COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
1-19 May 2000
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE
19 OF THE CONVENTION
and recommendations of the Committee against Torture
The Committee considered the initial report of El Salvador (CAT/C/37/Add.4)
at its 422nd, 425th and 429th meetings, held on 9, 10 and 12
May 2000 (CAT/C/SR.422, 425 and 429) and adopted the following
conclusions and recommendations.
153. El Salvador became a party to the Convention on 17 June
1996, without reservations. It has not made the declarations
provided for in articles 21 and 22.
154. The report complies with the general guidelines regarding
the form and contents of initial reports approved by the Committee.
155. The consideration of the report gave rise to a frank and
constructive dialogue with the representatives of El Salvador,
which the Committee appreciates and acknowledges.
2. Positive aspects
156. The Constitution of the Republic gives legal force to all
international treaties which have been ratified, while stipulating
that the law may not change or derogate from a treaty's provisions
while it is in force and that in the event of a conflict between
the treaty and the law, the treaty shall take precedence.
157. The promulgation and effective observance of the new Penal
Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, whose provisions include
important guarantees for the protection of fundamental human
rights, should contribute to better fulfilment of the State's
obligations under the Convention.
158. Among those provisions, the Committee attaches particular
importance to the following:
(a) The imprescriptibility of both penalties and criminal proceedings
in the prosecution of crimes against humanity, including torture;
(b) The attribution of jurisdiction to national courts for the
judgement of offences affecting internationally protected property
or universally recognized human rights, regardless of by whom
and where such offences are committed;
(c) The requirement of written orders authorizing detentions,
and the establishment of strict time limits within which a detainee
must be brought before a court and the court must give a ruling
regarding the detainee's release or remand;
(d) The obligation for national courts to judge individuals
charged with offences affecting internationally protected property,
in the event that their extradition is rejected;
(e) The creation of the Office of the Procurator for the Protection
of Human Rights and the significant activity undertaken by this
institution, both in its duties of supervising respect and guarantees
for human rights and in the development of human rights promotion
and education programmes, particularly those intended for law
(f) The creation of prison supervision courts responsible for
ensuring the proper enforcement of sentences and respect for
the rights of all persons deprived of liberty;
(g) The human rights education activities conducted by the Salvadoran
Institute of Human Rights, the Judicial Service Training Colleges
and the National Public Security Academy;
(h) The fact that there is no provision in penal legislation
which allows torture to be justified by invoking the order of
a superior or public authority. On the contrary, the National
Civil Police Organization Act expressly excludes that possibility
and, under the general provisions of the Penal Code, both the
physical perpetrator of the offence and the person or persons
ordering it incur criminal liability.
3. Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the
159. The profound alteration in the habits of peaceful coexistence
and respect for human rights brought about by the prolonged
internal armed conflict that ended in 1992 has required not
only the creation or transformation of legal and political institutions,
but more fundamentally a process of cultural renewal, which
is by nature lengthy.
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
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
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
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.
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.