El Salvador - Amnesty International Report 2007


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Head of state and government: Elías Antonio Saca
Death penalty: abolitionist for ordinary crimes
International Criminal Court: not ratified

Impunity for past human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, persisted. Reports of violence against women continued, but investigations remained inadequate. There were threats against human rights defenders and political activists.


The public security situation continued to cause concern. Various government initiatives to tackle criminal violence did not bring improvements in the security situation. The Human Rights Procurator expressed concern at the possible re-emergence of death squads. Human rights and civil society organizations protested that anti-terrorism legislation passed in September was ill-defined and put human rights at risk, including freedom of assembly and expression.

Enforced disappearance of children

In September the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the state of El Salvador had only partially fulfilled or failed to fulfil the majority of the Court's recommendations from its 2005 ruling, including providing an effective and timely investigation into the enforced disappearance of three-year-old Ernestina and seven-year-old Erlinda Serrano Cruz in June 1982 during a military operation in Chalatenango. The Court ruled that the state had yet to determine the whereabouts of the girls, investigate and bring those responsible to justice and, among other things, had not yet set up a National Search Commission to trace disappeared children.

At the end of the year, two other cases of children who were victims of enforced disappearance during the armed conflict were being studied by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and a decision regarding the responsibility of the state in the enforced disappearances was pending.

Violence against women

According to the Institute of Forensic Medicine, 286 women were killed between January and August 2006. Despite four years of campaigning by women's rights organizations, the Attorney General's Office had yet to establish a special prosecutor or division to address the killings of women. Very little progress was made in investigating cases of women who had been killed and in some cases raped in previous years.

Human rights defenders

Individuals and organizations working to defend human rights were threatened and harassed.

• Members of the Among Friends Association, including the organization's director, William Hernández, received death threats and were reportedly under surveillance in an attempt to halt the organization's work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. On 1 June, William Hernández was threatened at gunpoint outside the organization's office in San Salvador, soon after the police officer assigned to protect him had left for the day. Two days before this attack, the office was broken into. Windows were broken, files were searched, and threats were written on pieces of paper and left in the office. No valuable office equipment was stolen, but a number of the organization's planning documents were taken. Although in all cases the incidents were reported to the authorities, investigations proved superficial, and no one had been brought to justice by the end of 2006.

Death squads

There was increasing concern among civil society organizations at the possible re-emergence of death squads which had been active during the 1980-1991 armed conflict.

• Francisco Antonio Manzanares and Juana Monjarás de Manzanares were murdered in their home on 2 July. Their daughter, Marina Manzanares, a long-standing politicial activist for the main opposition party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, and radio broadcaster, had received death threats prior to the murders, as had her mother. Marina Manzanares' brother, Francisco Manzanares, also a political activist, was killed in 1996. No one had been brought to justice for these murders by the end of 2006.