El Salvador: Civil society in danger

13/12/2021
Statement
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Geneva-Paris-Mesoamerica, 13 December 2021. The draft Law on Regulation of Foreign Agents favours closure of civil society arenas in El Salvador, a coalition of seventeen human rights organisations reported. The State must guarantee the rights to freedom of association and to defend human rights, they stated.

The draft Law on Regulation of Foreign Agents presently under discussion at the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador wakens ghosts known in the region and in the world wherethis type of law is becoming the multifunctional tool of authoritarian regimes. With a text similar to the restrictive Law on Regulation of Foreign Agents (ES) that has been in force in Nicaragua since October 2020, used to encourage criminalisation of dissidence in that country governed by an authoritarian regime, the Salvadorian draft law includes directives aimed at controlling, inspecting and cancelling legal personality and criminalising human rights organisations and independent media who work in the country if they do not comply with the law.

Although the discussions and imminent passing of the Foreign Agents Law were paused on 23 November 2021 in view of the profound concern expressed by international human rights organisations and the accredited diplomatic body in El Salvador, the President of the Legislative Assembly, Ernesto Castro, announced that the country needs this law and that there are limits to what international pressure can change.

Laws such as the one that the State of El Salvador proposes to pass are contrary to international human rights treaties because they violate freedom of association and the right to defend human rights. The draft Law on Regulation of Foreign Agents is a serious indicator of the imminent closure of civil society arenas in El Salvador and represents a threat to the work to promote citizen participation and freedom of expression, pillars of a democratic system.

In this regard, the signatory organisations recall that the right to defend human rights is widely recognised by international defence organisations. In particular, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) has established that people who defend human rights make an essential contribution to strengthening the Rule of Law, (ES) questioning impunity and activating mechanisms that keep democratic systems alive.

The signatory organisations therefore join the call made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and also the communication made by several United Nations Experts (ES) and urge the legislative authorities to refrain from passing the proposed law, in compliance with their human rights obligations.

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  • Co-signatories

    Signatories:

    - Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT), en el marco del Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos
    - FIDH, en el marco del Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos
    - Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM)
    - Asociación de Investigación y Especialización sobre Temas Iberoamericanos (AIETI)
    - Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)
    - Civicus
    - Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado (CEAR) – Euskadi
    - CooperAcció
    - Diakonia
    - ForumCiv
    - Front Line Defenders
    - IM Sweden
    - Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras)
    - Mundubat
    - Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA)
    - Red Salvadoreña de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
    - Servicio Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad con los pueblos de América Latina “Óscar Romero” (SICSAL)

  • Member organisations - El Salvador
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