Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced Friday that a leaked database provided evidence of mass human rights abuses in El Salvador, including due process violations, extreme prison overcrowding, and deaths in custody. The database, likely obtained from the Ministry of Public Safety, is said to contain the names, ages, and genders of those prosecuted during the state of emergency, between March 2022 until August 2022.In March 2022, when the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed a state of emergency in response to a peak in gang violence, certain constitutional freedoms and fundamental rights became suspended. According to authorities, 61,000 have been detained since March 2022. The state of emergency remains in place at this time.HRW stated that the leaked database evidences severe human rights violations during this period, and also supported HRW and Cristosal’s own findings of prison overcrowding and deaths in custody during the state of emergency. The organization expressed their concerns for a number of groups affected by these violations. They highlighted that 1,082 children are currently in pre trial detention following a legislative change lowering criminal responsibility age from 12 to 16. The number of people charged with “unlawful association” was also emphasised, as over 39,000 have been charged with this broad offencs. Finally, they brought attention to the overcrowding in prisons, as facilities such as Mariona prison are holding up to four times their capacity.HRW believe that these issues have stemmed from President Bukele’s time in office and his alleged attacks on democratic institutions in El Salvador. To tackle these issues, HRW and Cristosal suggested that the state of emergency be replaced with a “sustainable and rights respecting to address gang violence and protect the population from gang abuses.” Commenting on the situation, Noah Bullock, executive director of Cristosal said, “We urge governments in the region to guarantee public security without engaging in unfair policies.”

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