University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/II.85, Doc. 28 rev. (1994).




At its 84th session, in October 1993, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights approved, pursuant to Article 62 of its Regulations, the Special Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador. The Report was remitted to El Salvador on October 18, 1993.

On January 18, 1994, the Government of El Salvador sent its observations, which were carefully reviewed by the Commission at its 85th session, and were included in the report, to the extent that the Commission considered relevant.


1. El Salvador: from conflict to the quest for peace. The position of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during the armed conflict

Several constant themes emerge from the recommendations and observations that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made with respect to El Salvador between 1979 and 1992. Even without the armed conflict, however, those themes persist and are crucial issues in the new and difficult stage of national reconciliation and reconstruction. During the conflict, the Commission repeatedly called for a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the internal strife. Now that El Salvador has finally achieved that settlement, the entire world community -and especially the people of El Salvador- hope and trust that it will endure.

Year after year the Commission called attention to the problems with the judiciary, its lack of resources -in the most liberal sense of the word-, even the occasional opposition to strengthening that branch of government, and a strikingly uneven standard of living, where so much of the population lacks the basic services needed to satisfy their most elementary needs. The recommendations to improve these areas were made in the hope and the belief that action on those recommendations would do much to improve the observance of the fundamental rights and guarantees embodied in the American Convention on Human Rights, which El Salvador ratified and is, therefore, a State Party.

What follows is a summary of some of the main observations made by the Commission during the conflict. The Commission will not dwell on the armed violence in El Salvador or its history; instead it will focus on those areas that even today are the priorities challenging the generations now striving to rebuild their country.

When it addressed the violence rampant in the country in its 1979-1980 report, the Commission said that it was alarmed by events there and had so informed the Salvadoran Government in a number of communications which had still not been satisfactorily answered. Worse still, the Commission said, it did not know whether government authorities, including the Attorney General and the judicial branch, were moving quickly enough, given the circumstances, to investigate the murders.

In its recommendations to the Government of El Salvador, the Commission suggested that an organized campaign be mounted to end the violence, a campaign that should include exhaustive and rapid investigations into murders said to have been either instigated or committed by past or present members of State security agencies and then punishment of the guilty parties with the full force of the law.

In the 1980-81 report, the Commission underscored the alarming number of unlawful executions in El Salvador, committed with impunity by security forces and paramilitary groups operating with the acquiescence or tacit consent of the government. As a general rule, that acquiescence meant that government authorities did not carry out proper and effective investigations to identify the parties responsible for these crimes.

The Commission concluded that an independent judiciary with sufficient resources and authority to punish abuses by the authorities and by private individuals was essential if the diminished importance attached to the right to life was to be restored.

In its report for 1981-1982, the Commission found that violations of the right to life continued to be the most serious problem and noted that it had received no concrete reports from the Government of El Salvador on the Commission's earlier recommendations to investigate and punish those responsible for the deaths of the thousands who died as a result of atrocities committed in recent years. It was clear, the Commission said, that most of those who committed these heinous crimes had never been punished.

The Commission noted that one way to help end the violence was to assist and promote nongovernmental human rights organizations, but went on to point out that their situation had not improved; many of their members had to seek refuge in other countries and their offices had been stormed and sacked by security forces.

In its 1982-1983 report, the Commission expressed concern over the violence in El Salvador, where unlawful executions and disappearances continued. As the Commission had pointed out in earlier reports, most such acts were committed by security forces and by paramilitary groups acting with impunity and outside the law. The fact that these crimes were never properly investigated, the Commission noted, seemed to indicate that these groups were operating with the Government's tacit consent.

As for the internal conflict, the Commission again urged a political settlement involving all sectors of society. It suggested that on the basis of that settlement, a date be set for general elections open to all political groups, which would enjoy every guaranty necessary to ensure that the election results reflect the will of the people.

In the 1983-1984 report, the Commission said how profoundly gratified it was that a civilian president had been elected. Although ordering priorities in the area of human rights was difficult, given the circumstances in El Salvador it was imperative that the new authorities take immediate and effective control of the security forces and give the judicial branch of government real independence and authority and its members the guaranties they needed to perform the functions of their office. The Commission stated that a well-informed judgment of the potential for effective observance of human rights in El Salvador could be made by evaluating the way in which these commitments were approached and carried out.

As to how to end the violence in El Salvador, the Commission stressed the fact that numerous independent sectors and civic associations in the country and agencies and prominent figures throughout the region had all agreed that dialogue and the law were the tools to shape a political, peaceful and global solution to the overall problem.

In its recommendations to the new Government, the Commission stated that investigations had to be conducted to punish those responsible for the very serious human rights violations committed under previous governments.

It added that efforts to bring about an overall political solution to the Salvadoran and regional crisis should continue, with the focus on the kinds of alternatives that could end the bloodshed in that country. Military solutions, the Commission noted, could indefinitely prolong a situation conducive to the kinds of serious and widespread violations of fundamental rights so common in El Salvador's recent history.

In its 1984-1985 report to the General Assembly, the Commission stated that it was imperative that pending cases of human rights violations attributed to the Salvadoran security forces and duly reported to the Government by the IACHR be investigated and the guilty parties punished.

In the 1986-1987 report, the Commission pointed out that because it had always attached particular importance to and vigorously encouraged a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the conflict between the Government of El Salvador and the rebel opposition forces, it was heartened by the new hopes for peace through negotiation and dialogue that had emerged with the agreement reached at the meeting the Central American presidents held in Guatemala between August 13 and 16 of that year.

The Commission's assessment of the 1987-1988 period was that the country's human rights situation had worsened and that with the renewed outbreak of violence in the country, it was the right to life that had been most flagrantly abused. Despite these problems, the Commission acknowledged the fact that from the strictly formal standpoint, all constitutional rights and guarantees had been preserved, even though in practice they, too, had been violated.

And the Commission renewed what had by now become a long-standing appeal to the parties in conflict for humanization of the armed conflict; compliance with the rules of international law by providing facilities for evacuation of the wounded and mutilated victims of war; exertion of every possible effort to eliminate the activities of the so-called death squads; and resumption of the path of dialogue in pursuit of peace. The Commission also expressed the hope that the Government of El Salvador would continue actively to cooperate with the IACHR and assist its work.

In its report to the General Assembly for 1988-1989, the Commission pointed out that it had emphasized to the President-elect that resumption of dialogue among all sectors of Salvadoran society -the kind of all-inclusive dialogue the Commission had repeatedly advocated- offered the best chance for the peace and reconciliation that are prerequisites for genuine observance of human rights.

It went on to say that with human lives in the balance, the Commission was hopeful that the negotiations that began in Mexico City from September 13 through 15, 1989, and that would resume in San José, Costa Rica on October 16 and 17 between representatives of the FMLN and the Government, would lead to a negotiated political settlement. This, the Commission pointed out, had long been its position.

Another issue on which the Commission focused during the ten-year Salvadoran conflict was the administration of justice in El Salvador which, it said, had been severely criticized for being slow, for lacking independence and for being ineffective in protecting and defending the rights of Salvadoran citizens whose constitutional rights were violated. Similarly, the IACHR noted the deplorable judicial precedents associated with many assassinations, almost none of which was ever properly investigated and the perpetrators of which were never punished.

Concerning this issue and other rights recognized in the American Convention, such as the right to due process, the Commission stated that in all those cases where individuals had been arrested and held incommunicado for more than the 72 hours permitted under the Constitution and the law, the guarantees of judicial protection to which Article 25 of the American Convention refers were ineffective in shielding citizens against violations of their fundamental rights by government. The Commission was also concerned by the failure to comply with the guarantees of a fair trial: detainees were being denied their right to be assisted by counsel at the time of their arrest, their right to be informed of the reasons for their arrest, their right not to be compelled to testify against themselves, and their right to all other judicial guarantees.

One of the most serious problems for Salvadoran society during the conflict, which the Commission hopes has now been corrected for the sake of national reconciliation and consolidation of democratic principles, was explained by the Commission in its report for 1988-1989: "A heightening of tensions and violence has moved the officers of the Government of El Salvador to look upon trade unions, cooperatives, universities, human rights organizations and other such bodies as `fronts' and `havens of the guerrillas or insurgents,' etc., and they are said to have been penetrated by the FMLN for manipulation as instruments of the armed struggle. As a result, they have been subjected to harassment and attack by the security forces."

One year later, in its report for 1989-1990, the IACHR stated that "The heightening of violence and the suspension of individual guarantees under the state of siege have resulted in a significant increase in the number of people deprived of their freedom. According to information initially supplied to the Commission, many of these people are now being held alongside common criminals, in very poor conditions. However, the Commission has not been informed of recent developments in this situation or of how the Government of El Salvador is solving the problem. (...)

Nongovernmental organizations also reported a marked increase in cases of torture of political prisoners by their interrogators."

Returning to the question of the problems with the judicial branch of government, on the occasion of its 1990-1991 Report, which coincided with a period when the violence in the country had become particularly severe the IACHR told the General Assembly the following: "Summing up, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights finds that certain problems gravely prejudicial to the observance of human rights in El Salvador have persisted during the period covered in this annual report. The activities of the death squadrons and the security forces lead to serious human rights violations and the authorities of the Salvadoran judicial system seem to lack either the will or the means to stop such conduct. The lack of progress made in important investigations, such as the inquiries into the Jesuits murdered on November 16, 1989, and the failure to comply with the Commission's recommendations on individual cases, show that there are still obstacles in the way of ascertaining the identity of those responsible for such serious human rights violations and bringing them to justice."

The IACHR raised another disturbing problem directly associated with the conflict and detrimental to the exercise of rights recognized in the American Convention, which concerned ".... irregularities surrounding the situation of those persons who were being held for political reasons. In most cases, no decision has ever been handed down in the proceedings against them. They are being held in subhuman conditions and are mixed in with common prisoners. All of this is highly irregular from the standpoint of the right to personal liberty and the right to a fair trial and due process of law, recognized under Articles 7 and 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights."

In the hope that the armed conflict was about to end, the Commission pointed out that it "is encouraged by the negotiations between the Government and the leaders of the FMLN, under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General, and regards them as a very positive development. It hopes that they will continue to move ahead until the conditions are there for full observance of human rights. This includes proper exercise of political rights, in such a way that they reflect the will of the Salvadoran people, contribute to peace and are a true manifestation of a democratic form of government which, as the Commission has said repeatedly, is the best guarantee of the observance of human rights."

When the historic peace agreements were achieved, the IACHR said the following in its 1991 report: "The Commission wishes to repeat its satisfaction over the successful conclusion of the peace negotiations and hopes that implementation of the measures will be truly conducive to stronger institutions, particularly the judicial power, and to real progress in defending and safeguarding the fundamental rights of the Salvadoran people."

In its most recent Annual Report, which was for 1992-1993, the Commission highlights the postwar period. The Commission, inter alia, stressed the fact that "peace is much more than the absence of war. With the signing of the Chapultepec Agreements and their slow but steady implementation, El Salvador has taken a major step towards peace and has overcome the most pressing obstacles; it has put an end to the armed conflict that sapped the country for twelve long years. Today, the entire Salvadoran population is playing a role in its institutional recovery. For this reason, in furtherance of its functions and authorities, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights continues to monitor closely the evolution of the situation and will promote respect for and defense of human rights, its paramount mission under the American Convention."

With the same sense of hope that inspires this Special Report, the Commission also pointed out that "El Salvador has embarked upon the road to peace, reconciliation, stronger democratic institutions and national reconstruction. All sectors, from the Government and the FMLN--once enemies, now political opponents--to the last Salvadoran citizen, are joined in this common cause. Needless to say, success will mean more than observing the agreements in the strictly formal sense; it implies a fundamental change for the immediate, and the correction--in the long run--of two aspects that are at the root of the conflict."

The Commission then turned its attention on two basic issued: "First, the observance of economic, social and cultural rights. As long as there are sectors of the population who live below all standards of human decency in a state of extreme poverty, the conditions will be there for the situation to degenerate into a new conflict. The peasant farmers--who constitute the majority of the population--, but are unprotected, unpropertied and without prospects for a better future-- and the many people now bring reassimilated into civilian life (both from the guerrilla movement and from the army) need priority attention to enable them to satisfy a human being's most elementary necessities. Decent housing, jobs, education and health must be the fundamental objective of the Government's policies and the effort is one in which all sectors of the population, without exception, must be engaged. Even this will not be enough, however, without the determined support of the international community, both bilaterally and through multilateral financing of development projects."

The Commission went on to say the following: "There is a second aspect, as important as the first will be in forging the peace. El Salvador does not now enjoy--nor has it in the recent past--the kind of efficient, impartial administration of justice that is the best safeguard against impunity and an effective deterrent against crime."

In exercise of its authority, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is preparing this report covering the period from the time the agreements were signed to the preliminaries for the important elections slated for March 1994, and based on its own careful observations. The preceding brief summary depicts the frame of reference that has shaped El Salvador's present reality.

2. The peace negotiations: identifying the key issues. The terms of the agreements and the American Convention on Human Rights

Human rights, a complex issue in any attempt to negotiate internal conflicts, was very much a part of El Salvador's peace process. First raised in the San José Agreement of July 26, 1990, the issue figured more and more prominently as negotiations progressed. One finds commitments on the essential rights of people in the Mexico Agreements of April 27, 1991; in the New York Agreement of September 25 of that year, and then in the final Peace Agreement signed in Chapultepec on January 16, 1992.

In one way or another, these agreements contained political commitments to objectives that the State had already enunciated or to which it had previously committed itself in the international instruments it either signed or, as in the case of the American Convention on Human Rights, ratified. The Commission believes that the principal clauses of these agreements that have some bearing upon the Commission's area of competence need to be cited. They corroborate the Commission's own previously stated position that "political agreements concluded by the parties do not in any way relieve the State of the obligations and responsibilities it undertook with ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments on the subject."[1]

These peace agreements are binding upon the parties because of political commitments made at the bargaining table. The American Convention is also binding because it was ratified by El Salvador and, under the Constitution, therefore takes precedence over domestic law[2]. The principal aspects of the peace agreements and their relationship to the American Convention can be summarized as follows:

2.1. The San José Agreement on Human Rights (July 26, 1990)

The provisions of this agreement fall into two main categories: first, respect for and guarantee of human rights, involving commitments that take effect immediately and others that will take effect in the medium term; second, international verification, which involved the creation of the United Nations Verification Mission. As for the first point, the parties agreed to the following commitments:

a. Respect for and guarantee of human rights:

The immediate commitments include the obligation to take measures to deter actions or practices that threaten the life, integrity, safety and liberty of persons, assigning priority to investigating any cases that arise and identifying and punishing those responsible.

The agreement calls for specific commitments to guarantee the individual's liberty and integrity: the individual is to be allowed to exercise his legitimate political rights freely; an individual can be arrested only on written orders from a competent authority and by agents who identify themselves; an individual who is detained is to be advised of the reasons for his detention and of any charges against him; arrest as an intimidation tactic is to be avoided; the remedies of habeas corpus and amparo must be effective; freedom of association and the right to form and/or trade unions must be fully guaranteed; freedom of expression and thought must be fully guaranteed; repatriates and displaced persons must be assisted and adequately reincorporated into society; unencumbered travel in embattled areas must be guaranteed; labor rights must be guaranteed.

The provisions contained in the San José Agreement on Human Rights, in subsequent agreements and in the final Chapultepec Agreement echo provisions contained in the American Convention on Human Rights, as follows:

Article 4. Right to life

1. Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.


Article 5. Right to humane treatment

1. Every person has the right to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected.

2. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

3. Punishment shall not be extended to any person other than the criminal.

4. Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be segregated from convicted persons, and shall be subject to separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons.

5. Minors while subject to criminal proceedings shall be separated from adults and brought before specialized tribunals, as speedily as possible, so that they may be treated in accordance with their status as minors.

6. Punishment consisting of deprivation of liberty shall have as an essential aim the reform and social readaptation of the prisoners.

Article 7. Right to personal liberty

1. Every person has the right to personal liberty and security.

2. No one shall be deprived of his physical liberty except for the reasons and under the conditions established beforehand by the Constitution of the state Party concerned or by a law established pursuant thereto.

3. No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest or imprisonment.

4. Anyone who was detained shall be informed of the reasons for his detention and shall be promptly notified of the charge or charges against him.

5. Any person detained shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to be released without prejudice to the continuation of the proceedings. His release may be subject to guarantees to assure his appearance for trial.

6. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty shall be entitled to recourse to a competent court, in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his arrest or detention and order his release if the arrest or detention is unlawful. In States Parties whose laws provide that anyone who believes himself to be threatened with deprivation of his liberty is entitled to recourse to a competent court in order that it may decide on the lawfulness of such threat, this remedy may not be restricted or abolished. The interested party or another person in his behalf is entitled to seek these remedies.

7. No one shall be detained for debt. This principle shall not limit the orders of a competent judicial authority issued for nonfulfillment of duties of support.

Article 8. Right to a fair trial

1. Every person has the right to a hearing, with due guarantees and within a reasonable time, by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal, previously established by law, in the substantiation of any accusation of a criminal nature made against him or for the determination of his rights and obligations of a civil, labor, fiscal or any other nature.

2. Every person accused of a criminal offense has the right to be presumed innocent so long as his guilt has not been proven according to law. During the proceedings, every person is entitled, with full equality, to the following minimum guarantees:

a. the right of the accused to be assisted without charge by a translator or interpreter, if he does not understand or does not speak the language of the tribunal or court;

b. prior notification in detail to the accused of the charges against him;

c. adequate time and means for the preparation of his defense;

d. the right of the accused to defend himself personally or to be assisted by legal counsel of his own choosing, and to communicate freely and privately with his counsel;

e. the inalienable right to be assisted by counsel provided by the State, paid or not as the domestic law provides, if the accused does not defend himself personally or engage his own counsel within the time period established by law;

f. the right of the defense to examine witnesses present in the court and to obtain the appearance, as witnesses, of experts or other persons who may throw light on the facts;

g. the right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself or to plead guilty; and

h. the right to appeal the judgment to a higher court.

3. A confession of guilt by the accused shall be valid only if it is made without coercion of any kind.

4. An accused person acquitted by a nonappealable judgment shall not be subjected to a new trial for the same cause.

5. Criminal proceedings shall be public, except insofar as may be necessary to protect the interests of justice.

Article 13. Freedom of thought and expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice.

2. The exercise of the right provided in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law to the extent necessary to ensure:

a. respect for the rights or reputations of others; or

b. the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals.

3. The right of expression may not be restricted by indirect methods or means, such as the abuse of government or private controls over newsprint, radio broadcasting frequencies, or equipment used in the dissemination of information, or by any other means tending to impede the communication and circulation of ideas and opinions (...)

Article 16. Freedom of association

1. Everyone has the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political, economic, labor, social, cultural, sports, or other purposes.

2. The exercise of this right, shall be subject only to such restrictions established by law as may be necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others (...)

Article 22. Freedom of movement and residence

1. Every person lawfully in the territory of a State Party has the right to move about in it, and to reside in it subject to the provisions of the law. (...)

2. Every person has the right to leave any country freely, including his own.

3. The exercise of the foregoing rights may be restricted only pursuant to a law to the extent necessary in a democratic society to prevent crime or to protect national security, public safety, public order, public morals, public health, or the rights or freedoms of others.

4. The exercise of the rights recognized in paragraph 1 may also be restricted by law in designated zones for reasons of public interest.

5. No one can be expelled from the territory of the State of which he is a national or be deprived of the right to enter it. (...)

Article 23. Right to participate in government

1. Every citizen shall enjoy the following rights and opportunities:

a. to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;

b. to vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees the free expression of the will of the voters; and

c. to have access, under general conditions of equality, to the public service of his country.

2. The law may regulate the exercise of the rights and opportunities referred to in the preceding paragraph only on the basis of age, nationality, residence, language, education, civil or mental capacity, or sentencing by a competent court in criminal proceedings.

Article 24. Right to equal protection

All persons are equal before the law. Consequently, they are entitled, without discrimination, to equal protection of the law.

Article 25. Right to judicial protection

1. Everyone has the right to simple and prompt recourse, or any other effective recourse, to a competent court or tribunal for protection against acts that violate his fundamental rights recognized by the Constitution or laws of the state concerned or by this Convention, even though such violation may have been committed by persons acting in the course of their official duties.

2. The States parties undertake:

a. to ensure that any person claiming such remedy shall have his rights determined by the competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State;

b. to develop the possibilities of judicial remedies; and

c. to ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.

There is also provision for immediate measures, consisting basically of the release of political detainees. This point will be examined at greater length later in this report.

b. International verification

One of the most significant provisions of the peace agreements and absolutely crucial to the success of the process was the creation of an international verification mechanism under the responsibility of ONUSAL. The parties agreed to act as swiftly as possible on the recommendations made to them by the Mission. An important point here, one also made by the United Nations Mission, is that the agreements specifically provide that the fact that the mission has examined a case or situation does not mean that international procedures to promote and protect human rights will not be applied thereto.

2.2. The Mexico Agreements (April 27, 1991)

These agreements basically concern four major issues vital to effective enjoyment of and respect for human rights: the armed Forces; the judiciary; the electoral system, and the Truth Commission. The following are some of the main provisions in regard to each:

a) The Armed Forces

Constitutional amendments aimed at:

- Stipulating in even clearer terms that the armed forces are subordinate to the civilian power.

- Creating a national civilian police force to safeguard the peace, tranquility, public order and security in rural and urban areas, under the direction of civilian authorities, separate from the armed forces and attached to a separate ministry.

- Creating a State intelligence service separate from the armed forces and under the president's direct authority.

- Redefining military justice so that its jurisdiction is confined to cases that concern some purely military legal interest.

Matters to be covered by secondary laws or political agreements:

- Paramilitary corps

- Impressment

- Command of State security and intelligence services; matters related to troops of the armed forces and national civilian police force.

- Professional training of defense and public security services, with emphasis on the preeminence of human dignity and democratic values, respect for human rights and subordination to constitutional authorities.

b) The legal system and human rights:

Constitutional reforms:

- Organization of the Supreme Court and election of its justices by a two-thirds majority of the Legislative Assembly.

- Appropriation of 6% of the current budget revenues to the judiciary.

- Election of the attorney general, the prosecutor general and the attorney delegate for human rights by a vote of two thirds of the Legislative Assembly.

Basically, the sense of these agreements as regards the armed forces and the judiciary is consistent with the provisions of articles 4, 5, 7, 24 and 25 of the Convention, cited earlier.

Subjects covered by an agreement but to be implemented under secondary laws:

- Redefining the membership of the National Council of the Judiciary, to ensure its independence and guarantee that its numbers include judges and representatives from other sectors of society not directly involved in the administration of justice. The Council will organize and operate the academy of the judiciary, the purpose of which will be to constantly improve the professional qualifications of judges and civil servants in the judicial branch of government and the attorney general's office.

- Organizing the academy of the judiciary, the purpose of which will be to constantly improve the professional qualifications of civil servants in the judicial branch of government.

- Establishing a judiciary career service to guarantee that members of the judiciary are qualified and independent.

Electoral system:

Constitutional amendments to create the Supreme Electoral Tribunal as the highest administrative and jurisdictional authority in election-related matters, and secondary legislation to ensure that no one party or coalition of parties controls its membership, some of whom shall have no party affiliation and be elected by a qualified majority of the Legislative Assembly.

- Monitoring by the political parties of the preparation, organization, publication and updating of the voter registration records.

Subjects covered under an agreement and to be implemented through secondary laws:

- An agreement on publication of the voter census 20 days in advance of election date and on establishing a simple and rapid procedure for making corrections requested by interested parties. Within 60 days of the Tribunal's establishment, a special commission will be formed, consisting of representatives of the political parties, to prepare a bill for amendment of the electoral system. That bill will be presented to the Assembly within 120 days of the installation of the Commission. The Commission will be installed at least two years before the next elections; the Assembly must vote on the reforms at least one year before those elections.

The election reforms to ensure the effectiveness and independence of the electoral bodies and equal representation thereon, basically concern exercise of the rights to participate in government, embodied in Article 23 of the American Convention, cited earlier.

The Truth Commission

The Truth Commission was created and the parties agreed to comply with its recommendations. It was also agreed that none of these agreements was to impair routine investigations of any situation or case, regardless of whether it had been investigated by the Commission, and that the law was to be enforced whenever an illegal act occurred.

When it examines the history and implementation of the agreements and the individual cases[3], this report will refer to the conclusions in the Report of the Truth Commission, its content and reactions to it in El Salvador, because there is a direct relationship between observance of the rights protected under the Convention and implementation of the recommendations made by the United Nations Truth Commission, both in general and in particular.

2.3. The New York Agreement (September 25, 1991)

Creation of the National Commission for Consolidation of Peace (COPAZ)

This Commission was created to monitor fulfillment of all the peace agreements and gives every civilian his or her opportunity to participate in the change process. COPAZ is important for human rights because the parties must consult it before taking any decisions or measures on matters covered under the peace agreements and because it has access to and can investigate any activity or site associated with execution of the agreements. COPAZ can prepare legislative bills, it supervises implementation of the agreements, prepares legislative bills to include the war wounded and the families of those who died in combat in the State social services system or to make proper economic restitution, depending upon what the law provides.

When examining the new institutions created in El Salvador, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will have occasion to make reference to the mission entrusted to COPAZ and the role it has played in the reconciliation process.

The armed forces code and training system

Measures were taken to implement earlier agreements, the Mexico Agreement in particular. An Ad Hoc Committee was created to purge the military forces. Its role will be examined later in this report.

National civilian police force - As a result of the Mexico agreements, measures are being planned to develop a new national civilian police force.

The economic and social issue - Important moves are planned in this area, so vital to the nation's reconciliation and reconstruction. They include measures to give peasant farmers and small farmers the land they do not now have and to review farm credit policies.

This issue is covered in the American Convention on Human Rights and in the Protocol of San Salvador on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Article 26 provides the following in respect of these rights:

The States parties undertake to adopt measures, both internally and through international cooperation, especially those of an economic and technical nature, with a view to achieving progressively, by legislation or other appropriate means, the full realization of the rights implicit in the economic, social, educational, scientific, and cultural standards set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States as amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires.

2.4. Chapultepec Peace Agreements (January 16, 1992)

The Chapultepec Agreements address the main issues for El Salvador's new democratic and peaceful society and whose relevance to human rights is obvious:

I. The armed forces: The basic issues here are the principles of the armed forces code, the educational system, `purging' and downscaling the armed forces, ending impunity, the public security forces, intelligence services, quick reaction infantry battalions, military subordination to civilian power, paramilitary groups, elimination of the practice of impressment, preventive and promotion measures, relocation and dismissal;

II. The national civilian police force: the provisions on this subject cover its establishment, code, functional and territorial structure, personnel, national public safety academy, and permanent and temporary system of rules and regulations);

III. The Judicial system: (these provisions concern the National Council of the Judiciary and the Office of the Attorney Delegate for the Defense of Human Rights);

IV. The electoral system;

V. The economic and social issue: (these provisions concern the agrarian problem, lands in embattled areas, loans for the farm sector and for microenterprise and small enterprise, measures to ease the social cost of the structural adjustment programs, types of direct external cooperation to further community assistance and development projects, the Forum for Economic and Social Negotiation and the National Reconstruction Plan);

VI. The FMLN's political participation, and finally

VII. The end of the armed conflict.

Naturally, each issue addressed in the Peace Agreements, particularly in the Chapultepec Agreements, involves commitments on the part of either one or both parties, as the case may be. Verification of compliance, which is the job of the United Nations, has been vital to ensuring that the agreed upon measures are carried out. Where those commitments have been honored and effectively carried out, significant and inexorable progress has been made toward creating a genuine democracy in El Salvador and a culture of peace in place of the violence of the past.

Monitoring and analyzing events since the agreements were signed, not just in light of the political commitments made by the country but also its obligations under treaties, has basically been the responsibility of the United Nations' verification bodies. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights refers to those bodies the purely factual aspects of the performance of the commitments undertaken by the negotiating parties. With these basic terms of reference, the IACHR will make its evaluations and the pertinent recommendations, in exercise of its authority under Article 41 of the Convention, which states:

The main function of the Commission shall be to promote respect for and defense of human rights. In the exercise of its mandate, it shall have the following functions and powers:

- to make recommendations to the governments of the member states, when it considers such action advisable, for the adoption of progressive measures in favor of human rights within the framework of their domestic law and constitutional provisions as well as appropriate measures to further the observance of those rights;


[1] Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 1992-1993, Chapter IV, page 186.

[2] Article 144 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of El Salvador states that "The law shall not modify or derogate that agreed upon in a treaty in effect in El Salvador. In the event of a conflict between the treaty and the law, the treaty will prevail."

[3] See above "II.3 The Truth Commission and the cases now being processed with the IACHR".


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