Human rights organisations accuse prosecutors of criminalising community defenders

Human rights organisations accuse prosecutors of criminalising community defenders
Feminist march in in San Salvador. 25 November 2019, El Salvador. Photo: Camilo Freedman/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images

From 2nd to 4th December 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a visit to El Salvador to observe the country’s human rights situation. The visit’s agenda comprised five key issues: public security, transitional justice, people deprived of their freedom, migrants, and the rights of women and LGBTQI people. Representatives of IACHR met with government officials, civil society and victims of human rights violations in the Commission’s first in loco visit to the country in 32 years.


Human rights organisations of El Savador’s Foro del Agua (Water Forum) have denounced the criminalisation of activists defending the right to water in Tacuba, Ahuachapán department. The organisations requested an investigation into harassment allegedly perpetrated by public prosecutors Miguel Santiago Gross Salazar and Marianella Beatriz Aguillón de Marroquín. According to their complaint, the prosecutors have accused community defenders of offences such as aggravated theft without providing evidence, in legal cases that have been technically inconsistent. Meanwhile the public hearing in the case against the defenders has been postponed from November 2019 and is now expected to take place on 7th January 2020.

Peaceful Assembly

On 4th November 2019, hundreds of people gathered in front of a judicial centre in San Salvador to protest a court ruling in favour of a judge accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl. According to news reports, the court decided that the judge had not committed sexual assault but “impudent touching”. This is not considered a serious offence, with punishment restricted to a fine. Outraged protesters demanded justice for the girl and a revision of the case. In a related development, feminist collectives and organisations marched in El Salvador on 25th November 2019, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.


On 12th November 2019, an anonymous Twitter account attacked journalists Diana Arias and Carmen Rodríguez from digital newspaper Voz de Diápora, discrediting their investigation into sexual harassment allegations involving the director of communications group Grupo Megavisión, Roberto Hugo Preza. The cyber-harassment was conducted by an user known as "Brozo", who insulted and published photos of the journalists.