El Salvador Under Fire for Treatment of Inmates After Prison Murders Spike

Human rights groups condemned the President of El Salvador after videos and photos were released on April 25 showing prisoners stripped to their underwear and forced to sit in lines packed next to one another during a search of a prison in Izalco.

Further videos show prisoners said to be gang members being locked into cells that are then sealed with sheets of metal, with the statement, “The Government has taken measures in seven penal centers, including the three phases of #Izalco, Sonsonate, to counteract communication between gang members, given the increase in homicides ordered from prisons.”

The extreme measures were put in place after more than 50 people were killed in gang-related violence in recent days.

President Nayib Bukele said that gangs were taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions and authorized the police and army to use lethal force to combat the violence.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, the executive director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas, condemned the actions, saying that El Salvador risks sliding into a dictatorship and that the “only way to stop this is to have a strong reaction by the international community.”

The conditions were described as “worrisome” by Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, Erika Guevara.

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