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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                

Republic of El Salvador

In 2017, authorities continued to pursue a harsh, militarized response to the country’s criminal gangs. Police have been implicated in hundreds of extrajudicial killings as part of the campaign.

A report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released in September 2017 found that since 2015, 1,415 people, 90 percent of whom were suspected of being gang members, had been killed in “alleged confrontations” between suspected gang members and security forces.

[Freedom House Country Report, 2018]

Description: Description: ElSalvador

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in El Salvador.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: El Salvador

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 18 July 2021]


On May 6, in Zacatecoluca, La Paz Department, media reported on the case of a man who died while in provisional detention under police custody. Allegedly, the PNC told the family of the man, arrested on homicide and gang membership charges connected to the 2019 killing of a soldier, that he had died of COVID-19 and that he should be buried immediately and without opening the casket. Media reported that the family did not believe the cause of death and inspected the body at the grave, finding the man still handcuffed, with a bloodied face and broken teeth. The family believed he died after being tortured and took photographs of the body.


Overcrowding, at one-third above capacity as of August, was a serious threat to prisoners’ health and welfare. The prisons system had a capacity for 27,037 inmates, but, as of August 17, there were more than 36,000 inmates. For example, the PDDH reported that in one prison, 1,486 inmates were held in facilities designed for 280.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 12 May 2020]


In 2017, authorities continued to pursue a harsh, militarized response to the country’s criminal gangs. Police have been implicated in hundreds of extrajudicial killings as part of the campaign. A report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released in September 2017 found that since 2015, 1,415 people, 90 percent of whom were suspected of being gang members, had been killed in “alleged confrontations” between suspected gang members and security forces. The organization raised concerns about the large discrepancy between the number of suspected gang members killed, compared to the 238 security forces members killed in such confrontations during the same time period. In September, a judge acquitted eight police officers of murder charges related to the so-called San Blas case, in which the defendants were suspected of summarily executing eight people in a 2015 incident at a coffee farm. Rights activists portrayed the acquittals as a reflection of impunity for the security forces.

Prisons remain extremely overcrowded, and conditions within can be lethal due to disease, lack of adequate medical care, and the risk of attack by other inmates.

Deportation Upheld Of Salvadoran Ex-Official For Torture, Killings

Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News, 11 March 2015

[accessed 27 March 2015]

An immigration appeals panel has upheld the deportation order of a former El Salvador defense minister who oversaw the torture and killings of thousands of civilians during that country's bloody civil war.

The appeals panel agreed that Vides Casanova participated in the tortures and killings of civilians from 1979 to 1989 because he was aware of them during and after the fact, he interfered with investigations of them, failed to prevent them and did not hold perpetrators accountable.

In its decision, the appeals panel detailed some of the torture cases connected to Vides Casanova. The 1980 kidnapping, rape and fatal shootings of four American nuns and a church layperson by members of El Salvador's National Guard occurred while Vides Casanova was its director. The immigration judge found he had failed to investigate.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. A/55/44, paras. 152-174 (2000)

[accessed 27 February 2013]

4. Principal subjects of concern

160. The country's penal legislation does not adequately define the offence of torture in terms consistent with article 1 of the Convention. The type of offence referred to in the Penal Code does not cover all the possible objectives of the offence according to the Convention.

161. There are no rules governing torture victims' right to fair and adequate compensation, at the State's expense, and no State policy providing for as full rehabilitation as possible of the victims.

162. The maintenance in the Code of Criminal Procedure of confessions made out of court is in contradiction with the Constitution, which gives legal force only to confessions made before a judicial authority.

163. There are no legal provisions opposing expulsion, return or extradition when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person concerned would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

164. During the period covered by the report, there have been numerous acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as disproportionate or unnecessary use of force by police and prison personnel, according to reports by the Office of the Procurator for the Protection of Human Rights and other reliable sources.

165. Cases of extrajudicial executions, whose victims show signs of torture, though very infrequent, would appear to reveal a persistence of the criminal practices employed during the armed conflict superseded by the Peace Agreements.

5. Recommendations

166. The offence of torture should be defined in terms complying with article 1 of the Convention.

167. The right of torture victims to fair and adequate compensation at the State's expense should be regulated, with the introduction of programmes for as full as possible physical and mental rehabilitation of the victims.

168. Recognition of out-of-court confessions should be removed from the Code of Criminal Procedure, on the ground that it contravenes the relevant constitutional guarantee.

169. Legal provisions should be introduced opposing expulsion, return or extradition in circumstances referred to in article 3 of the Convention.

170. Human rights education and promotion activities should be continued, with the introduction of human rights training into formal education programmes intended for new generations.

171. The State is urged to adopt measures ensuring that any allegation of suspected torture is promptly and impartially investigated and, if proved, suitably penalized.

172. The declarations referred to in articles 21 and 22 of the Convention should be made.

173. The second report (first periodic report) should be submitted within the coming year, in order to keep to the schedule provided for in article 19 of the Convention.

174. The Committee hopes in due course to receive information and replies to the questions raised during consideration of the report, as offered by the representatives of El Salvador.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

IMPUNITY - Impunity for past human rights violations continued to be a concern.

In January, in accordance with a 2010 ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the President apologized on behalf of the state for the massacre of over 700 men, women and children in El Mozote and surrounding hamlets in Morazán province. The victims had been tortured and killed by the armed forces over a three-day period in 1981. In December, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights set down its final decision on the massacre, ordering the state to conduct investigations, and to hold those responsible to account. The ruling also called on the state to ensure the 1993 Amnesty Law was not an obstacle to the prosecution of war criminals; to continue compiling a list of victims; to conduct exhumations; and to ensure reparations for the relatives.

In August, survivors and relatives of victims marked 30 years of impunity for the 1982 El Calabozo massacre in which more than 200 women, men and children were killed by the armed forces. In a public event in November, representatives of the relatives and survivors handed in over 5,000 signatures urging the government to take action and respond to the demands of victims and their relatives for truth, justice and reparation.


For current articles:: Search Amnesty International Website

[accessed 31 December 2018]

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Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 24 January 2013]

[accessed 3 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices, but during the year the PDDH received 54 complaints that PNC officers used excessive force or otherwise mistreated detainees. The PDDH found PNC officers responsible in 35 cases. During the year the IG received 44 petitions to investigate cases of alleged personal integrity violations.

There were no developments regarding the investigation into the killing of Melvin Guadalupe during July 2004 riots in San Salvador, during which the police reportedly used excessive force.

During the year the IG received 187 complaints of police misconduct. There was no information available at year's end on whether the PDDH referred cases to the attorney general's office for prosecution.

On July 2, authorities arrested five PNC agents in Acajutla, Sonsonate jurisdiction on rape charges, based on a PNC investigation finding that the agents forced alien minors to have sex with them to avoid a deportation procedure. At year's end the PNG/IG was conducting a disciplinary review, but criminal charges against the defendants were dropped due to lack of evidence.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- El Salvador",, [accessed <date>]