El Salvador

El Salvador has a mixed record on human rights and democracy overseas. In the UNHRC it has supported resolutions on Syria and North Korea, but has abstained concerning Ukraine, joining India and South Africa. Its cooperation with the OAS’s inter-American system of human rights has been spotty as well. In the 156th session of the IACHR El Salvador resisted a case involving a woman’s rights to choose and in June 2017 it abstained from voting on a resolution demanding increased pressure on the Venezuelan government, but voted in favor of a resolution calling Venezuela to reconsider from withdrawing from the OAS. 

Below is a breakdown of El Salvador’s actions and votes at the various venues we are monitoring. For more information click on each title and summary.


Freedom House   
Freedom Status  Partly Free
Aggregate Score (100 is perfect freedom and protection of rights) 66
Political Rights (scores out of 40, with 40 being the best)  32
Civil Liberties (scores out of 60, with 60 being the best)  34
Reporters Without Borders  
       World Press Freedom Index (scores out of 100, with 1 being the best) 29.7
Transparency International  
Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 36/100
 Global Rank 104/180
World Justice Project  [1]  
Rule-of-Law Index  0.49
 Regional rank  21/30
 Global rank 84/128
UN Human Development Index  
 Human Development Index 0.673
 Global rank 124
Americas Quarterly [2] (last report 2016)  
 Social Inclusion Index 67.57/100
Regional rank  12/15

United Nations System:

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC or Council)

El Salvador was most recently on the Council from 2015-2017. It is one of the countries that consistently votes to uphold human rights at the Council on the issue of Syria and North Korea, but has abstained on Ukraine.[expandableHeadline]Read more[/expandableHeadline][expandableContent]

UNHRC Resolutions on the conflict in Syria

 25th Special Session
The deteriorating situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the recent situation in Aleppo
 voted Yes
 Resolution 33/23
The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic
 voted Yes
Resolution 30/10 The grave and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
Resolution 29/16 The grave and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
Resolution 28/20 The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
 Resolution 31/17  The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
 Resolution 32/25  The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
 Resolution 25/23  The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic  voted Yes
 Resolution S-25/1 The deteriorating situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the recent situation in Aleppo  voted Yes

UNHRC resolutions on the conflict in Ukraine:

Resolution 29/23 Cooperation and assistance to Ukraine in the field of human rights  Abstained
Resolution 32/29 Cooperation and assistance to Ukraine in the field of human rights  Abstained

UNHRC resolutions on the conflict in North Korea:

 Resolution 28/22  Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea  voted Yes
 Resolution 31/18  Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea  Consensus


UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review

As part of its mandate to promote human rights around the globe, the UNHRC has instituted a Universal Periodic Review, where, once every four years, each country’s human rights record is examined. Other countries are invited to review the record and make comments and suggestions for improvement. The country under review then acknowledges each comment by either “accepting” the comment, meaning typically that they agree to focus on, or “noting” it, indicating that they disagree and will not be focusing on improvements in this area.

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As recipient: El Salvador received 159 recommendations. Accepted 117, noted 42. (only select topics listed below)

Area Received Accepted Noted
Civil society  3 2  1
Elections  –  –  –
Enforced disappearances  5 2  3
Extrajudicial executions  –  –
Freedom of association and peaceful assembly  –  –  –
Freedom of opinion and expression  –  –  –
Freedom of religion and belief  –  –  –
Freedom of press  1  1  –
Human rights defenders  3  3  –
Human rights violations by state agents  –  –  –
Impunity  5  5  –
Indigenous peoples  5  4  1
Internally displaced persons  –  –  –
International instruments  28  6  22
Justice  19  10  9
Migrants  5  5  –
Minorities  –  –  –
Racial discrimination  1  1  –
Sexual orientation and gender identity  7  2  5
Torture and CID treatment  12  7  5
Women’s rights  53  32  21
Total 159 117 42

Note: some comments are classified under multiple categories.

As commenter: El Salvador is not a very active participant in the UPR process, with 29 comments made so far in the 2nd cycle (for data available). More than half (58.6%) made towards other Latin American countries. It has only made comments towards six countries: Belarus and Bulgaria with 3 comments, Costa Rica with 6 comments, Cuba with 7 comments, Nicaragua with 4 comments, and last Sudan with 6 comments.

Main topics of comments included: women’s rights (11 comments), international instruments (10 comments), rights of the child (8 comments), migrants (7 comments), indigenous people (4 comments), disabilities (4 comments).

Note: This data is for the 2nd cycle of the UPR. However, the final round of countries were reviewed in November/December 2016, and that data is not yet available to include in our analysis here.[/expandableContent]

UN NGO Committee

El Salvador has not been on the Committee since at least 1993.

Inter-American System:

OAS Permanent Council

Under the new leadership of Secretary General Luis Almagro, the OAS has re-found its focus on promoting democracy around the region. This was shown most clearly in a meeting in June 2016 where Almagro presented his report on the state of democracy in Venezuela and proposed invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

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While not as vocal as Nicaragua and Venezuela in opposing the presentation of Secretary General Almagro’s report before the Permanent Council in June 2016, El Salvador voted against it, joining Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, among others. During the 2017 OAS General Assembly, El Salvador, like Bolivia and Ecuador, voted in favor of a CARICOM-backed resolution calling Venezuela to reconsider from leaving the OAS; and abstained from voting on a U.S.-backed resolution urging the Bolivarian government not to convene a constituent assembly that would rewrite the Venezuelan constitution.


Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR or Commission)

During the 164th hearings El Salvador was absent on its hearing regarding extrajudicial executions in the country. The small country has also failed to make any voluntary contributions to the IACHR in the period covered.

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Hearing Issue Score
174th Violence and Citizen Security in El Salvador and Forced Displacement Based on Violence in El Salvador
173rd Right to Truth and Historical Impunity in the Context of the Internal Armed Conflict in El Salvador
171st Trials and Amnesty Laws in El Salvador
170th Judicial Independence and the Selection Process for the Attorney General in El Salvador
169th Search Process for Persons Disappeared During the Armed Conflict in El Salvador, Rights of Persons with Disabilities in El Salvador, and Protection of Defenders of Human Rights of Women, LGBT Persons, and Children in El Salvador
164th Report of Extrajudicial Executions in El Salvador 0/3
164th  Access to Justice in the Context of the Declaration of Unconstitutionality of the Amnesty Law in El Salvador 2/3
 161st Human Rights Situation of LGBTI people in El Salvador 3/3
159th Situation of justice operators in El Salvador  3/3
157th /158th Human Rights and Citizen Security in El Salvador  3/3
 157th /158th Impunity for Grave Human Rights Violations during the Armed Conflict in El Salvador   3/3
 156th Women’s Rights-Medical, Pregnancy   1/3
156th Violence & Internal Displacement 2/3
156th Freedom of Expression in Central America 0/3

Voluntary financial contributions to IACHR (as of Sept. 16, 2016) 

Year Contributions by
El Salvador
Percentage of Total
Contributions to IACHR
2011 $0 0%
2012 $0 0%
2013 $0 0%
2014 $0 0%
2015 $0 0%
2016 $0 0%


Electoral Missions

El Salvador has had 14 OAS missions to monitor their elections. The OAS most recently monitored their 2019 Regional Parliament elections. There have also been missions in 2018, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2009, 2006, 2004, 1999, 1997, 1991, 1985, 1984, and 1982.

Freedom of Information Laws

Since 2000 the right to information and freedom of information laws have expanded across the region. However, the existence of the laws on the books does not necessarily mean full enforcement.

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Signatory/Participant in MESICIC* Yes
Constitutional protection* Yes
Specific law enacted* Yes- enacted in 2011
Is there a presumption of right* Yes
Scope/Exceptions/Overrides* Access to everything; applies to all agencies that hold public funds; requirements for requesters are in line with international standards.
Received information under FOIA law?** 51%
Received information within a week?** 49%
Received the appropriate information?** 75%

*Data taken from the Global Right to Information ratings, provided by the Center for Law and Democracy. 
**Information from the 2015 World Justice Project Open Government Index


Women’s rights:

Protecting women against gender-based violence is a human rights issue often overlooked globally even though it crosses social, economic and national boundaries. And according to the United Nations Population Fund, gender-based violence undermines the health, security, dignity, and autonomy of its victims. Although 16 countries in Latin America had modified their laws to include a specific type of crime referring to the murder of women by 2015, they are not uniformly implemented, and practices to convict perpetrators of gender-based violence are still extremely weak. A 2016 report published by the Small Arms Survey found that Latin America and the Caribbean is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world.

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El Salvador has the highest femicide rate in Latin America and the second highest rate in the world. At a rate of 13.5 per 100,000 women, it is only second to Lesotho which has a rate of 23.7 per 100,000 women. High rates of crime, drug and gang violence, impunity, and a lack of stronger practices and implementation are to blame. In 2010, El Salvador passed a groundbreaking law aimed at preventing high levels of gender-based violence. The First Comprehensive Law for a Life Free of Violence against Women contains 61 articles to uphold the rights of women through policies on detection and prevention of violence, and victim assistance and protection, among other measures. The law punishes all forms of violence against women, from female murders to mocking, disparaging or isolation of women in their workplaces, communities or schools. The law went into effect in 2012. Whether it was a result of the new legislation, the femicide rate in El Salvador has decreased significantly. From a femicide rate of 70 per 100,000 women in 2011 to 13.5 per 100,000 women in 2015 there was an 80 percent decrease in female homicide rates in a matter of four years.

Although the decrease in the femicide rate is a positive sign, El Salvador still has the highest female homicide rate in Latin America. A result of the general violence and breakdown of the state. Impunity has been the result.  According to the Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace (ORMUSA), only 12% of the cases of violence against women are reported. ORMUSA estimated that many of the perpetrators were the judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and police officers in the communities in question.


Indigenous rights:

7.8 percent of the population in Latin America, roughly 41,813,039 people, identify as indigenous, 49 percent of them live in urban areas and 51 percent live in rural areas.

The Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO 169)

The Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO169)—which has the status of an international treaty—establishes the right of indigenous and tribal peoples to be consulted when a policy or project affects their culture or heritage through what is commonly called “previous and informed consent.” The vaguely worded treaty has been a point of contention in some countries, among governments, investors and communities; and progress in implementing it has been uneven. The Convention has been interpreted, in particular, as applying to issues of national resource extraction and infrastructure development that affect communal lands. In Latin America 16 countries have signed ILO 169.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP)

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, all Latin American countries, except Colombia, which abstained, voted in favor of this declaration. The only four countries to initially reject this declaration were the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While it is not a legally binding instrument, it is an “important standard” for the treatment of indigenous people. The declaration sets out the collective and individual rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, and other issues. It prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development. The end goal is to encourage countries to work alongside indigenous communities to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralization.

American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

In 2016, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after a long negotiation of 17 years. The declaration recognizes the collective organization and multicultural character of indigenous peoples, the self-identification of people who consider themselves indigenous and special protection for peoples in voluntary isolation or initial contact. However, the declaration was met with resistance by members of the indigenous community, who complained that they did not have full participation in the negotiations and that the declaration rolled back several rights recognized in UNDRIP. The declaration does not mention the right to previous and informed consultation.

Previous to the declaration, in 1990, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had created the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to devote attention to Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and to “strengthen, promote, and systemize the IACHR’s own work in this area. The current Rapporteur on the Right of Indigenous Peoples is Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, Ambassador of Peru to Spain from 2012 to 2014 and Minister of the Office of Justice. He received a law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru with a master’s degree in Constitutional Law and a PhD in Humanities. Former Rapporteurs include, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine a former IACHR Commissioner and Dinah Shelton an international law consultant for the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme among other organizations.

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Data from 2007 show 14,865 people or .20 percent of the total population are indigenous. Fifty one percent were living in urban areas.

El Salvador voted in favor of UNDRIP and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but is not a signatory to ILO 169.


[1]WJP Rule-of-Law Index measures 4 principles: 1) The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law; 2) The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights; 3) The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient; 4) Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
[2] AQ Social Inclusion Index uses 23 different factors to measure how effectively governments are serving their citizens, regardless of race or income, and is published annually by Americas Quarterly at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
[3] Hearings were scored by Global Americans on a scale of 0 to 3 to evaluate government participation. 0 indicates that the government did not send any representatives to participate. If representatives were present, they were scored from 1 to 3 based on how engaged the representatives were, 1 indicating that they objected to the hearing, to the jurisdiction of the Commission to review the topic or dismissed there being any issue to discuss. A score of 3 indicates full participation of the government, including acknowledgment of the issue and its importance, the jurisdiction of the Commission to review and engagement on how this issue will be addressed going forward.
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