© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Alleged members of the Barrio 18 gang are presented to the media after being arrested on charges of the disappearance or murder of several people, including two fast food delivery drivers, in Colon, El Salvador March 3, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Cabe
SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – A regional human rights body implored El Salvador’s government on Thursday to reverse a year-long suspension of constitutional rights that form part of a sweeping anti-gang crackdown enacted last year and credited with sharply reducing violent crime.
In a statement, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), part of the Washington-based Organization of American States, called on President Nayib Bukele and his allies in Congress to restore rights put on hold by the so-called state of exception.
The emergency powers allow police to swiftly arrest and jail suspected gang members while suspending their right to a lawyer and court approval of preliminary detention.
The policy, repeatedly extended by lawmakers allied to Bukele, also allows for warrant-less access to suspects’ communications as well as extended pre-trial detention.
“IACHR calls on the government of El Salvador to restore the full validity of the rights and guarantees suspended during the last 12 months within the framework of the emergency regime,” the body said in a statement.
The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since last year, Bukele’s crime-fighting initiative has led to the jailing of more than 66,000 suspected gang members, part of an unprecedented assault on the violent Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs, among others, that for decades have terrorized the Central American nation of around 6 million.
The state of exception followed the murders, blamed on gangs, of nearly 90 people over a single weekend in March 2022.
The broadly popular security policy of Bukele, who has said he will run for reelection next year, has coincided with a dramatic reduction in murders and extortion rackets, according to official data.