council of Ministers of former Farabundo Martí National Liberation (FMLN) governments: Violeta Menjívar, Erlinda Hándal, Calixto Mejía, Hugo Flores and Carlos Cáceres by Salvadoran authorities on July 22, 2021, as well as the issuing of arrest warrants against five others, Lina Pohl, Guillermo Lopez Suarez, Gerson Martinez, Manuel Melgar and former president Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

The government of El Salvador has infringed on these individuals’ rights to due process, access to legal defense, and to the presumption of innocence to which they are entitled by the Salvadoran constitution. The police did not present a warrant at the time of arrest, access to lawyers was denied, and detainees were kept in the dark about where they were being taken. The charges for which they were accused were only revealed afterwards in a press conference by the National Civilian Police and the de facto Attorney General of the Republic.

Furthermore, in a clear attempt to conduct a “trial by public opinion,” Salvadoran authorities paraded the detainees in front of the media in handcuffs, slandered them in government media outlets, and photographed them in the privacy of their cells, publishing the photos on state social media accounts. These actions are a political strategy to smear the accused in the eyes of the public before an indictment even took place, constituting a clear case of judicialization of politics.

Given that El Salvador’s Attorney General, Rodolfo Delgado, was illegally and unconstitutionally installed following a coup carried out by the Legislative Assembly against the Supreme Court of Justice’s Constitutional Chamber on May 1 with the permission of the Presidency of the Republic, a fair trial is not possible. Therefore, international solidarity action is necessary.

We recognize that these detentions are not happening in a vacuum but rather are part of a sustained campaign of political persecution by the Bukele administration against the popular opposition which is increasingly taking to the streets in protest of his anti-democratic actions.

We strongly condemn Bukele’s actions to return El Salvador to the dark days of arbitrary detention, political violence, and state repression. His attempts to double the size of the Armed Forces of El Salvador (FAES) and to restore them to a political function fly in the face of core principles and agreements of the 1992 Peace Accords, for which hundreds of thousands of people in El Salvador risked their lives to achieve.

We call on the administration of Nayib Bukele to end its threats, arbitrary detentions, harassment, violence and persecution against the popular opposition movements.

Similarly, we echo the demands of the Committee of the Families of the Political Prisoners in El Salvador (COFAPPES) that the Director of Prisons grant immediate access to medical treatment, family visits, and to legal counsel. The international community should respond urgently to the denouncements from COFAPPES that prison authorities are barring visits from the Human RIghts Ombudsman’s Office and from  assessing the health and well-being of those being detained, to establish the conditions of their arrests, to inform them about the proceedings, and to attend to any needs. 

We call on the Salvadoran judicial authorities to release those who were irregularly detained; to guarantee the constitutional rights to due process and to presumption of innocence; and to cease the pursuit of arrests for which no evidence of a crime has been presented.

Finally, the U.S. based undersigned organizations call on the U.S. Department of State to issue a public statement condemning the violation of due process, which is guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which both the United States and El Salvador are parties. We call on Members of Congress to remain vigilant of the actions of  the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, whose silence in the face of these clear violations of due process rights and agreed upon international human rights is deeply concerning.

We express our solidarity with the social and popular movement forces in El Salvador
who must once again struggle against the forces of militarization, repression, authoritarianism, and persecution.

Your struggle is just and we will continue to organize international solidarity in the struggle for true democracy!

August 23, 2021

Alliance for Global Justice
American indian movement - West (AIM-West)
Americas Program
Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica
Cambridge-Las Flores, Sister City Project
Casa Pastoral Monseñor Romero
Central American Students at Harvard (CASA-H)
Colectivo Kawsay
Cosmovisiones Ancestrales
Ciudadanía en Oregon at Temple Beth Sholom
Denver Justice and Peace Committee (DJPC)
Environmental Network for Central America (ENCA)        
Fuerza Mundial Global - Continuum
Fuerza Mundial, Mujeres de las Américas
Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum
Guatemala Solidarity Project
Movimiento de migrantes al rescate (MAR)
National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
Nicaragua Center for Community Action
Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace
San Francisco Labor Council for Latin American
United North Metro Denver
US-El Salvador Sister Cities
1199 SEIU, International Committee




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