Children are arrested in El Salvador; Exception status

El Salvador authorities have a zero-tolerance policy toward demonstrations that could be interpreted as support or sympathy for gangs, even those involving minors. “Our police located and arrested José S., who can be seen in a video making gang signs, along with other students at a school.

“This minor will be prosecuted in accordance with the law. “We will not allow this cancer to invade our communities and our young people again and endanger the peace and security that we have given back to our people,” said Gustavo Villatoro, Minister of Justice and Public Security, after the minor’s death on social networks with arrest. .

Regarding children and teenagers who upload videos with gang references on Instagram and TikTok, Villatoro said at a press conference: “Know that now a minor between 12 and 18 years old will respond with prison sentences of up to 20 years.” Minimum sentence for crimes , involving illegal groups, and what these young people are doing in schools is linked to terrorist groups.”

The minister specified that so far 1,194 minors have been identified under the emergency regime, of which 1,065 have already been convicted for participating in or belonging to these institutions.

The data

Bad solution

  • The detention of minors does not improve their development or promote their social reintegration. According to Unicef ​​​​this affects their health and well-being, in addition to leading to an increase in school dropouts.

The juvenile justice reforms enacted in 2023 by the Nayib Bukele government to combat gangs provide for prison sentences of 10 years for children and adolescents under 12 years of age and prison sentences of up to 20 years for youth over 12 and 16 years of age.

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Likewise, changes in the law allow these children and young people to remain in detention pending a sentence and limit the possibility of changing or revoking their sentences.

“None of these measures comply with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which El Salvador is a party,” said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In March 2022, the Bukele government pressured Congress to declare a state of emergency in El Salvador, suspending rights to freedom of association and assembly and privacy of communications, as well as various due process guarantees.

In this context and with regard to the minors affected, Unicef ​​stated that gang violence in El Salvador “is unacceptable; It causes significant harm to communities and puts many children and young people at risk of becoming involved in the world of crime. However, imprisoning children and young people is not a solution.”

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