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State of emergency in El Salvador: Police arrest tens of thousands of gang members

2022-05-16T16:50:48.928Z

Police and military have jailed more than 30,000 suspected criminals in El Salvador. The state of emergency makes detention without a sentence possible - human rights activists are concerned.



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Arrest of a suspected gang member in El Salvador

Photo: Rodrigo Sura/EPA

Authorities in El Salvador have arrested more than 30,000 members of criminal gangs in recent weeks.

According to official figures, 536 "terrorists" were taken into custody by the police on Sunday alone.

The total number of those arrested after President Nayib Bukele's government declared "war" on gang crime at the end of March rose to 30,506.

The murder rate in the small Central American country had previously risen massively.

Between March 25 and 27 alone, 87 people were murdered.

Bukele then declared a state of emergency.

This allows for incarceration without trial, longer detention and prison sentences of up to 45 years for gang members.

At the end of April, the measure was extended by 30 days.

The state of emergency also allows authorities to tap phone calls, as well as restrictions on freedom of assembly and the rights of criminal defense lawyers.

Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have complained that scores of young people unconnected to gangs have also been detained.

The state of emergency that has been in effect since March 27 has resulted in dozens of arbitrary arrests of innocent people and two deaths in custody, Human Rights Watch reports.

People were also temporarily abducted.

More than half of organized criminals in prison?

The Salvadoran government invokes martial law to justify its actions.

According to authorities, criminal gangs in the country have around 70,000 members.

46,000 of them are now behind bars - in a country with only 6.5 million inhabitants.

The mass arrests exacerbate another problem: the notoriously overcrowded prisons in El Salvador will now have to accommodate even more inmates.

A December 2020 survey found that prisons were 136 percent overcrowded.

Some prisons housed six times more prisoners than allowed.

On April 19, the Legislative Assembly passed legislation providing for the construction of new prisons.

ala/AFP

Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2022-05-16

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