The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that the increase in gang violence in El Salvador is a worrying issue, noting that the policy of President Nayib Bukele, consisting of the imprisonment of children and adolescents, is not the solution to the problem.
El Salvador Hardens Fight Against Salvatrucha and Other Gangs
According to Salvadoran legislation, UNICEF said that minors between 12 and 15 years of age could face sentences of up to ten years in prison, while for those over 16, these sentences can reach up to 20 years in prison. These measures do not comply with the binding provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which El Salvador is a party, the organization said.
According to this Convention, the detention of minors should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time since the imprisonment of children and adolescents does not provide an environment that enhances their development or promotes their social reintegration.
Along these lines, UNICEF said that noncustodial measures are much more cost-effective than detention and generate better results for children and adolescents and society in general, adding that every child and adolescent must be protected from detention.
UNICEF criticizes the treatment of children during raids in El Salvador. It called on the Bukele government to review the changes in juvenile criminal law.
The international organization said that punitive measures alone would not solve gang violence in the country. Children and adolescents can be victims of violence both from gangs and gang members. They can be recruited, and they can be used, UNICEF warned.
In this sense, they urge the government of Nayib Bukele to review the changes in the juvenile criminal law because the rights of children and adolescents apply at all times, even in states of exception.
A state of exception has been in force in El Salvador for two weeks, decreed by President Bukele and endorsed by the Legislative Assembly, with a pro-government majority. It has also led to the adoption of reforms to the Penal Code to stiffen penalties in the fight against gangs and the media that address the problem of violence.