SAN SALVADOR – Using a vengeful, iron-fisted approach to fight crimes chiefly committed by street gangs in El Salvador is intolerable because of the inhuman abuse it entails, a delegate of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Central America, Alberto Brunori, told EFE in an interview.
“It doesn’t matter how intense the violence is, all violence must be condemned, and the use of vengeance and the iron-fisted approach is not admissible, it’s intolerable,” Brunori said with regard to reports of a resurgence of extermination squads and extrajudicial executions among various forces of law and order.
He said that UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein received such complaints from Salvadoran activists during his visit here last Nov. 15-16, which left him concerned about that situation and “asking for justice for all the victims.”
Brunori noted that today’s extermination squads are reminders of the government death squads during the civil war (1980-1992) and “how they too would have committed extrajudicial executions against street gangs and innocent people.”
Police Chief Howard Cotto told the media last September that of the 559 cops detained since 2917, 25 percent were related to criminal organizations and extermination squads.
Last June, authorities dismantled an extermination squad run by the military and police in the eastern part of the country, which is linked, according to official data, to 36 murders perpetrated between 2014 and 2016.
For their part, social organizations have found that in recent years there have been some 114 alleged extrajudicial executions and more than 1,000 people killed in armed clashes between street gangs and police in what conceivably entailed the excessive use of lethal force.
Brunori added that “extraordinary measures” have been applied against gang members in prison, including treatment “not in line with international standards” of human rights.
“The instances of visits suspended, prisoners kept in solitary confinement, overcrowded cells and cases of tuberculosis... have led the UN high commissioner to call the president (Salvador Sanchez Ceren) with a request to immediately suspend those measures and seek formulas” that respect human rights, he said.
Days after Al Hussein’s visit to El Salvador, Security Minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde said the high commissioner hadn’t recommended the end of the offensive against street gangs, which includes an elite force of 1,000 agents on a mission to hunt down criminal gangs.
However, “an iron fist is not the way to go,” the human rights representative said, adding that Al Hussein had insisted on the importance of “the preventive role, because only by prevention can we lower insecurity rates.”