On Tuesday, some 500 Salvadorans took to the streets of San Salvador to demand that President Nayib Bukele free their relatives, who are imprisoned due to the “State of Exception” promoted by the President to counteract armed gangs’ violence.
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Carrying banners with messages such as "Freedom for my son and brother" and "We defend innocent non-criminals," the demonstrators marched to Congress, where the police set up a barricade to prevent their passage.
"I am here for my husband because he was unjustly imprisoned," 56-year-old housewife Maria Ruiz stated, explaining that eight dull cops arrested her husband in April 2022 in his home.
"I am not against the State of Exception. The war on gangs is fine, but sometimes it is unjust because innocent people are being arrested," she lamented.
Issued in March 2022 and extended 11 times, the State of Exception suspends the freedom of association and citizens’ right to be assisted by a lawyer in case of detention.
The Bukele administration alleges that the State of Exception has been highly effective since it has reduced homicide rates and extortion cases.
Under this measure, however, at least 5,082 citizens have suffered human rights violations and 111 out of 66,400 people jailed for alleged links with gangs have died while remaining in State custody.
In a report released on Tuesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) warned that the arrests made under the State of Exception are based on unsubstantiated research, which only considers the physical appearance of detainees with wanted armed groups’ members.
"The State of Emergency will remain in effect until we capture the last gang member," Justice Minister Gustavo Villatoro stated, claiming that about 35 percent of gang members operating in the country are still in the streets.