(Hong Kong) – The Chinese government should immediately abolish a secretive detention system used to coerce confessions from corruption suspects. The Communist Party-run system, known as shuanggui, has no basis under Chinese law but is a key component of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

“President Xi has built his anti-corruption campaign on an abusive and illegal detention system,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Torturing suspects to confess won’t bring an end to corruption, but will end any confidence in China’s judicial system.”

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Video: Rare Story From Inside China's Secret Detention System

The Chinese government should immediately abolish a secretive detention system used to coerce confessions from corruption suspects.

The 102-page report, “‘Special Measures’: Detention and Torture in Chinese Communist Party’s Shuanggui System,” details abuses against shuanggui detainees, including prolonged sleep deprivation, being forced into stress positions for extended periods of time, deprivation of water and food, and severe beatings. Detainees are also subject to solitary and incommunicado detention in unofficial detention facilities. After “confessing” to corruption, they are typically brought into the criminal justice system, convicted, and sentenced to often lengthy prison terms.

The report is based on 21 Human Rights Watch interviews with four former shuanggui detainees, as well as family members of detainees; 35 detailed accounts from detainees culled from over 200 Chinese media reports; and an analysis of 38 court verdicts from across the country. While there have been commentaries and analyses on the shuanggui system, the Human Rights Watch report is the first to contain firsthand accounts from detainees, as well as drawing on a wide variety of secondary, official sources.

Shuanggui not only further undermines China’s judiciary – it makes a mockery of it.

Sophie Richardson

China Director, Human Rights Watch

The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) oversees the shuanggui system, to which all of the party’s 88 million members are subject. The CCDI and its lower-level offices, local Commissions for Discipline Inspection (CDIs), typically target government officials, but those detained also include bankers, university officials, and entertainment industry figures, among others. Bo Xilai, a former member of the party’s powerful Politburo, was reportedly held under shuanggui, where he said he confessed under “improper pressure” and was later sentenced to life in prison.

The start of a shuanggui investigation is often marked by an individual’s disappearance – family members are given no notification of the person’s detention or location, no information about the alleged infraction, or the length of detention. Detainees have no access to lawyers. Although there are time limits for shuanggui, CDI investigators can seek repeated extensions, permitting detainees to be held indefinitely, often until they confess. Shuanggui facilities are typically rooms in hostels with special features, such as padded walls or a lack of windows, to prevent suicides or escapes. Detainees are guarded round-the-clock by shifts of officials, often put together in an ad hoc fashion for this purpose, and subjected to interrogations by CDI officers.
 

© 2016 Human Rights Watch

A former shuanggui detainee told Human Rights Watch, “If you sit you have to sit for 12 hours straight, if you stand then you have to stand for 12 hours as well. My legs became swollen, and my buttocks were raw and started oozing pus.”

While President Xi has characterized the fight against corruption as a “matter of life and death” for the Communist Party, the same is true for shuanggui detainees: there have been at least 11 deaths in shuanggui custody reported by the media since 2010. In most cases, authorities claimed these were suicides, but family members often suspected mistreatment, and the lack of comprehensive, impartial investigations into these deaths deepens these suspicions. While former detainees reported that the harsh conditions in shuanggui prompted suicidal thoughts, they also said the constant surveillance and the room’s modifications, designed to prevent suicide attempts, made it difficult to put such thoughts into action.

Some CDIs, concerned about the reputational damage caused by deaths in custody, have partnered with hospitals and doctors to provide medical care for detainees whom the CDIs know will be subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.

CDIs are supposed to hand over evidence of crimes to the procuratorate, the state investigators and prosecutors who are responsible for investigating official crimes. Instead, Human Rights Watch found that procurators work together with CDI officers and participate directly in shuanggui. Such “joint investigations” extract confessions during shuanggui – where detainees have no procedural protections – and then use those confessions in formal legal proceedings. If in those proceedings detainees retract their confessions, claiming that they were made under duress, the procurators typically threaten to send them back to shuanggui. Judges commonly reject detainee objections in court on the grounds that shuanggui and its practices are outside of the scope of the judicial system.

“In shuanggui corruption cases, the courts function as rubber stamps, lending credibility to an utterly illegal Communist Party process,” Richardson said. “Shuanggui not only further undermines China’s judiciary – it makes a mockery of it.”

The shuanggui system has been a highly effective tool for Communist Party investigators: once they obtain a confession, there is little suspects can do to exonerate themselves. Acquittals are extremely rare, and, except in cases of detainee deaths, few investigators face punishments for abuses. Some interviewees told Human Rights Watch that those who tormented them and their families were promoted for their “effectiveness” in handling corruption cases.

China has a serious problem with corruption, but successfully combating it requires an independent judicial system, a free media, and robust protections for the rights of suspects, Human Rights Watch said. A crucial step is the abolition of shuanggui.

“Eradicating corruption won’t be possible so long as the shuanggui system exists,” Richardson said. “Every day this system threatens the lives of party members and underscores the abuses inherent in President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.”
 

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Dakar, September 4, 2015) – The trial of the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture will begin in earnest on September 7, 2015.

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Act 1 of the Hissène Habré Trial

The long-awaited trial of Hissène Habré, was adjourned almost as soon as it was opened, as an outburst from the former dictator of Chad caused a scene in the courtroom.

When the landmark trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system formally opened on July 20, Habré had to be removed from court after an outburst. Habré’s lawyers then refused to appear and the trial was adjourned, giving new court-appointed lawyers time to study the case.  

“After 25 years of campaigning and 45 days waiting patiently, the survivors will finally get their day in court,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the victims since 1999. “Hissène Habré may try to create more disturbances, but he does not get a veto on whether he should be tried, or if the victims get justice.”

Habré has refused to communicate with the court-appointed lawyers, and it is expected that he will try to have them taken off the case. The president of the court, Gberdao Gustave Kam, has made clear, however, that in keeping with Senegalese law and international practice, the lawyers are needed to safeguard the rights of the accused and the integrity of the proceedings.

Habre is accused of tens of thousands of political killings as well as systematic torture during his rule, from 1982 to 1990. The trial is the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes.

Habré is standing trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habré ruled Chad. Judge Kam, of Burkina Faso, president of the Trial Chamber, will hear the case along with two senior Senegalese judges.

The trial is expected to last two months, with about 100 witnesses and victims expected to testify.

“If I get a chance to look Hissène Habré in the face, I will do it without fear,” said Fatimé Sakine, 53, a secretary who was subjected to electroshocks and beatings during 15 months in prison from 1984 to 1986 and who is in Dakar for the trial. “I want to know why we were kept rotting, why so many of my friends were tortured and killed.”

“This case is a milestone in the fight to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes, in Africa and in the world,” Brody said. “It's taken many years, and many twists and turns, but in the end a group of tenacious survivors have shown that it was possible to bring their dictator to justice.” 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Dakar, July 17, 2015) – The trial of Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré is a victory for the victims of his government. The trial began in Senegal on July 20, 2015, almost 25 years after he was overthrown.  

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Hissène Habré Finally Facing Justice

The trial of Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré is a victory for the victims of his government. The trial will begin on July 20, 2015, almost 25 years after he was overthrown.

 
“The opening of Hissène Habré’s trial, 25 years after he fled Chad, is a tribute to the survivors of his brutal rule who never gave up fighting for justice,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the victims since 1999. “This case warns despots everywhere that if they engage in atrocities they will never be out of the reach of their victims.”

Habré is charged with crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes. The trial will be the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes.

 
Habré will stand trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habré ruled Chad. Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, president of the Trial Chamber, will hear the case along with two senior Senegalese judges.

The trial is expected to last three months, with about 100 witnesses and victims expected to testify.

Habré, through his lawyers, has said that he does not want to appear in court. Under Senegalese law, however, the court president can require his appearance. 

“I have been waiting for this day since I walked out of prison almost 25 years ago, “ said Souleymane Guengueng, who nearly died of mistreatment and disease in Habré’s prisons, and later founded the Association of Victims of Crimes of the Regime of Hissène Habré (AVCRHH). “I want to look Hissène Habré in the face and ask him why I was kept rotting in jail for three years, why my friends were tortured and killed.”

Habré is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture. After he was deposed by the current president, Idriss Déby Itno, in 1990, Habré fled to Senegal. Habré was first arrested in Senegal in February 2000, but Senegal refused to prosecute him then or to extradite him to Belgium in 2005. It was only in 2012, when Macky Sall became president of Senegal and the International Court of Justice, acting on a suit by Belgium, ordered Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habré that progress was made toward the trial with the creation of the Extraordinary African Chambers. The chambers indicted Habré in July 2013 and placed him in pretrial custody. After a 19-month investigation, judges of the chambers found that there was sufficient evidence for Habré to face trial.

“This case is a milestone in the fight to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes, in Africa and in the world,” Brody said. "It's taken many years, and many twists and turns, but in the end a group of tenacious survivors showed that even a dictator can be brought to justice." 

On March 25, a court in Chad convicted 20 top security agents of Habré’s government on torture and murder charges. 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

An anti-Saudi-led coalition rally by Houff district (مديرية حوف) residents in al-Mahrah, May 4 , 2019. 

© 2019 Private
 

(Beirut) – Saudi military forces and Saudi-backed Yemeni forces have carried out serious abuses against Yemenis since June 2019 in al-Mahrah, Yemen’s far eastern governorate, Human Rights Watch said today. The abuses include arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, and illegal transfer of detainees to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi and Saudi-backed forces have arbitrarily arrested demonstrators protesting the presence of Saudi forces, as well as other local residents not connected with the protests, in al-Mahrah’s capital al-Ghaydah, residents told Human Rights Watch. Former detainees said that they were accused of supporting opponents of Saudi Arabia, interrogated, and tortured at an informal detention facility at the city’s airport in which Saudi officers supervise pro-Saudi Yemeni forces. Detainees’ families said that Saudi forces forcibly disappeared at least five detainees for three to five months while illegally transferring them to Saudi Arabia and not providing information on their whereabouts.

“Saudi forces and their Yemeni allies’ serious abuses against local-Mahra residents is another horror to add to the list of the Saudi-led coalition’s unlawful conduct in Yemen,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi Arabia is severely harming its reputation with Yemenis when it carries out these abusive practices and holds no one accountable for them.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed four former Yemeni detainees, two family members of detainees, and four friends of detainees, as well as seven Yemeni activists, five journalists, four officials with Yemen’s internationally recognized government, and a Houthi official about recent events in al-Mahra. Human Rights Watch also reviewed a document signed by the Yemeni government’s “secretary general for political security” for al-Mahrah about the detention of a person in al-Ghaydah airport and a short video in which a badly bruised man describes being arbitrarily detained and tortured at the airport prison. Activists provided names and photos of six detainees they said were forcibly moved to Saudi Arabia.

Human Rights Watch documented the cases of 16 people whom Saudi and allied Yemeni forces arbitrarily detained in al-Mahrah governorate between June 2019 and February 2020. Saudi security forces moved 11 of the 16 to Saudi Arabia. Five of them were moved in June to a prison in Abha, the capital of Asir province, after which families learned their whereabouts, their family members said. Before their transfer, the families received no information about their whereabouts for three to five months. The other six were men from northern Yemen arrested while crossing the border from Oman back into Yemen after receiving medical treatment there, said an al-Mahrah activist and two Houthi sources. The Saudis have released the other five whom they did not transfer to Saudi Arabia. A source also told Human Rights Watch that Omani forces detained a Yemeni man near the Omani border in September 2019, before releasing him after 10 days in detention. However, in a written response to Human Rights Watch, the Omani government denied that there are any Omani forces in Yemen, and that allegations of rights abuses by its forces in Yemen are “baseless.”

Four officials of the internationally recognized Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi, former detainees and activists told Human Rights Watch that Saudi officers and Saudi-backed Yemeni forces are running an informal detention facility in al-Ghaydah airport in al-Mahrah. A document bearing a stamp of President Hadi’s office, dated April 2019, and reviewed by Human Rights Watch, refers to the detention there of a person arrested by the “central apparatus for political security,” Yemen’s domestic intelligence service.

Four former detainees said that Saudi officers were present during their detention and interrogation at the airport facility. Three said Yemeni officers tortured them, in the presence of Saudi officers, to compel them to sign pledges to cease protests against the activities of Saudi forces and their Yemeni allies in al-Mahrah and stop cooperating with Saudi Arabia’s opponents.  

Human Rights Watch wrote to Rajeh Bakrit, governor of al-Mahrah, before he was replaced by Mohammed Yasser on February 26, 2020. Human Rights Watch also wrote to Yemen’s minister of human rights, Mohammed Asker; the Saudi-led coalition’s spokesperson, Turki al-Malki; and the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, inquiring about alleged abuses committed by their forces in al-Mahrah. At the time of writing they had not responded.

Saudi forces in Yemen are obligated to abide by international humanitarian law and international human rights law. They must treat people taken into custody for security reasons humanely, and if they detain someone on suspicion of committing a criminal offense, transfer them to the custody of the Yemeni government for investigation and prosecution. Torture or transfer to torture is strictly prohibited, as is enforced disappearance, the detention of someone without reporting their status or whereabouts. International humanitarian law prohibits (Geneva IV, art. 49) the transfer of detained civilians from their country to another state, such as Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi and Yemeni governments should immediately release any Yemenis wrongfully detained or transferred to Saudi Arabia and investigate alleged torture and enforced disappearance by their forces in al-Mahrah,” Page said. “The UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen should also investigate these abuses, with a view to holding those responsible to account.”

© 2020 Human Rights Watch

Al-Mahrah Governorate

Al-Mahrah governorate is in Yemen’s far east, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. It is remote from the areas of heavy fighting between the Saudi-led coalition, which entered Yemen in March 2015 to support the Yemeni government led by Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi against Houthi forces from northern Yemen, who had taken control of the capital, Sanaa, and much of the rest of the country.

Oman was the only Arab state in the Gulf region that did not join the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led military operations against Houthi forces. In a 2017 report, the United Nations Panel of Experts on Yemen detailed the transfer of weapons from Oman through al-Mahrah to territory under the control of the Houthis and their allies. By late 2017, Saudi Arabia began deploying forces into al-Mahrah governorate and in November took control of the airport in al-Ghaydah.

At least since 2016, the Yemeni and Saudi governments have backed a “military police” security unit in al-Mahrah governate. The UAE unsuccessfully attempted to create a so-called Mahri Elite Force, similar to units it had established in Hadramut and Shabwah governorates as part of its “counter-terrorism efforts” in Yemen, which have led to rampant abuses.

The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen noted in 2018 that Saudi Arabia deployed its 123rd Infantry Brigade security unit to al-Ghaydah in November 2017 to improve security along this main supply route for commercial and other traffic. Former detainees, families of detainees, and activists in al-Mahrah repeatedly mentioned “military police” and “special forces,” along with the Saudi-led coalition and Saudi-supported Yemeni forces, as responsible for the documented abuses. Yemenis interviewed by Human Rights Watch used “Saudi” and “coalition” interchangeably to describe the security forces in al-Mahrah.

Beginning in May 2018, Yemeni community leaders in al-Mahrah organized peaceful demonstrations against the presence of Saudi forces, eventually establishing a group they called “the committee of peaceful sit-in.” Pro-Saudi media and the United Kingdom newspaper The Independent alleged that the Omani government has provided financial support to the committee.

During a demonstration in November 2018, pro-Saudi Yemeni forces dispersed protesters in al-Mahrah’s al-Anfaq area (منطقة الأنفاق) with live bullets, the sit-in committee told Human Rights Watch. Unconfirmed accounts by four officials from the internationally recognized Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi, activists, and local press reports said that the Yemeni forces allied with Saudi Arabia killed at least two protesters and wounded another during that protest.

In April and August 2019, Saudi warplanes carried out airstrikes against checkpoints set up by al-Mahrah residents, according to residents and local press reports. No casualties were reported. On February 17, 2020, clashes erupted after residents prevented the entrance of Saudi forces in Shahan district’s Fujit area , according to local media. A message from the sit-in committee spokesperson to Human Rights Watch said that at least one protester was wounded. According to the Saudi-led coalition spokesperson, some members of the government security forces were also injured in the clashes.

In September 2018, President Hadi’s government reportedly issued an arrest warrant for Ali bin Salem al-Huraizy, al-Mahrah governorate’s former deputy governor and one of the founders of the sit-in committee. Al-Huraizy, who has not been arrested, told Human Rights Watch that the government accused him of destabilizing the region with calls for protests against the Saudi-led forces.

Arbitrary Arrest and Torture

Three former detainees said that Yemeni local forces supervised by Saudi officers abused and tortured them inside a detention facility in the airport in al-Ghaydah, subjecting them to beatings, electric shocks, and threats to harm their family members. The three former detainees said they were accused of ties with Lebanese Hezbollah and ties to Qatar, which has been in a prolonged diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia and the UAE since June 2017. All of those interviewed are identified with pseudonyms for their protection.

A former detainee, “Bassem,” a journalist, said that local Yemeni forces allied with Saudi Arabia detained him in early July 2019 for about two months in al-Ghaydah. They took him to the local criminal investigation police headquarters (al-Bahth al-Jinai) (البحث الجنائي) for a few hours, he said, then to the airport, handing him over to Yemeni security forces and their Saudi commander. His Yemeni captors, “with the approval of the Saudi officers,” he said, kept him blindfolded, beat him, tortured him using electric shocks, and threatened to transfer him to a prison in Riyadh:

The Saudi and Yemeni security men forced me to sign a pledge to not do journalism work in al-Mahrah and not to communicate with ‘Iran-allied’ Shi’ite Hezbollah, Qatar, or Oman. I was angry. I went on hunger strike for a whole week demanding they hand me over to the public prosecution, but in the end they forced me to eat. At this stage, I realized I was in a prison run by the Saudi army in al-Ghaydah civilian airport and I heard a man scream in pain under torture in the next room. After a few days, they moved me to another prison in an unknown military base. In this prison, no jailer was Yemeni. No one. Zero. They all spoke with Saudi dialects.

Bassem said that interrogators told him that if he didn’t confess about his alleged links with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Qatar, and to the Houthis and Omani intelligence services, they would behead his younger brother, whom they had also detained. Bassem said he was later transferred to several detention centers: “I had inadequate food, and the last cell I was in was like a garbage dump.” He said he managed to escape in late August by digging a tunnel underneath the wall of the container in which he was confined.  

“Hassan,” another journalist, said that Yemeni armed men with their faces covered abducted him from his hotel room in al-Ghaydah in mid-July 2019 and took him by car to the criminal investigation detention center, then to the airport prison, and finally to a place he was unable to identify. He said that throughout his detention, which lasted more than a month, his captors tortured him, using electric shocks, and beat him repeatedly. After his release, he tried to obtain surveillance camera footage from the hotel, but he learned from the hotel’s receptionists that the armed men who abducted him had disposed of the footage to prevent them from being identified.

“Farouq,” one of the protesters who had joined the sit-ins protesting the Saudi presence in al-Mahrah, said Yemeni security forces arrested him in June 2019 as he was passing by the airport. He was interrogated in the detention center there, first by pro-Saudi Yemeni forces and then by a Saudi officer. He said:

I was interrogated in a room by a member of the Saudi military. His military clothes and accent showed that he was Saudi. The officer himself told me that he was Saudi. He also told me that in the room there was a camera filming me and they can watch me live in Riyadh. He said that they knew who I was because they filmed me in the demonstrations and recognized my face. They tried to force me to sign a pledge that I, and anyone from my family like my siblings, wouldn’t participate in any anti-coalition activities. I refused to sign because, as I told them, our demonstrations were peaceful. The officer was verbally abusive. They took my phone at the gate so I couldn’t call my family all that time, for about two to three hours.

A source close to prominent tribal groups in al-Mahrah also informed Human Rights Watch of a case in which Omani guards in al-Mahrah’s Shahen district (منطقة شحن), near the Oman border, arbitrarily detained a Yemeni man in September 2019 after he refused to join anti-Saudi efforts in al-Mahrah. Omani authorities released him after 10 days. Oman denied allegations of any abuses by Omani forces in a written response to Human Rights Watch, and moreover denied the presence of any Omani forces operating in Yemen.

Forced Disappearances and Illegal Transfers from Yemen

Four Yemeni government officials, as well as three relatives of detainees and seven activists, said that Saudi Arabia arbitrarily detained and then illegally transferred at least five Yemeni detainees into Saudi Arabia.

The mother of one detainee said that Yemeni military police arrested her son in June 2019 at al-Ghaydah airport when he went there to register and find work as a guard. They later transferred him to a prison in Abha, the capital of Asir province in Saudi Arabia. She said she had no word of him for three months, and only found out where he was when he phoned her from Saudi Arabia and told her his location. The son remains in detention without charge.

Another mother told Human Rights Watch that Yemeni security forces detained her husband and their two sons in al-Ghaydah in June 2019. Saudi officials then transferred them to a prison in Abha. She said she knew about the location of her husband and sons only after they called her from the prison in Abha after five months. The three remain in detention without charge.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Video

Egypt: Security Forces Disappear, Torture Children

EU, US Should Stop Security Support Until Abuse Ends

Hamza

Hamza spent his 15th birthday standing on his toes with sharp nails under his heels. The teenager had spoken to someone else in his cell – something the guards had forbidden.

“He hates his birthday now, he does not want to celebrate it again,” a relative told Human Rights Watch.

Hamza was asleep when National Security forces came into his home one night in 2016 and arrested the then-14-year-old for taking part in a demonstration outside the Three Pyramids Hotel in Giza.

His father tried to go with them, but they threatened him, and refused to tell the family which police station they were going to. Hamza wouldn’t be heard from again for more than a month.

Eventually, at a hearing, Hamza found a sympathetic soldier who called his family and told them Hamza was being sent to a Central Security Forces camp in Cairo.

Officials at first denied holding the boy, but admitted it when the family returned five days later. After nine days, the were allowed to see him, and learnt what had happened to him.

“During the first two days of his interrogation, officers used electric shocks on his genitals, head, and tongue. On the third day he was suspended by his arms, which dislocated both his shoulders,” his relative said.

Hamza was then left on the floor of a corridor for three days in winter. Eventually, he was taken to an underground cell where another detainee, who was a doctor, was able to fix his dislocated shoulders.

Even after his reappearance, Hamza was not allowed to talk to a lawyer until his second hearing, about 48 days after his arrest. At the end of his trial, the boy was sentenced to ten years in prison for taking part in the anti-government protest in 2016.

He is behind bars at the Central Security Forces’ camp, where his family visits him once a week for about five minutes. Hamza has taken his school exams while in detention and came second in his year at his school – because political prisoners who were in cells with him helped him study.

Amr

Amr’s family endured three months of threatening, anonymous phone calls after Amr, then 17, was arrested and disappeared.

“Come take his corpse from Cairo,” the voice at the end of the line would say, or “come to the hospital.” They had no idea if Amr was alive or dead.

Amr was arrested in August 2016 when he was on the way to see his tutor. The men who took him did not show him an arrest warrant. More than three months later, in November 2016, his family received word that Amr had been brought before the State Security Prosecution in Cairo, accused of participating in a protest that damaged a public building. He was then transferred from National Security detention to a child detention facility.

“His family barely recognized him. He had been in the same clothes for three months, no shower, no water, nothing,” a relative told Human Rights Watch.

During the first two days of his interrogation, officers used electric shocks on his genitals, head, and tongue. On the third day he was suspended by his arms, which dislocated both his shoulders

Hamza's Relative

Amr would not tell his family what had happened to him during those three months, but they knew that the National Security officers who detained him waited for the torture marks to disappear before they formally presented him for prosecution.

Amr slowly began to recover while in juvenile detention, but when he turned 18 he was moved to another police station. Police there either stole or never delivered the food and medicine his family brought for him.

He joined a hunger strike to demand better conditions, but instead was transferred to the maximum security “Scorpion Prison.” Since then, his family have only seen him during court hearings, as he stood in a soundproof cage.

“We were both signaling to each other but not understanding anything,” the relative said. On March 6, a military court acquitted Amr of any wrongdoing in the case.

Abdullah

Abdullah was 12 when he was taken from his mother’s home in the night. She wouldn’t see him again for more than six months.

In prison, he suffered horrific torture including beatings, electric shocks, and waterboarding. At one point, the boy was handcuffed and suspended by his physically disabled right hand, causing immense pain.

He also described seeing his own father being tortured, but was unable to speak to his father. The two were taken a few weeks apart because, the family thinks, Abdullah’s older brother was a member of an ISIS affiliate before he was killed in April 2019. The family still doesn’t know if Abdullah’s father is alive.

Abdullah said he was held in multiple detention centers in Egypt’s North Sinai Peninsula.

He resurfaced in a Cairo police station in July 2018, and his ordeal continued. He was interrogated without a lawyer, charged with terrorism offenses despite the lack of evidence, and placed in solitary confinement for 100 days. Police denied him family visits, medical care, and the chance to bathe, which caused boils on his skin, according to his lawyer.

Fourteen days after receiving a December 2018 court order to release him, authorities transferred the boy to a police station in al-Arish. That January, a police officer at the station told Abdullah’s older sister to sign a document confirming that she had her brother, promising to give him to her the next day.

When she came to pick up her little brother, officers said they didn’t know where he was. Today, his family does not know what happened to him.

Several of the children interviewed said they had been suspended from the ceiling until their shoulders dislocated.

© 2020 Mohamed El-Masry for Human Rights Watch

Yahia

When 17-year-old Yahia was brought in front of a judge, his clothes were covered in blood, both his shoulders were dislocated, and he couldn’t walk.

When he said he’d been tortured, the prosecutor responded: “You watch a lot of action movies, don’t you?” and threatened to send him back to the same man who had tortured him unless he confessed to charges of joining a terrorist organization, participating in an attack, and “spreading a pessimistic atmosphere” in the country.

Yahia had been buying an ice cream when he was snatched off the street and thrown into a van in the winter of 2015. The police were responding to a nearby protest that Yahia hadn’t even known was happening.

At the police station he was dragged around by his hair, blindfolded, beaten on the head with a leather truncheon, shocked with electricty, and suspended off the ground until his shoulders dislocated. After seven days of torture and being handcuffed to a group of eight men and forced to sleep in an unheated room with the window open, the boy made a false confession.

After his torture claims were dismissed in court, he spent 30 days in a cell with 80 other people, mostly adult men.

Eventually, he was sent to a youth detention facility, but was transferred back to a police station when he turned 18, where it was impossible for him to continue his studies.

He went on an 11-day hunger strike, and was eventually transferred to a prison, but then his case was taken over by a military court 12 hours away. Yahia said he and others were transported to and from the hearings in an overcrowded truck, and that prison officials sent him to court in the truck when he had no hearings as punishment.

In late 2016, after nearly two years in detention, he was sentenced to three years in jail, including time served, and has since been released.

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Egyptian police, National Security Agency, and military officials arbitrarily arrested, forcibly disappeared, and tortured children as young as 12 while prosecutors and judges turned a blind eye, Human Rights Watch and the rights group Belady: An Island For Humanity said in a report released today.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman arrives to attend the first meeting of the defense ministers and officials of the 41-member Saudi-led Muslim counter-terrorism alliance in the capital Riyadh on November 26, 2017.

© 2017 Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images
 

(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia’s new mass arrest of 298 government employees on suspicion of corruption raises human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today. Saudi authorities should immediately reveal the legal and evidentiary basis for each person’s detention and make certain that each person detained can exercise their due process rights.

Saudi Arabia’s previous corruption crackdown, in November 2017, included the detention of dozens of prominent businessmen, royal family members, and current and former government officials for three months at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. While the people were in detention, the authorities pressured them to hand over assets to the state in exchange for their release, outside of any recognizable legal process. Some of those detained in November 2017 remain in detention without charge, including Turki bin Abdullah, the son of the late King Abdullah and the former governor of Riyadh; Adel al-Fakih, a former minister; and Bakr Binladin, a construction mogul.

“The fight against corruption is no excuse for flagrant due process violations and preventing people from mounting an adequate defense,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Given their track record of abuse, the Saudi authorities should make fundamental reforms to the justice system to ensure that the accused will not be railroaded in unfair legal proceedings.”

On March 15, 2020, Saudi Arabia’s official government news agency announced the new arrests, stating that the Saudi state corruption watchdog had criminally investigated 674 state employees and ordered the detention of 298 for “financial and administrative corruption, consisting of bribery crimes, embezzlement and waste of public money, misuse of employment powers, and administrative misuse.” Among those detained are current and retired military officers, health officials, security officers under the Interior Ministry, and judges. The statement said that the acts of corruption amounted to 379 million Saudi Riyals ($101 million).

During the previous round of corruption arrests, Saudi Arabia flagrantly violated the rights of prominent Saudi businessmen, royal family members, and government officials held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel between November 2017 and February 2018. The authorities pressured detainees to hand over their assets in exchange for their release, and many detainees made deals, media reported. In March 2018, the New York Times reported that Saudi authorities used physical abuse to coerce detainees to hand over assets, stating that at least 17 detainees had required hospitalization.

On January 31, 2018, the Saudi Press Agency released a statement by the royal court saying that the anti-corruption committee, led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, had “concluded its tasks” after summoning 381 people to give evidence. The statement said that those not indicted on corruption charges had been released, while 87 had agreed to settlements and 56 had been refused settlements and remained in custody “to continue the investigations process.” The statement said that the authorities had referred 8 others to the public prosecutor after they refused to settle. The statement concluded that “more than SR400 billion (US$107 billion) was retrieved to the state treasury in the form of real estate, companies, cash, and other assets.” Saudi officials have released no additional information about corruption prosecutions stemming from these arrests or those who remain in detention such as Turki bin Abdullah.

An informed source close to six of the detainees held in the Ritz-Carlton told Human Rights Watch that even though most of the detainees reached settlements and were released, they remain tightly monitored by authorities, even those who returned to their previous positions in their companies or in managing financial assets. He said that in some cases the authorities have forced former detainees to involuntarily return to their former companies or positions or and compelled them to accept new roles.

International human rights law protects basic rights, including the right not to be arbitrarily detained. Any charges authorities bring must resemble recognizable crimes. At a minimum, those detained should be informed of the specific grounds for their arrest, be able to fairly contest their detention before an independent and impartial judge, and have access to a lawyer and family members, and their case should be periodically reviewed.

“Saudi authorities are declaring that they want to take on the scourge of corruption, but the right way to do that is through diligent and fair judicial investigations against actual wrongdoing, not sensationalistic mass arrests without due process,” Page said.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Mohamed Ramadan (left) and Ali Moosa (right).  

© Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

(Beirut) – Bahrain’s authorities should overturn the death sentences following unfair trials against two men who say they were tortured, Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said today. The Court of Cassation, Bahrain’s court of last resort, will issue the final verdict in the coming weeks.

This is the second time the Court of Cassation will examine the case of Hussein Ali Moosa and Mohamed Ramadan. A criminal court on December 29, 2014 sentenced both to death for murdering a policeman, despite their torture allegations. The Court of Cassation confirmed the death sentences in November 2015 but overturned them in October 2018 after a previously undisclosed medical report appeared to corroborate Moosa’s torture allegations. Despite the new evidence, the High Criminal Court of Appeal reinstated the convictions and death sentences on January 8, 2020.

“Moosa and Ramadan have now twice been sentenced to death despite compelling evidence that their convictions were based on confessions obtained under torture,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an indictment of Bahrain’s criminal justice system, and the Court of Cassation should not miss the opportunity to correct this grave miscarriage of justice by overturning their death sentences.”

Security forces arrested Moosa, 33, on February 21, 2014 and Ramadan, 37, on February 18, 2014, in connection with the murder of a policeman and other terrorism charges. Both men alleged that Central Investigations Directorate (CID) officers tortured and sexually assaulted them. Ramadan refused to sign a confession, but Moosa told BIRD that he was tortured into confessing to the charges against him and incriminating Ramadan.

“They were kicking me on my reproductive organs, and would hit me repeatedly in the same place until I couldn’t speak from the pain,” Moosa told BIRD in a voice message recorded on December 11, 2019. “Someone at the torture site was telling me, ‘We already have the judgment written. Just say that Mohammed Ramadan is the one who gave you the bomb, and we’ll commute your verdict to a life sentence.’ I decided to tell them what they wanted.”

Ramadan also described to BIRD the beatings and sexual abuse at the CID. “During my interrogation, the torture, beating, and insults wouldn’t stop, even as I was answering their questions…And when I told them about my back pain, they lay me down on my stomach and hit me on the back…they would pull down my pants to show my private parts. I would remain in such shameful condition throughout the interrogation.”

Despite torture complaints from Ramadan’s wife and from the United States-based Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Interior Ministry’s Ombudsman did not investigate the allegations for two years. In April 2016, in response to a question from the United Kingdom Foreign Office, the Ombudsman and the Bahraini embassy in London falsely claimed that the authorities had not received any allegations of mistreatment or torture regarding Ramadan’s case.

After ADHRB produced a receipt for the original complaint from the Ombudsman, and following UK Foreign Office pressure, the Ombudsman said it would conduct a “full, independent investigation into the treatment of both Mohamad Ramadan and Hussein Moosa.”

The Ombudsman on August 7, 2016 referred the case to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which investigates and prosecutes criminal allegations against security or other officials for torture or mistreatment of detainees. On March 18, 2018, the investigations unit issued its report, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, recommending that the courts reconsider the verdicts against Moosa and Ramadan in light of a newly uncovered medical report by an Interior Ministry doctor that had not been available during the initial trial.

The medical report detailed “injuries” on Moosa’s wrists that “raise the suspicion that he was subjected to assault and mistreatment that coincide with the procedures of his arrest, detention, and questioning.” The investigations unit concluded that there is a “suspicion of the crime of torture…which was carried out with the intent of forcing them to confess to committing the crime they were charged with.”

The investigation failed to definitively establish whether security forces tortured Moosa and Ramadan, and did not state that neither had been allowed to meet with their lawyers either during their formal interrogations or before their trial. The investigators stated in the report that the torture allegations were “still undergoing investigation,” but told the families in person on January 23, 2020 that they had closed the investigation and the matter was in the court’s hands.

Following a request from London-based rights organization Reprieve, the Copenhagen-based International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) conducted an independent expert review of the forensic medical reports for both men. They found that the forensic examinations failed to meet the minimum standards and principles on appropriate investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment under international law. The IRCT also described the Special Investigative Unit’s investigation as “cursory” and “superficial.”

Bahrain’s Ombudsman and the investigative unit have repeatedly failed to investigate credible allegations of detainee abuse or to hold accountable officials who participated in and ordered torture during interrogations. The United Nations Committee Against Torture raised concerns that these bodies were neither independent nor effective.

Based on freedom of information requests, the United Kingdom has provided 6.5 million pounds of technical assistance to Bahrain since 2012, some of which has supported the Special Investigative Unit and Ombudsman. The UK should investigate these oversight bodies and publicly state what they need to do to demonstrate their effectiveness in combatting torture and their independence of the executive.

According to BIRD, eight death row inmates in Bahrain are at imminent risk of execution, having exhausted all legal remedies. On July 27, Bahrain executed three men, including Ali al-Arab and Ahmad al-Malali, both convicted of terrorism offenses in a mass trial marred by allegations of torture and serious due process concerns.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. Bahrain’s allies, including the United Kingdom, should press Bahrain to abolish the death penalty, or reinstate the moratorium on executions, and give UN experts the opportunity to independently investigate Moosa and Ramadan’s torture claims.

“A thorough and independent investigation of the torture alleged by Moosa and Ramadan is vital,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director at BIRD. “Millions of pounds of UK-government support have failed to compel Bahrain to hold abusers to account, so it’s time that UN experts have access to Bahrain to investigate the matter further.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

February 13, 2020

 

Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
Cabinet Secretariat
Government of Japan
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-8968
Japan

 

Re:  Joint Open Letter on Japan’s Recent Disengagement in Addressing Human Rights Abuses in North Korea

 

Dear Prime Minister Abe, 

In advance of the March session at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session, we are writing on behalf of 54 non-governmental organizations, coalitions, and concerned individuals from Japan, Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe and North America about your government’s recent disengagement on human rights issues in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea).

At the outset, we recognize the crucial role Japan has played, under your leadership in past years as a main sponsor of North Korea resolutions at the HRC, including resolutions that established the 2013 UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation of human rights in North Korea and later accepted its findings. The COI concluded that the North Korean government carried out repeated crimes against humanity against North Koreans—summary executions, torture, systemic rape, among other atrocities—as well as crimes against foreign nationals, including Japanese citizens, who were subject to abductions in past decades.

Japan’s leadership helped sustain unprecedented international pressure on the North Korean government, including several debates on the country’s human rights record at the UN Security Council between 2014 to 2017. This heightened UN focus on North Korea highlighted some of the intrinsic connections between human rights abuses in North Korea and regional and international peace and security, and put new pressure on North Korea to cooperate with UN mechanisms and address human rights issues, including the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese and other foreign nationals. Without your leadership and Japan’s support, these positive developments would not have occurred.

In this context, we were deeply troubled by the Japanese government’s decision last year to no longer serve as lead sponsor on a North Korea resolution adopted by the HRC, a decision your government never explained adequately.  In March 2019, your chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga indicated that your government changed its approach “based on a comprehensive examination of the outcome of the second U.S.-North Korean summit and the situations surrounding the abduction and other issues” related to North Korea, and added that the government will continue to urge Pyongyang to improve its human rights record. An unnamed Japanese official told Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun the same month that since the North Korean government is so highly sensitive to international criticism, it was worthwhile to test an alternative and softer approach to see whether it might yield diplomatic results. In May 2019 you stated publicly that you would like to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions, a shift from your previous position that any summit would have to yield progress on the abduction issue.

We are aware that the North Korean government often reacts in a hostile manner when confronted with criticism of its human rights record. Softening pressure on the Kim Jong Un government, however, is unlikely to improve human rights conditions or resolve the abductions issue. Capitulation only rewards North Korea’s bluster. It sends a message that human rights abuses can continue without consequences.

Dialogue and public human rights criticism are not mutually exclusive. In our view, raising North Korea’s human rights record is necessary as a practical matter to achieve progress on abductions of Japanese citizens. It is precisely by identifying abductions as atrocities—as the COI did—that Japan can convince North Korea to confront their actions. North Korea’s reaction to the COI report proved how sensitive Kim Jong Un is to report on his government’s human rights record, and how important it is to continue such pressure to make him address criticism.  By contrast, decreased international pressure has only reduced the political cost to North Korea of not rectifying its horrific rights record.

It is also now clear that the international community’s interests in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula by necessity require progress on human rights. This is because human rights and weapons counter-proliferation efforts are inextricably linked, as many foreign policy expertsreligious leaders, and human rights advocates have pointed out.

On October 24, 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, Tomás Ojea-Quintana, speaking at the UN General Assembly, urged states to explore avenues for constructive dialogue with North Korea while refraining from sidelining human rights issues during negotiations. He noted that “integrating fundamental human rights into the current negotiations is crucial for the sustainability of any agreement for denuclearization and peace for the Korean Peninsula and beyond.”

We agree completely.

We urge you take corrective action and embrace again your government’s human rights-oriented policy in North Korea, by leading on this year’s UN HRC resolution on North Korea and again prioritizing human rights issues in negotiations with its government.

Thank you for your consideration. We would be pleased to discuss these matters further with your staff.

Sincerely,

 

Signature organizations and individuals (as of February 13, 2020)

(Individuals – international, 6) alphabetical order

David Alton, Independent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords, U.K.
Sonja Biserko, Former Commission of Inquiry (COI) member on the situation of human rights in the DPRK & current chair at the Helsinki Human Rights Committee in Serbia
Marzuki Darusman, Former UN Special Rapporteur/COI member on the situation of human rights in the DPRK
Yanghee Lee, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar / Former Chairperson of UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
Vitit Muntarbhorn, Professor Emeritus; former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK
Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea

 

(Organizations& Japanese individuals, 48) alphabetical order

Yoichiro Amameishi, Musashimurayama City Council, Japan
1969 KAL Abductees' Families Association
Action for Korea United, Japan
ALTSEAN-BURMA
Asia Justice and Rights, Indonesia
Association for the Rescue of North Korea Abductees (ARNKA), Thailand
Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina, Argentina
Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, South Korea
CIVICUS
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UK
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, U.S.
FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
Health and Human Rights Info, Norway
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea, Eritrea
Human Rights in Asia, Japan
Human Rights Without Frontiers International, Belgium
Improving North Korean Human Rights Center, South Korea
International Child Rights Center, South Korea
International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea
International Solidarity for Freedom of Information in North Korea, South Korea
Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea, Japan
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, U.S
Kanagawa Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, Japan
Makoto Kurosaka, Professor, Osaka University of Economics, Japan
Lawyers for Human Rights and Unification of Korea, South Korea
Liberty in North Korea, U.S.
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, Japan
Teruaki Masumoto, Former Secretary General of the Committee for Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, Japan
Miyazaki Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, Japan
NO FENCE, Japan
Now Action & Unity for Human Rights, South Korea
Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, South Korea
NK Watch, South Korea
No Chain, South Korea
North Korea Freedom Coalition, U.S.
North Korea Strategy Center, South Korea
North Korean Human Rights Network, Japan
Open North Korea, South Korea
People for Successful Corean Reunification, South Korea
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, U.S.
Saitama Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea, Japan
Shonai Blue Ribbon, Japan
Society to Help Returnees to North Korea, Japan
Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, Zambia
Transitional Justice Working Group, South Korea
Unification Academy, South Korea
Unification Media Group, South Korea
Unification Strategy Institution, South Korea

 

CC:       
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi
Ministry of Foreign Affairs2-2-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-8919

 

Minister in Charge of the Abduction Issue Yoshihide Suga
Cabinet Secretariat
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

The US government has deported people to face abuse and even death in El Salvador. The US is not solely responsible—Salvadoran gangs who prey on deportees and Salvadoran authorities who harm deportees or who do little or nothing to protect them bear direct responsibility—but in many cases the US is putting Salvadorans in harm’s way in circumstances where it knows or should know that harm is likely.

Of the estimated 1.2 million Salvadorans living in the United States who are not US citizens, just under one-quarter are lawful permanent residents, with the remaining three-quarters lacking papers or holding a temporary or precarious legal status. While Salvadorans have asylum recognition rates as high as 75 percent in other Central American nations, and 36.5 percent in Mexico, the US recognized just 18.2 percent of Salvadorans as qualifying for asylum from 2014 to 2018. Between 2014-2018, the US and Mexico have deported about 213,000 Salvadorans (102,000 from Mexico and 111,000 from the United States).

No government, UN agency, or nongovernmental organization has systematically monitored what happens to deported persons once back in El Salvador. This report begins to fill that gap. It shows that, as asylum and immigration policies tighten in the United States and dire security problems continue in El Salvador, the US is repeatedly violating its obligations to protect Salvadorans from return to serious risk of harm.

Some deportees are killed following their return to El Salvador. In researching this report, we identified or investigated 138 cases of Salvadorans killed since 2013 after deportation from the US. We found these cases by combing through press accounts and court files, and by interviewing surviving family members, community members, and officials. There is no official tally, however, and our research suggests that the number of those killed is likely greater.

Though much harder to identify because they are almost never reported by the press or to authorities, we also identified or investigated over 70 instances in which deportees were subjected to sexual violence, torture, and other harm, usually at the hands of gangs, or who went missing following their return.

In many of these more than 200 cases, we found a clear link between the killing or harm to the deportee upon return and the reasons they had fled El Salvador in the first place. In other cases, we lacked sufficient evidence to establish such a link. Even the latter cases, however, show the risks to which Salvadorans can be exposed upon return and the importance of US authorities giving them a meaningful opportunity to explain why they need protection before they are deported.

The following three cases illustrate the range of harms:

  • In 2010, when he was 17, Javier B. fled gang recruitment and his particularly violent neighborhood for the United States, where his mother, Jennifer B., had already fled. Javier was denied asylum and was deported in approximately March 2017, when he was 23 years old. Jennifer said Javier was killed four months later while living with his grandmother: “That’s actually where they [the gang, MS-13 (or Mara Salvatrucha-13)] killed him.… It’s terrible. They got him from the house at 11:00 a.m. They saw his tattoos. I knew they’d kill him for his tattoos. That is exactly what happened.… The problem was with [the gang] MS [-13], not with the police.” (According to Human Rights Watch’s research, having tattoos may be a source of concern, even if the tattoo is not gang-related).

 

  • In 2013, cousins Walter T. and Gaspar T. also fled gang recruitment when they were 16 and 17 years old, respectively. They were denied asylum and deported by the United States to El Salvador in 2019. Gaspar explained that in April or May 2019 when he and Walter were sleeping at their respective homes in El Salvador, a police patrol arrived “and took me and Walter and three others from our homes, without a warrant and without a reason. They began beating us until we arrived at the police barracks. There, they held us for three days, claiming we’d be charged with illicit association (agrupaciones ilícitas). We were beaten [repeatedly] during those three days.”  

 

  • In 2014, when she was 20, Angelina N. fled abuse at the hands of Jaime M., the father of her 4-year-old daughter, and of Mateo O., a male gang member who harassed her repeatedly. US authorities apprehended her at the border trying to enter the US and deported her that same year. Once back in El Salvador, she was at home in October 2014, when Mateo resumed pursuing and threatening her. Angelina recounted: “[He] came inside and forced me to have sex with him for the first time. He took out his gun.… I was so scared that I obeyed … when he left, I started crying. I didn’t say anything at the time or even file a complaint to the police. I thought it would be worse if I did because I thought someone from the police would likely tell [Mateo].… He told me he was going to kill my father and my daughter if I reported the [original and three subsequent] rapes, because I was ‘his woman.’ [He] hit me and told me that he wanted me all to himself.”

As in these three cases, some people deported from the United States back to El Salvador face the same abusers, often in the same neighborhoods, they originally fled: gang members, police officers, state security forces, and perpetrators of domestic violence. Others worked in law enforcement in El Salvador and now fear persecution by gangs or corrupt officials.

Deportees also include former long-term US residents, who with their families are singled out as easy and lucrative targets for extortion or abuse. Former long-term residents of the US who are deported may also readily run afoul of the many unspoken rules Salvadorans must follow in their daily lives in order to avoid being harmed.  

Nearly 900,000 Salvadorans living in the US without papers or only a temporary status together with the thousands leaving El Salvador each month to seek safety in the US are increasingly at risk of deportation. The threat of deportation is on the rise due to various Trump administration policy changes affecting US immigration enforcement inside its borders and beyond, changes that exacerbated the many hurdles that already existed for individuals seeking protection and relief from deportation.

Increasingly, the United States is pursuing policies that shift responsibility for immigration enforcement to countries like Mexico in an effort to avoid any obligation for the safety and well-being of migrants and protection of asylum-seekers. As ever-more restrictive asylum and immigration policies take hold in the US, this situation—for Salvadorans, and for others—will only worsen. Throughout, US authorities are turning a blind eye to the abuse Salvadorans face upon return.

Some people from El Salvador living in the United States have had a temporary legal status known as “Temporary Protected Status” or “TPS,” which has allowed those present in the United States since February 2001 (around 195,000 people) to build their lives in the country with limited fear of deportation. Similarly, in 2012, the Obama administration provided some 26,000 Salvadorans with “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or “DACA” status, which afforded some who had arrived as children with a temporary legal status. The Trump administration had decided to end TPS in January 2020, but to comply with a court order extended work authorization to January 2021. It remains committed to ending DACA.

While challenges to both policies wend their way through the courts, people live in a precarious situation in which deportation may occur as soon as those court cases are resolved (at the time of writing the DACA issue was before the US Supreme Court; and the TPS work authorization extension to January 2021 could collapse if a federal appellate court decides to reverse an injunction on the earlier attempt to terminate TPS).

Salvadoran asylum seekers are also increasingly at risk of deportation and return. The Trump administration has pursued a series of policy initiatives aimed at making it harder for people fleeing their countries to seek asylum in the United States by separating children from their parents, limiting the number of people processed daily at official border crossings, prolonging administrative detention, imposing fees on the right to seek asylum, extending from 180 days to one year the bar on work authorization after filing an asylum claim, barring asylum for those who transited another country before entering the United States, requiring asylum seekers to await their hearings in Mexico, where many face dangers, and attempting to narrow asylum.

These changes aggravated pre-existing flaws in US implementation of its protection responsibilities and came as significant numbers of people sought protection outside of El Salvador. In the decade from 2009 to 2019, according to government data, Mexican and United States officials made at least 732,000 migration-related apprehensions of Salvadoran migrants crossing their territory (175,000 were made by Mexican authorities and just over 557,000 by US authorities).

According to the United Nations’ refugee agency, the number of Salvadorans expressing fear of being seriously harmed if returned to El Salvador has skyrocketed. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of Salvadoran annual asylum applicants in the US grew by nearly 1,000 percent, from about 5,600 to over 60,000. By 2018, Salvadorans had the largest number (101,000) of any nationality of pending asylum applications in the United States. At the same time, approximately 129,500 more Salvadorans had pending asylum applications in numerous other countries throughout the world. People are fleeing El Salvador in large numbers due to the violence and serious human rights abuses they face at home, including one of the highest murder rates in the world and very high rates of sexual violence and disappearance.

Despite clear prohibitions in international law on returning people to risk of persecution or torture, Salvadorans often cannot avoid deportation from the US. Unauthorized immigrants, those with temporary status, and asylum seekers all face long odds. They are subjected to deportation in a system that is harsh and punitive—plagued with court backlogs, lack of access to effective legal advice and assistance, prolonged and inhumane detention, and increasingly restrictive legal definitions of who merits protection. The US has enlisted Mexico—which has a protection system that its own human rights commission has called “broken”—to stop asylum seekers before they reach the US and host thousands returned to wait for their US proceedings to unfold. The result is that people who need protection may be returned to El Salvador and harmed, even killed.

Instead of deterring and deporting people, the US should focus on receiving those who cross its border with dignity and providing them a fair chance to explain why they need protection. Before deporting Salvadorans living in the United States, either with TPS or in some other immigration status, US authorities should take into account the extraordinary risks former long-term residents of the US may face if sent back to the country of their birth. The US should address due process failures in asylum adjudications and adopt a new legal and policy framework for protection that embraces the current global realities prompting people to flee their homes by providing “complementary protection” to anyone who faces real risk of serious harm.

As immediate and first steps, the United States government should adopt the following six recommendations to begin to address the problems identified in this report. Additional medium- and long-term legal and policy recommendations appear in the final section of this report.

  • The Trump administration should repeal the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP); the two Asylum Bans; and the Asylum Cooperation Agreements.
  • The Attorney General of the United States should reverse his decisions that restrict gender-based, gang-related, and family-based grounds for asylum.
  • Congress and the Executive Branch should ensure that US funding for Mexican migration enforcement activities does not erode the right to seek and receive asylum in Mexico.
  • Congress should immediately exercise its appropriation power by: 1) Refraining from providing additional funding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unless and until abusive policies and practices that separate families, employ unnecessary detention, violate due process rights, and violate the right to seek asylum are stopped; 2) Prohibiting the use of funds to implement the Migrant Protection Protocols, the “Asylum Bans,” or the Asylum Cooperation Agreements, or any subsequent revisions to those protocols and agreements that block access to the right to seek asylum in the United States.
  • Congress should exercise its oversight authority by requiring the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Inspector General to produce reports on the United States’ fulfilment of its asylum and protection responsibilities, including by collecting and releasing accurate data on the procedural experiences of asylum seekers (access to counsel, wait times, staff capacity to assess claims, humanitarian and protection resources available) and on harms experienced by people deported from the United States to their countries of origin.
  • Congress should enact, and the President should sign, legislation that would broadly protect individuals with Temporary Protected Status (including Salvadorans) and DACA recipients, such as the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, but without the overly broad restrictions based on juvenile conduct or information from flawed gang databases.

Glossary

The National Civilian Police (Policía Nacional Civil, PNC)

The PNC is the only governmental agency with offices in all 262 municipalities of El Salvador.[1] It receives crime reports, but by law must refer them to the District Attorney’s office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR), which officially classifies crimes. The PNC is the first to arrive at homicide scenes.[2] At the center to which deportees arrive (the migrant return center), the PNC conducts one of two interviews deported adults must complete before being released.[3]

The Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR)

The Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has at least one District Attorney’s Office per department.[4] This agency is responsible for bringing criminal charges and conducting criminal investigations.[5] At homicide scenes, the FGR often enters with the police and always directs the investigation. Given the high incidence of crime in El Salvador, prosecutors and investigators have very large caseloads.[6]

The Salvadoran Institute of Legal Medicine (Instituto de Medicina Legal, IML)

The Salvadoran Institute of Legal Medicine (IML) is the national forensic body tasked with conducting anthropological, biological, chemical, forensic, and pathological exams and autopsies at crime scenes and for criminal investigations.[7] Every department has at least one IML office, and seven departments have a regional clinic, totaling 17 IML installations countrywide.[8] Of the three governmental agencies that attend homicide scenes and crime victims, IML has the smallest staff and budget, despite some of the highest levels of education and training.[9]

Local Office for Attention to Victims (Oficina Local de Atención a Víctimas, OLAV)

During the Sánchez Cerén administration, Plan El Salvador Seguro (adopted by the Salvadoran government to try to improve security conditions in the country)[10] created 20 Local Offices for Attention to Victims (OLAV) in 10 departments to provide legal, psychological, and social attention to victims of crime, including those displaced by violence.[11] One OLAV is located at the migrant return center. There, migration authorities are expected to screen returned migrants for protection needs in their intake interviews.[12] Any adult who presents a protection need should then be referred to the OLAV.

Salvadoran Institute for the Holistic Development of Children and Adolescents (Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo Integral de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, ISNA)

ISNA is the Salvadoran governmental institution that develops and executes programming for children and adolescents.[13] Their programming includes childcare and foster care, physical and psychological health and wellbeing services, job and vocational training, and education.[14]

The Center for Attention to Children, Adolescents and Family Niñez, Adolescencia y Familia, CANAF)(Centro de Atención a la

Created in response to increased attention to child migration in El Salvador, the Center for Attention to Children, Adolescents and Family (CANAF) is a program overseen by ISNA primarily providing health and social services to returned child and youth migrants and their families.[15] According to the Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Gráfica, between January to July 2019, 4,150 children were returned to El Salvador from Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States, and CANAF had contact with at least 2,000 of these children through its staff at the migrant return center and four offices in San Vicente, Usulután, San Miguel and Santa Ana departments.[16] Staff at departmental offices reported caseloads no greater than 300 since opening their doors, in part because so many children migrated again.[17]

El Salvador’s General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, DGME)

The General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners (DGME) is the Salvadoran government agency responsible for overseeing migration matters. This includes services ranging from the issuance of passports and visas to immigration enforcement.[18]

Directorate for Attention to the Migrant (Dirección de Atención al Migrante, DAMI)[19]

Also called the “Center for Holistic Attention to the Migrant (CAIM),”[20] “Migrant Return Center,” and “Return Center,” the Directorate for Attention to the Migrant (DAMI) is the DGME-run center in the Quiñonez neighborhood (also called “La Chacra”) of San Salvador where people deported from US federal immigration detention are processed back into El Salvador.[21] As of 2018, up to three flights from the US arrive to El Salvador’s International Airport each week, with as many as 135 people on each flight who are taken by bus to DAMI for two interviews. In the first interview, DGME officials ask deportees basic questions about their destination, family, and plans. At the second, PNC agents ask about where the person plans to live, run the deported person’s name in the Salvadoran criminal database, and photograph tattoos and scars. Agents conduct additional questions based upon information received in advance about certain people marked as gang members by US law enforcement agencies or with criminal records in the US.[22] The responses are stored in Salvadoran police databases and shared the same day with local PNC’s where deportees say they will reside.

Yo Cambio (“I Change”)

Officially, Yo Cambio is a government-sponsored program and prison management model administered by El Salvador’s General Directorate of Prison Centers (Dirección General de Centros Penales) that works with former gang members and incarcerated persons on their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. According to El Salvador’s government, Yo Cambio began in 2011 as a treatment project in a sector of the Apanteos Prison in Santa Ana Department.[23] In 2014, Yo Cambio was launched from a program to a prison management model used across El Salvador, but as of 2016, it had hardly any budget.[24] As of February 2018, Yo Cambio has been replicated in 14 prisons. Demand is high, but lack of budget continues to be an issue.[25] Two deportees interviewed for this report who had never been charged with a crime in El Salvador carried with them a Yo Cambio certificate to verify for police who harassed them that they had no criminal record.[26]

Particularly / Chronically Violent Neighborhood

Human Rights Watch will call “particularly” or “chronically” violent those neighborhoods that are typically densely populated and low-resourced and which consistently (year-in and year-out) register higher numbers of homicide, sexual crime, and other crime than nearly all others in a municipality.[27] Gang presence is strong in these neighborhoods. As a result, authorities and society view them and their residents as particularly dangerous, creating stigma impossible to escape, even if a resident from one of these neighborhoods moves to a new neighborhood. State actors, so-called death squads or extermination groups and private actors have also committed abuses in these neighborhoods.

Methodology

This report is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in El Salvador, Mexico, and the United States between November 2018 and December 2019. Human Rights Watch conducted multiple-session interviews with more than 50 directly impacted individuals, including 11 female and 22 male deportees; the surviving relatives or friends of two women (one who was transgender) and 16 men killed after their deportations; and the surviving relatives of two women killed following their husbands’ return to El Salvador after long-term residence in the US. In a few cases, our researchers had previously spoken with the same interviewees in 2014.

In El Salvador, we interviewed 41 officials in nine departments at local district attorney’s offices (FGR), forensic units (IML), and police agencies (PNC) who work at homicide scenes and participate in both crime investigations and hearings, and 31 additional authorities at the migration agency (DGME), local child migrant protection offices (CANAF), the armed forces of El Salvador, criminal sentencing courts, and victim’s assistance offices (OLAV) in all 14 departments, as well as researchers, journalists, and non-profit service providers. In the United States, we interviewed approximately 30 immigration attorneys, three defense attorneys, and several social workers, trauma-informed healthcare workers, and researchers in nine states and the District of Columbia. These interviewees identified deportees who suffered harm. They also discussed other cases known to them, professionally or personally, of individuals and families harmed following deportation.[28]

In the United States, we went to the individuals and families those in El Salvador and the US referred to us, visiting the three most common counties of residence of Salvadorans in the US and others in nine states and the District of Columbia.[29] We also contacted reporters, immigration attorneys, social service providers, and organizers and asked them to further reach out to their colleagues and networks about persons who had either been recently deported or harmed after deportation.

Included in this report are cases of people who experienced post-deportation harm between 2013 and 2019.[30] In the majority of these cases, the harm occurred within a year of deportation, often in the same month of deportation. In order to assess harms that escalate over time or which for other reasons do not occur immediately (for instance, because a deportee successfully hides from potential abusers for a period), our analysis also includes cases in which the post-deportation harm started within five years of deportation.[31] For deportees killed, we have detailed the time elapsed between deportations and deaths in section II. Likewise, we focused this report on harms suffered after deportation from the US, as opposed to Mexico or other countries.[32]  

We spoke with fewer women than men who had been deported, primarily because they constitute a smaller proportion of deportees. According to statistics obtained through a public information request with El Salvador’s General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners (DGME), women constituted between 7.7 and 17.1 percent of all individuals deported from the United States annually from 2012 to 2017.[33] We chose to conduct our interviews with children with their parents present and therefore could have missed important components of their experiences related to their parents or household, such as domestic violence or neglect.

Human Rights Watch carried out interviews in Spanish or in English, without interpreters, depending on the preference of the interviewee(s). We conducted a handful of interviews in the US and two interviews in El Salvador by voice or video call. We conducted all other interviews in person. Human Rights Watch informed all interviewees of the purpose of the interview, its voluntary nature, and the ways in which the information would be collected and used. Interviewers assured participants that they could end the interview at any time or decline to answer any questions, without negative consequences. All interviewees provided verbal informed consent to participate. When appropriate, Human Rights Watch provided contact information for organizations offering counseling, health, legal, or other social services.

Initial interview sessions with deportees, their family, or friends lasted between one and four hours and were intentionally unstructured so that the interviewee could elect what they shared.[34] Subsequent sessions were shorter and more structured. In El Salvador and Mexico, sessions most often took place in a private part of the preferred restaurant closest to an interviewee’s home, although a few sessions took place at the person’s home, workplace, or by phone or social media (principally Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp). In the US, interviews most often took place in the person’s home but also occurred in a detention center, at an office, and by phone.

Human Rights Watch did not provide interviewees with compensation for participating but did in some cases provide a meal and transportation costs. Interviews with other types of sources lasted between half-an-hour and two hours, with almost all occurring in work offices or over the phone, although a few with persons previously known to Human Rights Watch took place over a meal or while in transit together.

Human Rights Watch took extreme care to minimize the risk that recounting experiences could further traumatize those interviewed. Besides letting interviewees determine the first session’s structure and building rapport over multiple sessions, we also fact-checked aspects of each individual’s account before meeting with them again.

The names of all persons interviewed, including officials, have been replaced with pseudonyms to mitigate security concerns or retaliation. In particularly sensitive cases, like those involving state perpetrators of harm or interviewees in the process of fleeing or seeking asylum, we have also deliberately withheld details about the date or location of abuses and our interviews. Although we analyzed the neighborhoods in which particular deportees were harmed, deportees’ pseudonyms are intentionally disassociated from them to further ensure anonymity.

In addition to interviews, we used four techniques to identify possible cases of harm experienced by deported people, to fact-check individual accounts obtained through interviews, and to deepen our contextual knowledge of the neighborhoods and circumstances surrounding deportees’ daily lives in El Salvador:

  • First, we compiled data from the three Salvadoran agencies that maintain registries on disappearances, sexual crimes and violent deaths.[35] Through public information requests to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office,[36] we acquired municipal-level data on adult and child homicides[37] and sexual crimes[38] and arrests, hearings and convictions for these crimes. The supplied data was aggregated annually for the years 2013 to 2018. We also monitored the national Salvadoran attorney general’s Twitter page and compiled a database of public reports of child disappearances.[39]
  • Second, we systematically searched the Salvadoran printed press (in Spanish) for the neighborhood names (including various spelling variations, when necessary) where those interviewed lived or fled, yielding over 22,000 articles that formed the basis of analysis.[40] The relevant results were skimmed, and we then read and analyzed relevant articles describing violence or other aspects of neighborhood life relevant to deportees’ (and other residents’) experiences.[41] These data have extreme limitations.[42] However, they did allow us to identify themes in neighborhood dynamics, including incidents of violence, stories evidencing economic hardship in these neighborhoods, crimes committed, victims, victimizers, and state actions. Having these additional data facilitated chronological questioning during subsequent interview sessions. 
  • Third, we searched the words “deportada/o” in digitized decisions of El Salvador's 24 criminal sentencing tribunals. Among the 260 resulting criminal sentencing tribunal decisions,[43] we found 18 decisions that documented harm to persons deported from the United States in eight Salvadoran departments, but only seven documented harm experienced in 2013 or more recently. We obtained one more 2018 decision by requesting it from the tribunal in person.
  • Fourth, we searched the words “deportada/o” in 14 Salvadoran news outlets (all in Spanish). Among the 3,767 articles that returned,[44] we found 288 appearing in 13 Salvadoran outlets and five international or US outlets reporting on abuse of deportees. Among these, we identified 219 articles describing the killings of 106 persons deported from the United States. The deaths occurred between January 2013 and September 2019 in all 14 Salvadoran departments.[45]

When describing our findings from these various sources we used the term “identified” for cases found only through press searches; and the terms “investigated” or “documented” for cases we found through interviews with directly impacted individuals cross-checked with other sources such as criminal tribunal decisions, press accounts, or interviews with officials.

Finally, Human Rights Watch compiled data from El Salvador’s General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners (DGME) on deportations. Through public information requests to DGME’s Access to Public Information Office, we acquired data on deportations from 2012 to 2017 for all countries, and for only Mexico and the United States for 2018, according to municipality of birth and residence for children and adults.[46] However, these data contain no information about the experiences of deportees after their return to El Salvador. No governmental or nongovernmental organizations, domestic or international, monitor what happens to deported Salvadorans, including their criminal victimization or other alleged harm suffered. This makes it impossible to obtain a complete or representative sample of cases of deportees harmed after return to El Salvador.[47]

I. Background

Human Rights Situation in El Salvador

El Salvador, with just over six million citizens, has among the world’s highest homicide rates,[48] alongside thousands of missing-persons cases and sexual crimes since 2013, according to data from the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office.[49] State authorities have historically been largely ineffective in protecting the population from this violence, which is often perpetrated by gangs.

At the same time, Salvadoran security forces have themselves committed extrajudicial executions, sexual assaults, enforced disappearances, and torture. Impunity is widespread. For example, investigations reached hearings in only 14 of 48 cases involving 116 extrajudicial killings committed from 2014 to 2018 that the Salvadoran Ombudsperson for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH) examined. Two resulted in convictions.[50] Successive Salvadoran governments have deployed military units alongside police in public security operations,[51] despite a 1992 peace accord stipulation against it.[52] Media outlets widely report that the current national police director is under investigation for threats and links to drug trafficking and extermination groups.[53]

In 2019 alone, the Central American University Human Rights Institute received seven reports of elite Salvadoran police units burning victims.[54] For example, in March 2019, Tactical Operation Section agents beat, strangled, blindfolded, and handcuffed a 20-year-old man in a sugarcane field in Apopa municipality whom they suspected of gang membership or hiding weapons or drugs, and set fire to the field where they left him unconscious. He emerged from the fire with burns to his face and feet.[55] Victims or witnesses of eight arbitrary arrests in two incidents in 2019 and late 2018 told Human Rights Watch of beatings at police barracks.[56]

In August 2019, the Lethal Force Monitor reported that Salvadoran police and soldiers killed 1,626 people from 2011 through 2017, including 48 boys, four women, and 355 men in 2017.[57] Authorities recorded every year more than 92 percent of victims as gang members and nearly all incidents as “confrontations” or “shootouts.” However, also in August 2019, the PDDH reported that it had examined killings of 28 boys, seven women, and 81 men and found few resulted from confrontations.[58]

As of October 2019, the country’s jails, juvenile and youth facilities, and adult prisons held 45,439 people in custody, more than twice the official capacity, according to the online database World Prison Brief.[59] The IML registered 14 homicides in police barracks and prisons in 2018.[60] One official told Human Rights Watch that 10 other detainees had died from extreme heat. Two inmates said there was tuberculosis in Salvadoran prisons.[61] One of these same inmates along with another inmate told Human Rights Watch that officials provided them inadequate food, hygiene products, and medicine and, in what appeared to be instances of excessive use of force, beat them and used pepper spray during prison searches.[62]

Gangs

Gangs in El Salvador effectively exercise territorial control over specific neighborhoods and extort residents throughout the country. They forcibly recruit children. They sexually assault people targeted on the basis of their gender and/or real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Gangs kill, abduct, rape, or displace those who resist. Many of those who are abducted are later found dead or never heard from again. According to unverified estimates cited by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, approximately 60,000 gang members reportedly operate in some 247 out of 262 municipalities in the country.[63] Gangs enforce their territories’ borders and extort and surveil residents and those transiting, particularly around public transport, schools, and markets. Allegations of security and elected officials collaborating with gangs in criminal operations have been reported by the press and all political parties have negotiated with gangs according to consistent allegations reported, but not substantiated by, the UN special rapporteur.[64]

Disappearances, Abductions, and Missing Persons

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported in December 2019 that the FGR registered 3,289 people who “disappeared” in 2018 and 3,030 in 2019.[65] According to the IACHR, victims said they are at times unable to file complaints regarding family members who have gone missing, and that they usually face delays in the investigations, including failure to respond in the critical first hours after a disappearance.

Between 2010 and August 2019, the police have registered over 10,800 victims who have gone missing—more than the estimated 8,000 to 10,000 disappeared during the civil war (1979-1992), according to press accounts.[66] Because very few cases are investigated, knowledge of perpetrators is limited.[67] These figures likely include suspected abductions by criminal gangs or state authorities and other cases in which people have gone missing in unexplained circumstances.

Harassment and Violence Against Women and LGBT Individuals

A 2017 national survey found that 67 percent of women in El Salvador faced violence at some point in their lives,[68] and the rates of “feminicide,” including domestic violence killings are the highest in the region.[69] Despite some reform efforts, such as specialized women’s courts and dedicated units in the Attorney General’s Office, formidable obstacles remain for women seeking police protection, investigation, or justice through the courts.[70]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people who are deported from the United States to El Salvador are likely to face specific threats. Human Rights Watch research has found that LGBT people in El Salvador are often rejected by their families, meaning that many would have no family support during the process of reintegration. Human Rights Watch repeatedly heard from LGBT Salvadorans, both in El Salvador and in the United States, that gangs had targeted them on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, subjecting some LGBT people to sexual violence and extorting others due to their perceived vulnerability.[71] Several LGBT Salvadorans also reported being beaten or sexually assaulted by the police.[72] In January 2019, Camila Díaz Cordova, a transgender woman deported from the United States, was beaten to death. In July, the FGR charged three police officers with her kidnapping and aggravated homicide.[73] The case remained open at the time of writing. Within the span of one month in late 2019, three transgender women and one gay man were murdered in El Salvador in circumstances that led activists to suspect they were hate crimes.[74]

US Laws Affecting Salvadoran Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Other Migrants

Salvadoran nationals who are neither citizens of the United States nor undocumented hold one of several legal statuses, none of which protects them completely from deportation. These various statuses, and the degree to which the US laws affording them comport with international human rights and refugee law are discussed in greater detail in Section VI.

According to 2017 US Census data analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute,[75] about 1.2 million non-citizens whose country of birth was El Salvador live in the United States. They in turn fall in four main legal categories.

- First, about 665,000 Salvadorans are living in the United States in an unauthorized legal status, meaning at any moment they could be arrested and deported from the country. During their deportation proceedings, they technically would have the ability to raise their fears of persecution or torture as a defense against removal. In reality, this is extremely difficult to do successfully.

- Second, about 340,000 Salvadorans live in the United States as lawful permanent residents. These people have permission to work and build their lives in the United States, but if they are convicted of any of a long list of crimes (including non-violent drug or driving offenses generally considered as misdemeanors), they are subject to deportation under procedures that severely restrict the possibility of raising their fears of persecution upon return as a defense against removal. They might be able to raise fear of torture in El Salvador, but in reality, the torture standard is more difficult to meet than the “fear of persecution” standard.

- Third, another 195,000 Salvadorans have temporary protection against deportation as recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program that the US Congress put in place for Salvadorans since two devastating earthquakes hit the country in 2001. The Trump administration decided to end TPS in September 2019,[76] but a court injunction has prevented termination from going into effect. Consequently, the Trump administration extended work authorization associated with TPS until January 2021, without extending TPS beyond January 2020.[77] If appellate courts lift the injunction, Salvadorans who have been protected by TPS will be subject to removal. Due to lack of resources, legal advice, fear, or other reasons, some Salvadorans have not re-registered their TPS status, which moves them into an unauthorized status. During their deportation proceedings, former TPS holders technically would have the ability to raise their fears of persecution or other types of harm as a defense to removal; but in reality, this is very challenging to do successfully.

- Fourth, some 25,600 Salvadorans have been living in the US with temporary permission to remain in two-year increments under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which began in 2012, but which the Trump administration decided to end in September 2017. DACA status has been maintained by temporary court rulings but the Trump administration’s decision to end the program is being reviewed by the Supreme Court at this writing, making DACA recipients legitimately fearful of deportation. Due to lack of resources, legal advice, fear, or other reasons, some Salvadorans have not re-registered their DACA status, which moves them into an unauthorized status. During their deportation proceedings, former DACA holders technically would have the ability to raise their fears of persecution or other types of harm as a defense to removal; in reality, this is difficult to do successfully.

II. Deportees Killed

In researching this report, Human Rights Watch identified or investigated 138 cases of people killed between 2013 and 2019 after being deported from the United States.[78] El Salvador’s high homicide rates (alongside many other types of harm), and the fact that these cases have been reported publicly over time, has put the United States government and its immigration officials on notice. On a daily basis, US immigration officials and judges nevertheless turn a blind eye to the reality that people deported by the United States to El Salvador have lost their lives, often at the hands of their original persecutors or people they legitimately feared would harm them in the future. In several of the cases we investigated for this report, such targeting was evident.

In other cases, the US government is returning people to a country with such significant levels of violence that there is a real risk that deportees will face a serious threat to their lives or physical integrity. Because current US asylum law does not provide “complementary protection” that would protect people facing such serious threats of violence, Human Rights Watch calls on the US Congress to adopt such a standard (discussed further in Section VII below). Even without such a standard, Salvadorans subject to deportation should have a meaningful opportunity to describe the risks they would face upon return and have that information considered before they are returned to El Salvador.[79] The deaths described in this section, moreover, represent the tip of the iceberg—as detailed in subsequent sections, people deported to El Salvador encounter a wide range of human rights abuses that fall short of death.

Deported Former or Current Gang Members Killed by Gangs

According to Salvadoran authorities, the deportees at the highest risk of harm are alleged former and current gang members and those with alleged links to gangs.[80] These alleged former and current gang members are sometimes killed by their own or rival gangs (they are also killed by state actors or death squads, as discussed below). An individual deportee’s reported status as a gang member by the press, by the police, or by other observers, may or may not be true. 

Accounts of killings of deportees by gangs in court filings and press accounts indicate that a deportee might be killed by his own gang for not “re-activating” with the gang once in El Salvador,[81] battling for power within the gang,[82] committing crimes like robbery,[83] or calling attention to the gang through flamboyant behavior.[84] Gangs reportedly kill members of rival gangs, or those assumed to be members, for living in or transiting their area,[85] including one who was evangelizing after leaving behind gang life[86] and one who was recently deported.[87]

Deported Former or Current Gang Members Killed by State Actors

State actors, such as police or other law enforcement, reportedly have killed deportees alleged to be former or current gang members, according to relatives, journalists, and academics who spoke with Human Rights Watch.[88] Through interviews with directly affected persons and witnesses, we learned of several such cases. For example:

Enrico X. told Human Rights Watch in 2019 his cousin, Luis Y., a former member of a gang then called B-18, tried to leave the gang by fleeing to the United States, but after he was deported from the US in either 2016 or 2017, Enrico said that the police in El Salvador killed Luis. Enrico told us:

After he was deported back to El Salvador, one day he [Luis] was eating breakfast and the police came to the house and shot him in the head and killed him. The police officer said: “I told you I was going to kill you eventually,” and put a gun to his head and shot him right there on the spot in front of the neighbor woman who used to cook his meals for him. Some of the other neighbors also witnessed this shooting.[89]

Enrico told Human Rights Watch that police in 2018 shot another young deportee from the United States in front of his home. “He was known to be deported from the US.”[90] An affidavit filed by Enrico in his asylum and withholding case gave further details:

I don’t know the young man’s real name, but everyone in town called him ‘Roberto M.’.… I heard a shot and a noise.… I ducked down low, and I saw two police officers run towards [him], who was down on the ground in front of my property in the street. Roberto had been going by on a bicycle when he was shot. The two police officers picked him up and took him away with them. I saw them take [him] into a sugar cane field. A police motorcycle drove up around the same time this was all happening. I did not see where they took [him] after they went into the field. I was very scared and I quickly went in my house and closed the door. Not long after this, a police officer came and banged on my door, yelling at me to come outside. I went outside and he immediately put a gun to my head and said, ‘I know you saw.’ I recognized this officer by his face. I had seen him patrol my street many times in the past with other rural police officers.… The officer was very aggressive with me, asking me who else was home with me.… The officer told me that Roberto was a B-18 gang member and that if I said anything about what I saw, the same will happen to me or worse.… Every day after [that], the same rural police officers started to come to the house and bang on my door.… They would bang on my door and yell profanities at me, demanding I come out.[91]

Our research indicates that Salvadoran officials often assume that individuals deported from the US are both active gang members and were convicted of violent crimes while in the US.[92] They also may choose to target specific deportees based on information shared by the United States via INTERPOL. Three departmental police delegations told Human Rights Watch they receive lists of deportees alleged to be gang members and share those lists throughout the department, including with neighborhood-level posts where deportees indicate they will live.[93] One ranking police officer explained to Human Rights Watch: “ICE communicates with INTERPOL in advance of deportation flights, and lists of persons with a capture order [an INTERPOL Red Notice] or guilty of a crime are sent to us in the departmental offices, [even though] most on this list are captured in the airport.”[94] The police then visit the locations provided. This officer said, “We think that if a person wasn’t wanted in the United States, it must be because the deported person is bad.”[95]

Police scrutiny of such individuals may be a legitimate activity in furtherance of public safety. At the same time, even if an individual is an active gang member or has served a sentence for a violent crime in the US and is suspected of further criminal activity in El Salvador, unlawful use of force by law enforcement is never justified. Security officials involvement in extrajudicial executions and excessive use of force is often linked to government efforts to combat gangs, as reported by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings in her 2018 report on El Salvador, as well as the Legal Force Monitor and the Salvadoran Ombudsperson for the Defense of Human Rights in 2019.[96]

Deportees Killed Without Apparent Gang-Involvement

In some cases, the deportee victims had no apparent involvement with gangs, but nevertheless were killed in circumstances suggesting the killers were gang members. For example, several of the below cases identified through press accounts reference failure to pay extortion demands and non-gang-related tattoos as possible motives for the killings.

  • Carlos Alberto Garay, 43, was killed while driving his pick-up truck in Usulután. A press account reported that he was intercepted by two men, who shot him several times and then fled on foot, according to police sources. Garay’s neighbors told reporters he had been deported several months earlier from the United States, and they knew he was being extorted by gangs and that his family had been threatened. The press account did not describe Garay as gang-involved.[97]
  • Mario Enrique Sandoval Gómez, around 30 years old, was shot dead in his home on June 29, 2017 by two people who convinced him to open the door by pretending they were police officers. According to press accounts, Sandoval Gómez was not suspected of gang affiliation and the “tattoos on his body were not related to gangs.”[98] Sandoval Gómez reportedly had been deported from the United States two years prior to the incident. His wife, who was at home on the night of the murder, had applied for him to return to the US, where the couple planned to join her parents already living there.[99]
  • Tommy Eduardo Paiz, 41, who worked in a call center in El Salvador, had been deported from the United States about one year prior to his death. A relative interviewed by the press said of Paiz, “he came here and started working.”[100] On August 4, 2018, he was on his way to visit his partner and 6-month-old son when his car broke down in the department of La Libertad. Paiz had called a family member that same day to ask that they “let her know that I'm going to get home to see my little one."[101] Paiz had several “artistic tattoos” on his body. Police reports indicated he was approached by attackers, hit with a blunt object on the head and shot several times in the head and abdomen.[102] When found, he was handcuffed. The press account did not describe Paiz as gang-involved.

While press accounts did not speculate on whether the victims faced harm from their killers previously, some interviewees specified that the same gang members who targeted individuals before they fled El Salvador were responsible for killing these individuals after deportation. For example, José Miguel C., told us about his nephew, Joaquín, who he did not believe to be gang-involved, and who had fled gang threats to the US, but was deported in 2017 and killed by alleged gang members that same year. He said: “[Joaquín] always said they [MS members] would try to kill him again. They did [kill him] on [Salvadoran] Father’s Day…. The same members who killed him had threatened him beforehand.”[103]

Similarly, a policeman told us about Nicolas P., 25, who was the victim of an attempted homicide by gang members in 2015. The same year, he migrated to the US, only to be deported in 2017. According to a police report, the policeman said, “on the day Nicolas returned to El Salvador, he arrived at his family home…. At 9:30 p.m., he was at home, the gang members arrived and shot him dead.”[104]

Deported Former Police Officers Killed by Gangs

Human Rights Watch interviewed two families who had multiple members working for the Salvadoran military or police who were threatened, then fled to the United States hoping to seek asylum but were subsequently deported and killed.

Adriana J. worked for the Salvadoran police. After being threatened by gangs, she fled El Salvador for the United States, but according to her cousin Irene J., Adriana was detained by US authorities and did not get to apply for asylum presumably because she was rejected after her credible fear interview in the expedited removal screening. Irene believes that Adriana was still in detention in the US in 2015 and deported that year or later to El Salvador. Her death certificate indicates she died in El Salvador from gunshot wounds to her abdomen and skull in 2017. Irene learned from her mother, who lived nearby, that when she went to the cordoned crime scene and spoke with police officers, the officers told her, “The gang members killed her. Three bullets.”[105]

According to press accounts, Mauricio de Jesús Amaya had been a municipal police officer in El Salvador for 14 years. In 2017, his sister, Gloria, was shot dead as they rode together on a motorcycle in the El Vado neighborhood of Nueva Concepción municipality of Chalatenango department. Mauricio believes he was the actual target. Twenty days later, he and his family, including his brother, Santos Amaya, who also worked with the municipal police, fled El Salvador and arrived in the US approximately 10 days later.[106] Santos, who had received death threats from gang members who had been deliberately targeting police in the municipality where the family lived, was deported from the US in April 2018, and was killed that same month.[107]

Jacinto K.

Human Rights Watch interviewed Jacinto K. and first interviewed his then 15-year-old son, Óscar K., in El Salvador in April 2014.

In December 2011, Jacinto and his wife had been ordered removed from the United States. In order to avoid permanent bars in US law on returning to the country, they chose to depart “voluntarily.” Jacinto and his wife had to borrow money to pay for the family’s plane tickets (they had three children, Óscar, age 15 in 2014, and a younger daughter and US citizen son). Jacinto told us that upon the family’s return to El Salvador:

“I thought starting a small business in [a rural area of El Salvador’s Central Region] was our best bet for paying the loan back quickly. Unfortunately, MS began charging me renta shortly after I opened it. I haven’t been able to pay down the loan, am barely supporting my family, and worry that I won’t be able to keep paying renta.”[108]

At the time of our interview Jacinto discounted the power of MS in the area, telling us he felt relatively safe. However, two weeks after our interview, Jacinto was shot dead in broad daylight in a public space of their town.

Prior to his dad’s death, when a Human Rights Watch researcher sat down to interview Óscar K. he said, “We can speak in English. I’ve missed it.”[109] He said he wanted to return to the Midwestern United States, where he lived from 2003 to 2011, to finish high school.  

Óscar said he had just completed 9th grade in his Salvadoran neighborhood public school. Besides the classes not being challenging, he told us, “I do not feel safe. I only leave the house to go to and from school. Still, to get there, I have to walk past the neighborhood’s Mara Salvatrucha gang. They shout insults at me and threaten to kill me if I do not join them.”[110]

After his father was killed, Óscar separated from his mother and siblings, and they each went to a different part of the country in search of safety. According to our subsequent contacts with Óscar,[111] the gang has found them each in their new locations within the country, and at the time of writing Óscar and his mother and siblings had each moved at least one other time.

Data on Deportees Killed

For this report, we identified or investigated 138 cases of people killed after their deportations from the United States between 2013 and 2019. Most of these people died between a few days and two years after their return to El Salvador. Of 106 cases reported in 219 articles by the Salvadoran press,[112] 81 deportees died after being in the country for one year or less, with 15 additional deportees killed after 13 months to two years in the country. Fourteen deportees were killed less than a week after their return, with three dying in their first 24 hours in El Salvador.

We eliminated many cases of deportees reportedly killed between 2013 and 2019 from our final count because they died more than five years after their deportations or after an unknown period from their deportations.[113] For all deported people killed, we focused only on individuals deported from the United States.[114] In addition, of all 138 cases included, the earliest year of deportation was 2010 (this was the year of deportation for one person killed in 2013, for one killed in 2014, and for two people killed in 2015).

In addition to the cases identified through the press, we documented five cases of deportees killed between 2013 and 2019 by reviewing court documents for Salvadoran criminal sentencing tribunals. For 14 cases in the same time frame, we learned of the killing of deportees through interviews with the victim’s family members.[115] We documented 23 cases in interviews with authorities. In all of these cases, we sought corroboration of the killing and circumstances of the individual deportee’s case with other sources. The below graphic illustrates the corroboration we were able to obtain.

Among the 219 press reports on killings of 106 deportees, Human Rights Watch found cases of six deportees killed between 2013 to 2019 that named state authorities or indicated death squads as the alleged killers.[116] The Rural Police were the suspected killers in two cases in an isolated rural area where gang members or authorities had previously prevented press from entering (and where police had been documented to have committed extrajudicial killings starting in 2013).[117] Private actors were the alleged perpetrators in the overwhelming majority of the killings.[118] Only three accounts identified through our press searches[119]–in which one to three others were killed at the same time–left open the possibility that the deported man was not the target of the lethal attack.

Killing of Deportees Likely Undercounted

Homicide data are regularly reported by police authorities in El Salvador.[120] However, we believe our count of 138 persons killed after deportation from the US to El Salvador between 2013-2019 represents a significant undercount for two main reasons. First, the specific victimization of deportees often goes unrecorded in forensic, media, or governmental accounts. Among victims who do report, protocol does not require authorities to ask about migration status of victims.[121]

All homicide journalists interviewed for this report said they mostly rely on police sources to determine if a victim was deported from the United States. Police acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that they do not always consult the relevant database to get a victim’s migration status. In fact, they told Human Rights Watch that they only do so when the victim had no documents or had tattoos.[122] Reports on the killings of 53 deported men included police telling the press the victim had no identity documents or was a gang member; was linked to gangs, a thief, a drug user, or some other type of criminal (including 13 of those with tattoos).[123]

There is no mandatory requirement that the Salvadoran prosecutor’s office (FGR) collects migratory status in its investigations, including in its homicide investigations.[124] One prosecutor explained his office’s reasoning to Human Rights Watch: “We see crimes and do not give importance to this [migratory status]. It is not relevant.”[125] An investigator in a different department also said migratory status was irrelevant to their office, “unless the person requests it.”[126] Salvadoran authorities told us that too much stigma exists around deportation for victims or their family members to acknowledge it on their own. For example, a police chief told Human Rights Watch: “The deportee is stigmatized.”[127] Likewise, a forensic doctor told us that none of the persons harmed after their deportation, or their surviving loved ones in cases of disappearance or killings, initially wanted to mention the victim’s status as a deportee because, “They do not always identify themselves…. Many times, I think it’s because of stigma, that they would feel pain to say it.”[128]

In addition, Human Rights Watch documented three cases from 2013 to 2018 that illustrate how a victim’s identity as a deportee may go unreported unless they possess a stigmatized characteristic, such as having tattoos, being a gang member, or being a male between the ages of 15 and 39.[129] The press did not mention in any of these three cases that the victim had been deported from the United States. None of the three had tattoos, and two were middle-aged men, perhaps explaining why the police did not check on their status in relevant databases or through other means.

The second reason we believe the 138 cases of killings to be an undercount is that certain categories of homicide cases, regardless of whether the person is a deportee or not, are much more likely to be undercounted, including cases involving (1) female victims, (2) people with identity documents (because they are less likely to be identified as deportees), (3) people without tattoos, (4) people killed in areas where crimes are more likely to go unreported including particularly violent neighborhoods, isolated rural areas, and areas where gangs or authorities do not permit journalists to enter, (5) LGBT victims, and (6) people killed in the custody of Salvadoran authorities.[130]

Police, other Salvadoran officials, and reporters have apparently also failed to determine the migration status of female homicide victims. We could not find a single press report on the killing of any cisgender (non-transgender) female deportees—even for a case of a former female police agent whom we documented through our interview with her surviving relatives, who was killed after her deportation from the United States.[131] Nevertheless, several directly impacted individuals and authorities told us about women killed after their deportations.[132] For example, one forensic official recalled multiple females killed after their deportations, just in the one department where he works:

Yes, there are women among these [who were deported and killed] …. Always by the gang, for the same phenomenon they’d left fleeing. She became their subject and could not free herself. If she gets with another [man], even [one] in the [same] gang, she is killed. Even if he’s in prison, both [she and he] could be killed.[133]

 

III. Other Harms Faced by Deportees

In our research for this report we heard many gut-wrenching accounts from people subjected to terrible abuse after their deportations from the United States. Often, these were the same abuses from the same abusers that deportees had tried to escape by fleeing to the United States–only to be returned directly back to the violence they originally feared. The cycle of abuse and flight is chronic, and for many deportees feels inescapable. Given the horrors they had endured, it was not surprising to us that these people often tried to flee again.

Even more so than the numbers of killings of deportees, instances in which deportees were attacked by gangs or others, disappeared, forced into hiding, sexually assaulted, and tortured certainly exceed what we have been able to document.[134] Many non-homicide crimes are unreported and thus undocumented in El Salvador.[135] For example, one survey suggests that less than five percent of sexual crimes were reported to Salvadoran authorities in 2018.[136] Crimes less serious than homicide go unreported to authorities, are infrequently investigated and prosecuted; and partly as a result of the lack of public accountability for these categories of crimes, they go unreported in the Salvadoran press. As discussed in the previous section, the victimization of deportees in particular goes almost completely undocumented in the country, due in part to the lack of any requirement that law enforcement authorities obtain the migration status of victims and also because victims and their family members often fail to report the victim’s status as a deportee.

Disappearances

Press reporting on individual cases of disappearances in El Salvador is rare.[137] If a victim is killed, their body may never be found, and if a victim is alive, their whereabouts may not be known. When a victim’s body is found, often too much time has passed for the Salvadoran press to take interest. A common security practice among Salvadoran reporters is not reporting on their own neighborhoods. Not surprisingly then, two journalists each told us about a case of a disappeared deportee they had not reported in 2018, one because the incident happened in his neighborhood and one because he had other incidents to report on the same day that interested his editors more.[138]

Still, we were able to identify 18 separate incidents (between 2013 and 2019, for which the disappearance happened within five years or less of the deportation) involving disappearances of deportees from the United States: at least one woman and four men,[139] alongside 13 men who disappeared or were kidnapped before being found killed.[140]

In a separate case, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) issued precautionary measures (measures the commission adopts after reviewing evidence indicating imminent risk of irreparable harm to an individual) to an 18-year-old man deported from the US in September 2017 who was taken from his home in January 2018 by “some youth [muchachos],” and has not been seen since.[141]

We also spoke with an IML investigator who said that he knew of “people deported who did disappear,” and a second IML investigator who agreed with this statement during the same interview.[142] 

Sexual Crimes

The United States Department of State (USDOS) Human Rights Reports on El Salvador from 2013 to 2018 stated that “rape and other sexual crimes against women were widespread.”[143] Even so, news reporting on sexual crimes in El Salvador is rare,[144] and as noted above, we believe widely under-reported by victims to authorities.

We documented four cases of sexual crimes and harassment against people deported from the United States (in three of these cases we know the victimization occurred between 2013 and 2019 and was within five years or less of the deportation. For one of the cases, our source was unwilling to provide any dates for security reasons). A male deportee died after castration, according to a criminal sentencing tribunal decision.[145] In addition, according to a local prosecutor we interviewed, a woman was subjected to sexual harassment after her deportation from the US.[146] Two additional cases include a woman deportee who told us that she was physically assaulted by a person linked to her former intimate partner, and after years of previous emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that prompted her original flight from the country;[147] and a female deportee who said that she was raped by a gang member after deportation from the US.[148]

Angelina N.

In 2014, when she was 20 years old, Angelina N. fled abuse at the hands of Jaime M., the father of her 4-year-old daughter, who regularly beat her.[149] Jaime falsely accused her of having an affair with Mateo O., a gang member in their neighborhood who had been persistently making advances towards her. Angelina fled, alone, to the United States and was apprehended at the border and detained. After a rare phone call home brought news that her 4-year-old was hospitalized in El Salvador, she chose not to appeal the US government’s decision to deport her in September 2014.

Once back in El Salvador, Mateo resumed pursuing and threatening her, having his fellow gang members do so as well. She repeatedly rejected Mateo’s advances, but according to a statement of facts in an immigration court ruling, “he threatened to kill Angelina’s father and daughter if she did not accept to be ‘his woman.’”[150]

In October 2014, Angelina’s father took her daughter to church.[151] She told a Human Rights Watch researcher what happened when she heard a knock at the door:

I just opened the door, expecting it to be [my daughter returning home], but it was [Mateo]. He forced open the door because I started trying to close it on him. [Mateo] came inside and forced me to have sex with him for the first time. He took out his gun…. I was so scared that I obeyed…. When he left, I started crying. I didn’t say anything at the time, or even file a complaint to the police. I thought it would be worse if I did because I thought someone from the police would likely tell [Mateo]…. I didn’t want anyone to know what was happening…. He told me he was going to kill my father and my daughter if I reported the [original and three subsequent] rapes, because I was “his woman.” [He] hit me and told me that he wanted me all to himself.[152]

One month later, Mateo returned to Angelina’s home. This time her daughter was at home. Mateo told Angelina’s daughter to stay in the living room “watching cartoons” and “not to go to the bedroom.”[153] He then “dragged [Angelina] to the bedroom, took out a gun, and told [her] to be quiet or [she] would see [her] daughter die before [her] eyes.”[154] After he left, Angelina cried but did not tell anyone. She told an immigration court “sometimes it is worse to tell the police because they do not help.”[155]  

Angelina was raped twice more by Mateo before fleeing again—this time with her daughter—to the United States.[156] She was ultimately granted protection from deportation in the United States under a provision known as “withholding of removal,” and her daughter was granted asylum.

Torture, Other Ill-Treatment, or Excessive Use of Force

We investigated five separate cases of torture, other ill-treatment, or excessive use of force by police or soldiers against deportees that we know occurred between 2013 and 2019 and within five years of the person’s deportation. In interviews with deportees and their relatives or friends, we collected accounts of three male deportees from the United States who said they were beaten by police or soldiers during arrest, followed by beatings during their time in custody, which lasted between three days to over a year.[157] One of these deportees, formerly a member of MS, told us that when police came to his home to arrest him he was unarmed and did not resist arrest. Police hit and kicked him before putting him in the patrol car, and then beat him repeatedly during his detention, which lasted for over a year. He told us that during his detention, police officers kicked him repeatedly in the testicles, threatened to kill him, and “asked me about other MS members and were saying that if I name someone from MS, that is, if I turned them in, they would leave me free.”[158]

Salvadoran criminal sentencing tribunal decisions described police abuses of two additional deported men. In one case, a man deported four months earlier, who police accused of resisting arrest, was put in a patrol car and brought to a police station. Throughout, the police repeatedly hit and kicked him, including kicks with their boots to his neck and abdomen. The deported man sustained injuries requiring an operation for a ruptured pancreas and spleen, month-long hospitalization, and 60 days of post-release treatment.[159] In the second case, a deportee who police accused of extortion, evading arrest, and shooting at police; claimed he was face down on the ground but nevertheless shot at by police agents. Once the agents took him into custody, the deportee claimed he was insulted, kicked in the face, and shot at again repeatedly. The deportee was taken to a hospital for his injuries and was later acquitted of all criminal charges.[160]

Armed Attacks, Beatings, Extortion, and Death Threats by Gangs

We documented the cases of 33 individuals who known or suspected gang members threatened with death after their deportations.[161] Presumed gang members subsequently beat three[162] and shot and injured three others.[163] Suspected gang members likewise extorted 13 deportees (including one beaten and one shot and injured).[164] Alleged gang members subsequently killed 14 deportees (including six of those extorted).[165] For these cases, we know the victimization was within five years or less of the deportation between 2013 and 2019.

Among those killed, known or suspected gang members threatened with death surviving relatives of at least four of the deportees killed.[166] While gang members told three to leave their homes or they would be killed within as little as 24 hours, they told one to stay with her family and keep quiet. Jennifer B. explained to Human Rights Watch: “They [the gang members] threatened my sister [with whom Javier B. had wanted to live] that if she opened her mouth or left that place, they’d look for her everywhere and kill her. So, she remains there. … They’ve kept their mouths shut there.”[167]

People Forced into Hiding

Most Human Rights Watch interviewees attempted to go into hiding in their own or different neighborhoods because they were afraid of gang members, police, or former intimate partners from whom they feared harm that authorities would or could not stop. US and Salvadoran authorities often make unrealistic assumptions about a particular individual’s ability to remain safe, thinking a person could easily relocate. For example, when Alexander N. told Salvadoran migration officials he was afraid to return to the home where his sister was taken and killed, they responded: “‘Why not go elsewhere?’”[168]

Safe relocation in El Salvador is incredibly difficult for anyone.[169] According to unverified estimates cited by the UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, approximately 60,000 gang members reportedly operate in 247 of the 262 municipalities in the country.[170] State authorities have been largely ineffective at protecting the population from gang or private violence, and Salvadoran security forces have themselves committed extrajudicial executions, sexual assaults, enforced disappearances, and torture throughout the country.

The few organizations now offering assistance to the internally displaced can together only provide services to several hundred people per year and even then, are typically delayed, and limited to helping a limited number of people and for a period of no more than three months.[171] This leaves most of the estimated 285,000 internally displaced persons in El Salvador to rely on familial networks, or more commonly, as one survey with a nationally representative sample found, flee abroad.[172]

For example, after learning gang members planned to kill him in his rural municipality, Gabriel G., a retired high-ranking officer with specialized training in the Salvadoran military in his forties, told Human Rights Watch he fled to the United States in 2018 after “the gang went to the police to tell them when, where, and how they’d kill me.”[173] Gabriel’s wife and children have received threats because of his military service as well, and two of his sons fled El Salvador multiple times between 2013 and 2018 related to these threats. However, Gabriel had previously been deported from the US in 2008, after he went to the US seeking refuge because former guerillas[174] were threatening him. Gabriel was detained in Texas and failed his reasonable fear interview. His prior deportation barred him from asylum under US law, so he had to meet the higher standards of withholding of removal, which means that it would be “more likely than not” that he would be persecuted, rather than the lower asylum standard of a well-founded fear of persecution. Alternatively, he had to show he merited protection under the Convention against Torture. Gabriel remembered US officials asked him if he had been tortured. He told Human Rights Watch, “I didn’t want to lie, because [what I consider torture] had not happened to me, although threats had been made, and they remained active.”[175] Since being deported in 2018, Gabriel remains fearful and stays in hiding when he is not at work as a security guard, leaving his home as little as possible and refusing even to inform his wife of his weekly work schedule for fear that she might inadvertently tell others and the gang would attack him while he travels to work.[176] He described to us how different gang members come to the gate outside his house to demand he turn over his work-issued firearm. He consistently refuses to hand over the weapon, and in response the gang members threaten to kill him.[177]

At least 17 deported individuals whose cases we identified or investigated for this report attempted to hide from the violence or extortion they feared in the same neighborhoods they had originally fled. Two who were beaten and extorted,[178] and one who was beaten, extorted, and raped have since fled El Salvador again.[179] Seven are dead.[180] Discussed more fully in Section IV below, individuals also relocated from one particularly violent neighborhood to another.[181] In another case, a male deportee fled the particularly violent neighborhood where one gang killed his father, to a neighborhood where a different gang controlled the territory.[182] Three additional male deportees attempted to go into hiding in a new location before they were killed or disappeared, according to press accounts.[183]

Alexander N.

Several months before our November 2018 interview with 20-year-old Alexander N. and his parents, men dressed in black identifying themselves as police arrived in the night. The men wanted only to take Alicia N., Alexander’s teenage sister. They tied up the rest of the family and posted two men outside to make sure they did not leave. The other men took 17-year-old Alicia with them. Not long after, the family heard a shot, seemingly a few blocks away. Once they broke free and felt sure the men outside were gone, they went toward it. They found Alicia dead with one bullet to her forehead. Alexander and his parents showed a Human Rights Watch researcher the photo of her body, splayed on the dirt, hands above her head and blood coming from the gunshot wound.[184]

After the killing, the press arrived. Nearly every Salvadoran media outlet covered the murder, some in more than one story.[185] Some for several months. None could say definitively if the men in black were gang members of the neighborhood’s particularly strong gang clique, law enforcement, or so-called “extermination groups.” Alexander and his family suspect police involvement. In recent years, the Attorney General’s Office investigated a group, police chiefs and businessmen among them, for forming an extermination group who killed those they believed to be gang members in Alexander’s neighborhood and in surrounding municipalities. Alicia’s murder was at least the seventh in four months in their community; she was the second child to be killed, and the second female. More killings, including of two females, occurred in the same neighborhood before the year ended. Authorities found additional bodies in clandestine graves. A press report alleged a member of the gang had raped girls and young women in the neighborhood.

Within 48 hours of his sister’s death, the killers called Alexander’s home and told his mother that they would come back and kill her son, Alexander, for “giving the press information” on the way they had killed her daughter.[186] She and her husband could not bear the thought of losing their son too. She told us what little they had; they gave him to flee. Alexander’s father broke down when he told us he had decided, “My only child who remains can at least go.”[187]

Less than a month after his sister’s murder, Alexander was at the border in Texas. He told Human Rights Watch that he had told US authorities what happened to his sister and that he was afraid to return. At the seventh US immigration detention center he was held in, he got lucky: a group of volunteers worked with him and five or six other asylum seekers on how to present himself in his credible fear interview (the first stage of the US asylum process). US authorities determined Alexander had demonstrated credible fear and he was transferred to another detention center to present his case before the Immigration Court nearest it. A fellow detainee from Mexico helped him translate the proof he carried: photos, a news report, death certificate, and letters of support from his Catholic church, work, school, and City Hall.

In our interview with him, Alexander appeared humble and shy. He had recently graduated high school. In his community, eye contact and talking could get you killed, he said. According to Alexander, after four hearings, at which he appeared without counsel, he was denied asylum. Alexander said, “There was no one to help me. I felt so bad. There was danger of return.” About a month later, US officials cuffed him at the wrists and ankles to deport him to El Salvador.

Alexander and his family told us that the men in black have gone to other homes since then, and they see masked police and soldiers stroll their dirt roads. Alexander lives in constant fear, saying that he feels it “day and night.” His strategy: “I don’t go out. I hide.” He is not studying, working, or spending time with friends, despite his dreams to get a college degree and help his family. When asked how long this could last, Alexander’s mom said she did not know. “Meanwhile,” she said, “we fear.”[188]

 

IV. Particularly Violent Neighborhoods

When people are deported to El Salvador, the original neighborhoods they lived in prior to their emigration may carry significant risks of disappearance, homicide, and sexual crime, such that living in safety at home is nearly impossible. These particularly violent neighborhoods (see Glossary for definition) tend to have not just a concentration of organized crime but also of abusive law enforcement actors, documented cases of domestic and sexual violence, and violence perpetrated by so-called “death squads” or “extermination groups” (as discussed in Section V).

Specific Neighborhoods, High Levels of Violence

According to government data, from 2013 to 2018, all of El Salvador’s 262 municipalities registered at least a homicide or sexual crime.[189] In most municipalities, however, crime tends to concentrate in a small percentage of specific neighborhoods.[190] Such neighborhoods register multiple homicides and sexual crimes each year.[191] Many have also been the sites of clandestine graves containing victims who were kidnapped, disappeared, and often tortured before they were killed.[192] Multiple actors, including gangs, authorities, those who present themselves as authorities, and private individuals are alleged to have committed these crimes. Victims include girls, boys, men, and women and those known or believed to be informants or witnesses. Visitors to these neighborhoods are also victims, and residents of these neighborhoods are victimized elsewhere because they are imputed to be affiliated with the gang that controls the neighborhood from which they fled.

Given persistent violence in these neighborhoods, individuals growing up in them likely experience multiple traumatic events.[193] For example, an aid director for deported persons, in summarizing the case of a mother and her daughters who fled sexual harassment, extortion, and threats (but have since been deported from the US back to El Salvador), said of residents of such neighborhoods: “One [criminal] event does not tend to be it [for what drove them to flee].”[194] The majority of directly impacted individuals we interviewed who originated from a particularly violent neighborhood recounted they or their loved ones being victims of multiple crimes before and after deportation, including witnessing or having loved ones abused, disappeared, or killed. Four deportees we interviewed had to live in the same home in which a family member had been killed.[195] They—like other residents—may show symptoms of trauma.[196] At time of writing, such particularly violent neighborhoods in El Salvador included but were not limited to:

  • Lourdes neighborhood of Colón municipality in La Libertad department;[197]
  • Altavista neighborhood at the border of Ilopango, San Martín, and Tonacatepeque municipalities of San Salvador department,[198] and surrounding areas like San José Flores neighborhood of Tonacatepeque municipality of San Salvador department;
  • San Roque neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods like Zacamil of Mejicanos municipality[199] in San Salvador department;
  • Iberia[200] and San Jacinto[201] neighborhoods of San Salvador municipality in San Salvador department;
  • La Campanera neighborhood[202] of Soyapango municipality in San Salvador department;
  • Amapalita neighborhood of La Unión municipality in La Unión department;[203]  
  • El Platanar neighborhood of Moncagua municipality in San Miguel department;[204]
  • Ciudad Pacífica,[205] Milagro de la Paz[206] and San Antonio Silva[207] neighborhoods of San Miguel municipality in San Miguel department;
  • Tierra Blanca neighborhood of Jiquilisco municipality in Usulután department;[208]
  • Chaguantique neighborhood and surrounding areas at the border of Jiquilisco and Puerto El Triunfo municipalities in Usulután department;[209]
  • El Ojuste[210] and La Poza[211] neighborhoods of Usulután municipality in Usulután department;
  • El Junquillo neighborhood of Ahuachapán municipality in Ahuachapán department;[212] and
  • Apaneca and surrounding neighborhoods of Chalchuapa municipality of Santa Ana department.[213]

No publicly available dataset demonstrates what percentage of migrants leaving El Salvador come from hot spots of violence;[214] however, among the cases of people deported from the United States who were subsequently harmed in El Salvador identified or investigated for this report, many had lived in the neighborhoods listed above. For example:

  • From 2006 to 2019, four deportees were reported killed in Lourdes neighborhood of Colón municipality,[215] as was an uncle who reportedly died defending his deported nephew in a shootout in which the nephew and one other person with them were also injured.[216]
  • In 2017 and 2018, a Salvadoran-born individual who moved between El Salvador and the United States, and two deportees—who residents told reporters were cousins—were killed in El Platanar of Moncagua.[217]
  • In 2014, one deportee was reported killed in Tierra Blanca of Jiquilisco.[218]
  • Two deportees were killed in the La Poza neighborhood of Usulután municipality in 2014 and 2018.[219]
  • In September 2017, according to press sources, in El Junquillo neighborhood of Ahuachapán municipality a deportee’s female partner, her mother, and her child were killed; one article reporting on this incident also reported that the deportee himself had been killed the day prior.[220]  An official in that region told Human Rights Watch two other deportees from the United States had also been killed in El Junquillo or adjacent Las Viñas in 2012 or 2013 and 2016.[221] A separate official in the same region told reporters they “go [there] frequently” to investigate homicides.[222]
  • In 2014, two deportees were reported killed near Cara Sucia neighborhood in San Francisco Menéndez municipality (where one’s brother was killed a month earlier).[223]

Society and Authorities Stigmatize Certain Neighborhoods

According to a poll by the Salvadoran paper, La Prensa Gráfica, Salvadorans fear particular neighborhoods and try to avoid them. From 2008 to 2017, La Prensa Gráfica three times polled a representative sample of the population in El Salvador’s most populous municipalities, asking: “From what you know and have heard said, what is the most dangerous place in the municipality?”[224] Residents’ responses included Altavista (and San Jose de las Flores next to it), San Roque, Iberia, La Campanera, Ciudad Pacífica, Milagro de la Paz, and San Francisco adjacent to Apaneca of Chalchuapa. These neighborhoods are often notorious beyond just residents. For example, in 2019, the Salvadoran investigative press outlet, El Faro, noted that Altavista, La Campanera, and Milagro de la Paz are nationally stigmatized.[225]

For their security, multiple non-PNC governmental offices keep maps or appoint a long-serving staff member to inform others of neighborhoods where staff have been threatened or harmed in the past, and thus, they either cannot enter or only enter with a police presence.[226] One police officer expressed concerns to Human Rights Watch that naming such neighborhoods can negatively impact their residents and make them “even hotter.”[227]

Police statements to the press in articles reporting on crime sometimes solidified stigmatization. Police would describe homicide victims in these neighborhoods as either gang members, collaborators of gang members, or those with personal relationships to gangs or gang members, even when relatives told the press their loved ones who were killed had no such links. For one youth from Iberia, this stigma from authorities especially stung. He broke down in tears recalling to a reporter what a policeman told him about his neighborhood: “All of them that live in that community, they are rats.”[228]

The stigmatization of these neighborhoods’ residents is partially due to perceived and real links between crime and poverty. The residents of these neighborhoods that Human Rights Watch interviewed reported monthly household incomes of less than US$500, and their homes were often composed of mud- or dirt-mixture for the walls, tin metal for the roof, bars to cover windows, and dirt floors.[229] Similarly, two youth from one of the neighborhoods listed above, who fled in 2013 and were deported in 2018, made only $5 per day in the nearby fields; even in planting and harvesting season, they could not count on five days of work in a week.[230] Another family whose young daughter fled with her grandmother in 2017 and was deported in 2018 did not have a home, and they instead moved from place to place in the neighborhood, living with hosts who would let them stay for brief periods if they paid for their use of utilities only.[231]

One Salvadoran policeman said: “Evidently, there are places safer than others, and it is related to wealth levels. Poverty levels influence [crime]. We rarely go to residences where middle-class people live.”[232] One criminal sentencing judge went further in his analysis of the links between poverty and crime to say that in these places, “We have to say it … the state has been absent.”[233]

Nowhere Else to Go

Deportees often have nowhere to go in El Salvador except to live with family already residing in a particularly violent neighborhood. For example, Nohemy P. fled El Salvador at the age of nine in 2000 because she feared gang kidnapping and rape.[234] She had lived two-thirds of her life in the US, had DACA status, and had three US-citizen children under the age of nine. However, US authorities near the Texas-Mexico border accused her of trafficking her own children across the border (she told us she had not crossed the border), told her “DACA was over,” and detained and deported her in the fall 2018. Upon arriving back in El Salvador, Nohemy had no choice but to live with an aunt in a violent neighborhood “because she is the only family we have here [now].” Nohemy’s mother, Leticia P., told Human Rights Watch that Nohemy and her two deported male cousins “almost don’t go out, because they’re afraid to do so.”[235]

Deportees are often unable to find another, safer neighborhood to live in. Press accounts we identified for this report describe three male deportees’ attempts to hide in new neighborhoods before they were killed or disappeared.[236] An FGR prosecutor told Human Rights Watch that “depending on the deportee’s [neighborhood], we do see changing addresses as a risk [for death].”[237]

Deportees often cannot afford to relocate long distances away nor can they afford exclusive, gated residences with private security. An FGR prosecutor told Human Rights Watch: “People with few resources [who are displaced] have nowhere to go. Someone should be investigating that. Sometimes, it hurts me to observe that there is nothing more we [the authorities] can do for these people.”[238] The brother of a young man killed approximately two years after his September 2013 deportation explained why his brother did not try to live elsewhere: “We don’t have resources to go moving around in El Salvador. Likewise, if he’d gone to a place without the gang [in our neighborhood], they [rival gang members] would have assumed [he was aligned with the gang in our neighborhood]. You are trapped in the same system.”[239]  

Individuals we interviewed for this report were repeatedly forced to move from one particularly violent neighborhood to another after being deported to El Salvador from the United States. For example, the neighborhood where Ransés I. grew up no longer existed when he was deported nearly 15 years later in 2015. Therefore, he went to an uncle’s home in a chronically violent neighborhood. He said: “One day, I went to the store not far [from my home] with my nephew who’d lived his whole life there.… Two [gang members] looked at me. Then, five more came and asked who I was, from where I was.… I told them I was deported.… I was there only a month [before I moved again].[240]

In nearly all particularly violent neighborhoods, gang members, authorities, and residents view new arrivals with suspicion. Nelson E., after his most recent deportation from the US in October 2014, tried living on his own in a new neighborhood but soon had to flee that neighborhood. He told Human Rights Watch,

When I got back [in 2014], I didn’t want to live with my mom.… I had work. But one time, people arrived to rob me. They wanted my DUI [government-issued, photo identification]. They told me I couldn’t be there. They told me to remove myself from there. They said they would disappear me if I stayed … so I went back to my mom. This is the risk here. You cannot go where they do not know you.[241]

It is likely, and especially dangerous, that a person who attempts to relocate inside El Salvador will end up in a neighborhood controlled by a different gang.[242] A PNC officer told Human Rights Watch that among murdered deportees, including women, are those who “arrive to live in or visit a neighborhood different from the one they are from.”[243] Irene J., said of her recently deported husband:

It actually worries me more [that he’s not in our old neighborhood]. Our neighborhood was MS-controlled, but where he is now is 18 [18 Revolucionarios or 18 Sureños]-controlled. If they realize that, they’ll take him out and kill him just for that. He is afraid of it, too, so he’s not going out at all. He can’t stay in one place. He’s having to move around.[244]

V. State Actors as Perpetrators of Harm

Many authorities in El Salvador are dedicated to protecting Salvadoran citizens and ensuring justice in the country. However, authorities often face significant barriers to providing protection, especially—as discussed in the previous section—in particularly violent neighborhoods. These authorities and their families face serious threats themselves from gangs or from other authorities within their own government for the actions they may take to protect the public.

Data obtained by Human Rights Watch through a public information request submitted to El Salvador’s Attorney General Office’s (FGR) illustrate pervasive impunity.[245] Nationwide, in 2018, authorities made arrests in approximately 22 percent of registered homicide cases.[246] For homicides of boys, the 2018 clearance rate (meaning charges were filed) in El Salvador is 13.6 percent.[247] The clearance rate for homicides in the US (adults and children) was several times higher at 62 percent; in many European countries the rate is above 75 percent.[248] For sexual crimes, authorities in El Salvador made arrests in only 9.5 percent of registered[249] cases in 2018.[250] The comparable clearance rate for sexual crimes in the US was 33.4 percent in 2018.[251] For sexual crimes against girls in El Salvador, the 2018 clearance rate was 7.6 percent.[252] Low clearance rates can occur for a number of reasons, but in El Salvador, the state is frequently either unable, due to limited resources, or unwilling, because of corruption, infiltration and threats, to protect its citizens.

In this report, we documented cases in which government authorities were responsible for committing grave abuses against deportees in particularly violent neighborhoods. These abuses—alongside low arrest, hearing, and conviction rates—are especially concerning, because they contribute to residents’ perception that authorities are persecutors, rather than protectors facing structural limits on their ability to successfully pursue their work.

Enrico X., a resident of a particularly violent neighborhood, told Human Rights Watch about his state of mind after police killed his cousin, a former gang member, at point blank range in public in 2016 or 2017 (after the cousin had been deported from the US in 2016 or 2017): “I became wary of the police even more after they killed my cousin in this manner…. I was afraid to report [other crimes] to them.”[253]

El Salvador’s crime and insecurity should be seen within the context of the power, control, and violence imposed by gangs, and the state’s feeble struggles to protect public safety. Violence and killings occur against a backdrop of “armed confrontations,” when authorities report being called to an area or on a routine patrol, are attacked with gunfire and respond with reportedly defensive fire. In 2016, the Central American Institute of Investigations for Development and Social Change (INCIDE) reported an increase of these incidents in El Salvador between state actors and gangs, with 142 incidents in 2013, 256 incidents in 2014 and 676 incidents that left 359 people dead in 2015.[254]

Unable or Unwilling to Protect

There are many reasons why authorities are unable or unwilling to help protect Salvadoran citizens who are afraid for their safety, including the fact that they themselves are monitored and threatened, authorities’ offices have also been infiltrated by gangs, they lack resources, and carry large caseloads.[255] Women victims of violence face particular obstacles in seeking protection or justice, due to the inadequacy of Salvadoran laws and deeply entrenched institutional resistance to gender equality, which has led to, among other problems, insufficient funding for investigation and law enforcement focused on violence against women, and virtual impunity for the failure of governmental officials to carry out their responsibilities.[256]

For this report, we interviewed several individuals who attempted to seek help from Salvadoran agencies or authorities but were unable to receive assistance. For example, Gaspar T., who fled threats from gangs in his particularly violent neighborhood and has, since his February 2019 deportation, faced new threats by gangs and abuse by state authorities (discussed below):

They [the Salvadoran DGME] asked me why I had left, and I told them I’d been threatened by gangs. They took my name and nothing else, and that was it, they didn’t offer me protection or services ….[257]

Walter T., who had been threatened by gangs and witnessed a murder before fleeing to the US, was deported in 2019 to face new threats by gangs and abuse by state authorities (discussed below). He said: “I told them [the Salvadoran DGME] I’d left because of threats, and they offered me nothing.”[258] Zaida L., who fled domestic violence and rape, was deported in July 2018 and then went into hiding from her abusers, said: “The police asked why I’d left, what my motives were, if I’d reported [the rape and domestic violence] beforehand and why I did not.… No, no one from the government followed up with me.”[259]

Walter T. and Gaspar T.

In 2013, cousins Walter T. and Gaspar T. when they were 16 and 17 years old, respectively, were desperate to escape constant harassment and gang recruitment in their violent Salvadoran neighborhood; between them, they know of six friends or relatives they said were disappeared or murdered between 2013 and the time of our interview with them, in 2019. They crossed into the US without documentation. Walter was able to finish 9th grade in Maryland before he left school to work construction in order to pay the coyote (smuggler) who brought him across the border. Gaspar made his way to New Jersey, where he lived with an older brother, and was excited to enroll in the local high school and resume his studies.

During his junior year of high school Gaspar said he was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement “off the street.” He was put in removal proceedings for his unauthorized status and applied for asylum during those proceedings. He was denied asylum in December 2016, a decision he appealed and lost. He was deported back to El Salvador in February 2019. His cousin, Walter, had already been deported slightly earlier. Gaspar said that in April/May 2019, when they were sleeping at their respective homes:

A patrol arrived and took me and Walter and three others from our homes, without a warrant or a reason. They began beating us [in the vehicle and continued doing so] until we arrived at the police barracks. There, they held us for three days, claiming we’d be charged with illicit association [agrupaciones ilicitas]. We were beaten [repeatedly] during those three days.[260]  

Walter and Gaspar were subsequently released from police custody and, through June 2019, were still living in a chronically violent neighborhood in El Salvador. They could no longer be reached in December 2019.

Police Killings and Abuse

In several cases in which deportees were killed after return to El Salvador, police were responsible for the killings (see Section II, above). The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings noted in her 2018 report on El Salvador that killings of alleged gang members by security forces increased from 103 in 2014 to 591 in 2016.[261] Some of these confrontations certainly involve shoot-outs between gangs and police, in which law enforcement is responding to threats with lawful force. In other cases, journalists and human rights investigators question the degree to which police are using force lawfully.[262]

In 2019, the governmental Ombudsperson for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH) in El Salvador reported that it had examined killings of 28 boys, 7 women, and 81 men and found few resulted from such armed confrontations.[263] In 70 percent, witnesses said victims were unarmed. In 37 percent, witnesses saw police move the body or place or hide evidence. In 30 percent, PDDH concluded that the body showed signs of torture, including sexual assault.[264] Data on police and military’s use of lethal force from 2011 to 2017 include deportee victims, but we could not reliably analyze the data in order to include these cases in our overall counts.[265]

In our research, we also found cases in which authorities without justification stopped and then harassed, and in some cases beat, individuals recently deported from the United States.

Elías F., who migrated to the United States as a teenager in the early-2000s, was deported to El Salvador in early 2011. Upon his return, he learned the home his remittances built was at a dividing line between two gangs. Starting a few years after his return, the rural police began to also view it as a strategic location, which made Elías deeply concerned about the risk to his family. One time, when Elías returned from work, a policeman stopped him and asked him for information about the gangs. When Elías could not answer, the policeman assaulted him:

Some people were playing loud music at another house and drinking. The police saw me walking without a shirt on and stopped me, asking me who had just yelled at them. I didn’t know who yelled. I had just heard music. I did not have the information that the officer wanted but I guess he thought I was lying to him or ignoring him.… The officer grabbed a broomstick and hit me very hard across the stomach.… I was very angry and also scared.… Some other police officers came by and the owner of the store told me to come inside for a while. The police officer told me that he would find me alone one day and get me.… The next day the officer saw me on the street. He told me that one day he will find me alone. He also said that if I try to report him to anyone, I know what will happen to me.[266]

Several people recently deported from the US told Human Rights Watch that law enforcement authorities had detained or stopped and questioned them.[267] They said they lived in fear of something worse. Santiago U., in his early twenties and gay, fled a series of violent neighborhoods in mid-2016 and was deported from the United States in late 2018. According to Santiago, who we interviewed in January 2019—about two months after his November or early December deportation from the United States—his brothers, with whom he had been living, were targeted by an extermination group which Santiago feared would also target him. His brothers and the rest of his family in El Salvador also did not accept his sexual orientation. For both reasons—fear of the gang that was targeting his brothers, and rejection by his own family—he decided to live with friends in a particularly violent neighborhood near the police barracks. In an interview with a Human Rights Watch researcher, Santiago explained that police were constantly stopping him:

The police ask me where I’m from, because they haven’t seen me here.… I got the Yo Cambio document[confirming no criminal record] a week ago.[268] I went [to Yo Cambio] then, because here, the police stopped me many times. There [at the barracks], many people are innocent. Only because they have US$80 in their backpack, they’re accused of extortion. So, when friends send me money, I always have records of the remittance with me.[269]

In 2018, Alexander N. fled El Salvador after men who identified themselves as police arrived at his home stating they were “doing a census,” and took his sister from their family home. She was later found dead. He and his family believe the killers were police. When Alexander sought asylum in the US in June 2018, his application was denied, and he was deported in the fall of 2018. A few months after his deportation, Alexander told us that he and his family feared they would be killed when men who identified themselves as police again arrived at his home claiming they intended to “do a census.”[270]

Death Squads and Extermination Groups

People deported to El Salvador also fear so-called “death squads” or “extermination groups”—not new phenomena in El Salvador. They existed before,[271] during,[272] and immediately after the country’s civil war from 1980 to 1992.[273] Experts have shown that during and after the civil war, “death squads” or “extermination groups” were deeply rooted in the country’s security forces[274] and in specific cases, targeted deportees.[275]

UN agencies,[276] human rights observers,[277] the press,[278] and government[279] all acknowledge that death squads and extermination groups still operate in El Salvador today. Three individuals interviewed for this report, all of whom were gang members but told us they left the gang prior to their deportations from the United States, expressed their fear of these groups to Human Rights Watch.[280] Often, when these cases are described by journalists in press accounts, the assailants are described as “men wearing black” or men “wearing military or police-style” uniforms; victims are sometimes described as blindfolded, with their hands and/or feet tied behind their backs.[281] For example, in four particularly violent neighborhoods:

  • In San Antonio Silva, according to press accounts, such groups killed 11 of the 33 reported homicide victims in the neighborhood. A group of men dressed in military- or police-style uniforms arrived in at least five victims’ homes, took them out, and then shot them dead, according to press reports.[282] Men dressed in dark clothing reportedly took at least six more victims from their homes before killing them.[283]
  • In Chaguantique, of the 12 homicides the press reported, the killers of three in 2015 wore “clothing similar to what the police use.”[284]
  • In Milagro de la Paz, of the 47 homicides reported by press in recent years, seven articles named as killers persons with extermination group profiles.[285]
  • In 2017 in El Platanar, “men in black” reportedly took two women from their homes in the neighborhood and then killed them.[286] In 2018, residents and journalists alike reportedly suspected the “exterminators” in a separate double homicide.[287]

According to press accounts, people deported to El Salvador have been killed in circumstances consistent with the methods of operation that death squads and extermination groups have employed:

  • In the El Zapote neighborhood of Jucuarán municipality in May 2015, 15 to 20 “men dressed in black and camouflage” entered a home “simulating a police operation,” according to a press report. They killed a 32-year-old deportee in the home’s hallway and took the other six to line them up in the street before shooting dead four face down and two face up.[288]
  • In the El Jícaro neighborhood of Lolotique municipality in June 2017, subjects dressed in black simulating a police operation killed a man deported from the United States in 2015 who had non-gang-related tattoos, at his home.[289]
  • In the Los Lagartos neighborhood of San Julián in January 2019, armed men arrived at the home of a man deported from the US two months prior, taking him and his teenage nephew, both alleged gang members, some 100 meters away to a coffee field where they were interrogated and killed.[290]

Ransés I.

Ransés I., a 44-year-old-man deported from the US to El Salvador in 2018, spoke about the scrutiny he faced from Salvadoran authorities after he returned to his home country, much of it based on tattoos that he had painstakingly tried to remove or alter in order to distance himself from the gang to which he had once belonged. He told Human Rights Watch, “I’d gone [to a tattoo artist] since 2006, changing each of them. Correcting them….”[291]

However, upon arrival in El Salvador, his tattoos became the focus of police attention. Soon after he returned, Ransés got into a dispute with another man, who called the police. When they arrived at Ransés’ home, they seemed to intentionally expose his tattoos, which he otherwise kept hidden wherever he went. He explained, “They called me outside. They took off my shirt in public. ‘Don’t worry about your tattoos,’ they told me. ‘Do you have documents?’ I showed them my DUI [documento único de identidad][292] and passport … They took photos of everything … and told me it was evidence.”[293]

When Ransés complained to the Human Rights Ombudsperson about police harassment and exposure of his tattoos in public, he said the Ombudsman staff, “told me to be careful, because extermination groups use those photos to exterminate.”[294]

 

VI. Long-Term Residence in the US

Salvadorans who have resided for an extended period in the United States face several unique risks as deported persons. They are often easily identified because of their style of clothing, way of speaking, and financial resources. At the same time, because they have been away for so long, they often do not understand the unspoken rules Salvadorans follow in order to protect themselves from gangs, extermination groups, or corrupt authorities. As a result, they can be particularly susceptible to harm in El Salvador after deportation.[295]

Several people harmed after being deported to El Salvador had arrived in the United States as children and adolescents.[296] Several described attending school in the US and nearly all worked, but given their limited economic means and precarious legal status, many also found themselves living in US communities with higher levels of poverty.[297] In the areas where they resided in the US, poverty also coincided with higher levels of police abuse, gangs, and violence, placing them at higher risk of being victims of crime and of being accused of crimes themselves.[298]

Former Long-Term US Residents Easy Targets of Abuse

Salvadorans who have lived for a long time in the United States are often easily identifiable. One director of an agency providing aid to deported persons told us: “At the beginning, there’s no problem. But as they’re noticed—their clothing, their accent, their money—the gang finds interest.”[299]

Yeshua O., in his late-thirties, fled a particularly violent neighborhood in El Salvador for the United States as a teenager and remained there nearly two decades with TPS before his deportation in 2018 after serving a sentence for first degree assault in Maryland.[300] Within weeks of his arrival back to his particularly violent neighborhood in El Salvador, Yeshua told Human Rights Watch he had tried to keep track of rules over whether he should or shouldn’t wear “certain shoes, certain colors and certain hair styles,” because they could signal membership in a gang and put him in danger. He said, “It’s confusing here. I’d always had a military style, but in [US immigration] detention, they [other detainees] told me to keep my hair longer.… I guess the military style is linked with one of the gangs.”[301]

The sister of Baltazar G., a man who had been deported in January 2012 after 10 years in the US, told Human Rights Watch, his style of dress was dangerous: “After living so long there, he dressed differently. Loose. It attracted gang members’ attention here. I told him to dress differently.”[302]

Bernardo A., in his late forties, first fled to the United States as a teenage child trying to avoid forced conscription into the guerilla forces. He has lived most of his life since then in the United States but has been deported multiple times to El Salvador, the first of which occurred in 1990 as a young adult and the most recent of which occurred in December 2017. He remembers that after his first deportation: “I was at church, and people wanted to beat me. So, I left. I think they didn’t like the way I talked. I didn’t speak Spanish well anymore. I’d learned English … and no longer spoke Spanish well.”[303]

People deported from the United States, through remittances sent to their families, often end up having noticeable assets compared to others. For example, Elías F., who fled to the United States as a teenager from a violent neighborhood in the early 2000s, had sent money to his family for seven years to buy a home in their neighborhood.[304] When he was deported in the early 2010s, he realized his home was better constructed and had better finishes than the others and marked him as a target.

In our research for this report, we also learned of two cases of wives[305] of former long-term US residents who were killed, and of the case of a US citizen[306] who was killed after traveling to El Salvador to marry his fiancée (who had been deported from the US and had an infant child). While we were unable to document the motivation for the killing of the US citizen; in the two cases of the wives, we know from our interviews with them that one victim had regularly received money from the US and the other had resisted gang extortion. In all three cases, their linkages to former long-term US resident deportees who were perceived to have greater wealth seemed to make them conspicuous targets.

Extortion

Deportees who spent a long time in the US are often targeted for extortion because they are perceived as having greater financial resources. Several of the people Human Rights Watch interviewed for this report told us that their unwillingness to succumb to gang extortion or other demands (motivated, they believed, by their perceived wealth resulting from their long residence in the US) put them or their family members at risk, including risk of death.[307] Police officers interviewed for this report thought failure to pay extortion was the most common factor in the killings of deported former US long-term residents because some respond in ways—refusing to pay or reporting demands to authorities—that while typically non-life threatening in the United States, got them or their loved ones killed in El Salvador.[308]

A police investigator told Human Rights Watch that among his recent homicide cases were several involving deportees who had been extorted:

I can think of three cases. One was in El Junquillo, I think in 2016.… He was deported and was killed. The investigation showed that the gang extorted him. The second was in [neighborhood name withheld], likewise because of extortion. He set up a business, a cereal products store, and they killed him. That was in 2018. The third was in [municipality name withheld], but I don’t remember the neighborhood. It was the same: the person was deported with a little money, set up a business, and [the demand for] la renta came.[309]

Implicit in these cases is that the person either did not pay at all or stopped paying. In the case of a woman killed by a gang, family members told Human Rights Watch the family, including the woman killed, had resisted extortion because after living for years in the United States, they felt they had worked too hard for their money to give it to “criminals.”[310] Similarly, an official [office withheld for security] reported a concluded case in which a former legal resident of the United States had started a business in Los Blancos neighborhood of San Luis La Herradura. The official said, “She refused to pay extortion and told them [the gang members]: ‘I didn’t owe my money to bums [a vagos, no debía mi dinero].’”[311]  

Tattoos

Tattoos are common in the United States.[312] Some deportees who had been long-term US residents we interviewed for this report had gotten them for artistic and sentimental reasons. For example, we interviewed Paloma V., who entered the US at around age 20 and lived there for six years. She returned from the US voluntarily to El Salvador to visit her sick family and because she was worried her sons were being forcibly recruited by the gangs. Upon her return, Paloma remained in hiding most of her time in El Salvador to avoid gang extortion demands rising to US$50 per week and increased recruitment of her two boys. She explained the artistic tattoos on her neck, shoulder, and side were visual remembrances of her family, country, and God.[313] A few other former long-term US residents we interviewed acknowledged their tattoos were gang-related.[314]

Even gang-related tattoos are sometimes obtained in the United States as a survival mechanism rather than simply as a mark of gang affiliation. Bartolo A., who had lived in the US for 17 years before he was deported in 2017, got tattoos, according to his attorney, after being beaten repeatedly in a US federal prison when he was young and vulnerable.[315] Bartolo A. agreed, stating: “Many times, one does it [gets tattoos while in prison] to obtain protection from the gangs. Yes, when one walks with gang tattoos, no one messes with him.”[316] Bartolo maintains it saved his life: “The tattoos were my help and my survival in prison.”[317]

In El Salvador, however, tattoos are deeply stigmatized, and can prove deadly. This has been true for many years.[318]

Today, gangs, authorities, and death squads link tattoos to gang membership in El Salvador. Officials[319] interviewed for this report thought tattoos were the most common factor among deportees who were killed:

  • “Usually, the common factor is a tattoo, because people think that they are gang-related, but some are decorative.” This official remembered his own voluntary return to El Salvador at the end of the civil war in the mid-1990s, saying: “My own mom inspected me for tattoos. Apparently, all the [news] stories at the time were about tattooed gang members coming from the United States. My friends deported [around then] had tattoos and faced discrimination.”[320]  
  • “What I have noticed about those murdered after their deportation is nearly all have tattoos. Among them, they have artistic tattoos that do not allude to gangs. Yet, gangs will kill them, as will others. This happens primarily in rural areas. The constant variables among murdered deportees and disappeared deportees is tattoos. Some are gang members.”[321]

Deportees who were disappeared and/or killed often had tattoos. Out of 30 cases reported in the Salvadoran media of deportees with tattoos from the United States who were killed between 2010 and 2019, only seven had gang-related tattoos, the 23 others had artistic or non-gang-related tattoos, like a tribute to children,[322] an angel and Christ,[323] a shield,[324] stars on the elbows,[325] and allusions to the US city of Los Angeles.[326] In some of these 30 cases, the individuals had spent their childhoods, their adolescence and/or more than 10 years in the US.[327] Some were killed within days of their deportation,[328] but others were killed years later, despite trying to leave their homes as little as possible (for example, travelling only to and from work).[329] Other cases we documented through interviews for this report include:

  • A man, Jaír F., whose cousin Ángel F. had arrived in the US during his adolescence, had tattoos that Jaír believed were not gang related. Jaír told a Human Rights Watch researcher that Ángel was killed in 2018 in their rural municipality after Ángel’s deportation in 2018.[330]
  • A Salvadoran journalist told us in 2018, “[D]ays ago, a youth arrived deported who had tattoos. He disappeared. Some cases like that are never reported.”[331]
  • Another Salvadoran journalist remembered, “In [the neighborhood] where I live, a deportee around 40 years old got back [returned to El Salvador]. He had tattoos that I thought were super cool and in no way associated with a gang. However, few in El Salvador understand this. Here, having tattoos is a problem. He disappeared about a month later. The case was not reported [in the press]. I didn’t cover it, because of our [Salvadoran journalists’] rule: don’t cover anything in your own neighborhood.”[332]

Despite the grave risks associated with having tattoos, getting them removed is difficult in the United States, especially when a person is held in immigration detention.[333] In one case, after living in the US for 17 years, while his deportation proceedings were underway, Bartolo A.’s defense attorneys tried to arrange for the removal of his tattoos, but the immigration facility detaining him would not coordinate visits by tattoo-removal professionals or allow Bartolo to leave the facility to have them removed.[334]

According to Salvadoran officials, the government agency for the health and welfare of youth, the National Institute of Youth (Instituto Nacional de la Juventud, INJUVE) offers a tattoo removal program in El Salvador, so as one return center official put it to Human Rights Watch “you will not be confused with gang members.”[335] However, the removal sessions are only offered in San Salvador, must be spaced weeks apart, and can take years to completely remove tattoos.[336]

Javier B.

In 2010, Javier B., 17, fled his particularly violent home neighborhood in El Salvador, where the local gang had repeatedly attempted to recruit him. His mother, Jennifer B., said that the gang had killed a close family member and generally targeted the family.[337]

After crossing the border, Javier lived with his mother in an unauthorized immigration status in a city located on the East Coast of the United States, where she worked to send money home to El Salvador. Javier started high school, but soon dropped out and began living with a friend.[338] He also worked the limited odd jobs that were available, such as construction, two or three times per week.[339] In 2012, Javier’s girlfriend became pregnant. Javier later testified before the immigration judge in his deportation proceedings that he “was excited” to become a father, but he was also worried that he could “not support a family.”[340] Javier testified that he “gave in to the easy money” of participating in burglaries.[341]

In June 2013, Javier was convicted, at the state level, of two separate counts of attempted burglary and burglary in the second degree. After serving his sentence in an East Coast prison, he was put in removal proceedings in New York State.

In August 2016, when Javier was 23, the immigration court denied him asylum due to his criminal convictions. Although Javier raised fears that gangs in El Salvador would attack and even kill him, the court found that it was not “more likely than not” that Javier would be tortured (defined in part as any act to intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering on an individual) upon return to El Salvador, thereby denying him protection under the Convention against Torture and ordering him deported from the United States.[342] Javier was deported in approximately March 2017. He was killed by MS in June that same year, according to his mother, Jennifer. She told Human Rights Watch:

Only four months passed. He was thinking of living with my mother in [the neighborhood he had fled], but he decided to live with [my] sister in [a different but also violent neighborhood]. That’s actually where they [MS] killed him…. It’s terrible. They got him from the house at 11:00 am. They saw his tattoos. I knew they’d kill him for his tattoos. That is exactly what happened.… The problem was with [the gang] MS [-13], not with the police [who had stopped him multiple times but not beaten him]. [343]

 

VII. US and International Law

In several key respects, US immigration law and policy violate international human rights and refugee law, with direct effects upon people seeking asylum or facing deportation from the United States, like the Salvadorans featured in this report.

US Failure to Prevent Return to Persecution

The United States is obligated to uphold the central provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention by its accession to the Refugee Convention’s 1967 Protocol.[344] The US government passed the Refugee Act of 1980 in order to bring the country’s laws into conformity with the Refugee Convention and Protocol, by incorporating into US law the convention’s definition of a “refugee” as a person with a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, and by incorporating the principle of non-return (also called “nonrefoulement”), which prohibits the return of people whose lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.[345]

Despite the fact that the principle of nonrefoulement is codified in US law, the cases in this report illustrate that Salvadorans face very uncertain odds when trying to convince US courts and authorities that they should not be deported due to their fears of serious harm.  

Anyone who is an unauthorized immigrant (Salvadorans among them) will find it difficult to obtain protection from deportation to harm, especially once such an immigrant has been apprehended by immigration enforcement and put in removal proceedings. One of the biggest obstacles for these people is the reality that they are very likely to be locked up in immigration detention, from where they are expected to claim asylum, usually without assistance from an attorney, since nearly all migrants and asylum seekers facing deportation in the United States have no right to a court-appointed lawyer.[346]

In a review of immigration court data from 2007 to 2012, the American Immigration Council determined that of all Salvadorans (detained and non-detained) in removal proceedings, only 40 percent were represented by counsel. In addition, 38 percent of Salvadorans in removal proceedings were detained.[347]

Under a July 2019 rule that is currently enjoined, all unauthorized immigrants living in the US will become  targets for arrests and deportation through expanded procedures that accelerate deportation known as “expedited removal.”[348] Any unauthorized foreigner who cannot prove continuous presence in the US for at least two years could, if the rule goes into effect, be placed in a fast-track deportation process, without the opportunity to plead their case in front of an immigration judge or, in most cases, to get the help of an attorney. Expedited removal proceedings do allow individuals to seek referral to an immigration court proceeding to seek asylum, but make access to a court hearing contingent on a screening procedure, and Human Rights Watch and other groups have consistently criticized expedited removal for DHS officers’ failure to identify legitimate asylum seekers during that screening process.[349]

Although deportations of individuals with TPS or DACA status are on hold as of the writing of this report,[350] those court-ordered injunctions could be lifted at any time. If this happens, these people are also likely to struggle to defend against deportation without assistance from a court-appointed attorney. Even with the aid of an attorney, every individual trying to prevent their deportation because they fear harm in El Salvador faces a battle to successfully make such a claim under current US law, discussed more below.

For individuals with criminal convictions, the odds against them being able to prevent deportation due to fear of harm in El Salvador are nearly insurmountable.[351] Article 33(2) of the Refugee Convention states that protection against refoulement may not be claimed by a refugee, “who, having been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community of that country.”[352] The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has defined such a crime as a “capital crime or a very grave punishable act.”[353] UNHCR’s Executive Committee has further explained that deporting a refugee under article 33(2) “may have very serious consequences for a refugee and his immediate family members … [and therefore should only happen] in exceptional cases and after due consideration of all the circumstances.”[354]

Therefore, in accordance with international refugee law, procedures must be in place to ensure careful application of this narrow exception.[355] Even individuals convicted of “particularly serious” crimes are guaranteed the right of a hearing to establish whether or not they pose a current threat. Indeed, the “danger to the community” exception “hinges on an appreciation of a future threat from the person concerned rather than on the commission of some act in the past.”[356] Accordingly, under international refugee law, past criminality is not per se evidence of future danger.

Unfortunately, United States law falls short of these standards, which helps to explain why some of the people featured in this report were deported to El Salvador after criminal convictions despite the clear harm they faced and the lack of danger they posed. People who have criminal convictions that are not “particularly serious” are usually barred from asylum in the US, but can seek protection from refoulement based on the much higher standard known as “withholding of removal.”[357] But for people who have been convicted of what are regarded as “particularly serious crimes,” withholding is also barred.[358]

In addition to all refugees convicted of aggravated felonies with five-year sentences, some US courts have found that the US attorney general has discretionary authority to send refugees or asylees back to persecution based on the attorney general’s often-unreviewable determination of what constitutes a particularly serious crime.[359]  

A final defense against removal for people convicted of particularly serious crimes derives not from the Refugee Convention and Protocol but rather from the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which prevents the United States from returning anyone without exception to countries where they would more likely than not face torture.[360] The CAT defines torture as severe pain or suffering that is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official, or other person acting in an official capacity. CAT withholding or deferral of removal therefore requires that an applicant prove that he or she will “more likely than not” face torture upon return, which must be shown to be severe pain or suffering inflicted by or with the acquiescence of a government official. Though it is an essential protection in international and US law, and people with criminal convictions are eligible to seek CAT relief, it is a very difficult standard to meet, especially without the assistance of an attorney.

Overly broad United States interpretation of crimes as “particularly serious” for purposes of barring individuals from asylum and withholding of removal, failure to assess whether the potential deportee poses a risk of dangerousness to the community of the US, and the failure to provide court-appointed legal representatives to people facing deportation on their rights and on the mechanics of due process, has resulted in the US failing to meet its obligations under international law not to return Salvadorans (and others) to countries where they would be under threat of persecution, torture, or other serious harms. In addition to policy changes within the authority of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, Congress should amend US law to ensure that criminal bars to asylum and withholding are consistent with international law, that there is greater judicial scrutiny of the application of these bars, and that people facing removal have the right to court-appointed attorneys.

The United States Eviscerates the Right to Seek Asylum

There is no right to be granted asylum under international law, but there is a right to seek asylum.[361] On its face, US law generally recognizes this right. The law provides that any person “physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States … irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum….”[362]

However, since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the federal government has nearly eviscerated the right to seek asylum in a relentless series of policy and legal changes. This attack on asylum affects all nationalities, Salvadorans among them. Salvadorans whose claims to asylum have not yet been resolved, and those who may be attempting to travel to the United States to claim asylum from persecution in their home country, face enormous obstacles due to these changes to asylum law and policy.

One of the most sweeping US policies undermining the right to seek asylum in the United States is the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also called the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which have been in place since January 2019. Under this policy, the implementation of which Human Rights Watch has investigated,[363] the US government returns to Mexico nearly all asylum seekers who have been put into removal proceedings. Since its inception, the program has been implemented at ports of entry and Border Patrol sectors across the southern border, placing asylum seekers at risk of violence, exploitation at the hands of cartels and corrupt officials, and death. Approximately one percent of people returned to Mexico under the program are able to find representation in their court cases,[364] vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, babies, and LGBT individuals have been regularly returned, and our own research shows the program regularly results in family separations.[365]

Although legal challenges continue, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has allowed this sweeping policy to remain in place.[366] At time of writing, more than 59,000 asylum seekers had been returned to dangerous and unlivable conditions in Mexico, with significant barriers to obtaining legal representation and a fair asylum hearing.[367]

The MPP program is layered on top of a policy that dates back to 2016 (called “metering”), under which United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turns back asylum seekers at ports of entry where they are forced to wait in haphazardly operated queues in Mexico, which can cause weeks and months of delay. People affected by these policies often make desperate decisions to attempt to cross the border in dangerous locations. Among these were Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, both from the particularly violent Altavista neighborhood in El Salvador, who both died while trying to cross the Rio Grande in June 2019.[368]

In July 2019, in another change with devastating effect on all people trying to cross the United States-Mexico border to seek protection from persecution, the administration published an interim final rule banning all people, including children, who have traveled through another country first, and did not apply for and get asylum there, from applying for asylum in the United States.[369] This rule (sometimes referred to as “Asylum Ban 2.0”) is a ban of nearly all non-Mexican asylum seekers attempting to enter the US through the southern border. On September 11th, the Supreme Court issued a decision allowing the ban to go into effect while litigation challenging it continues.[370]

In yet another effort to block people from even accessing the United States asylum system, in the summer and fall of 2019, the Trump administration reached agreements with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala that will enable the administration to reject asylum claims from people who first pass through any of these countries.[371] The United States’ Asylum Cooperative Agreement with Guatemala, in particular, raises alarm bells for Salvadorans, since nearly all Salvadoran asylum seekers transit through that country on their northward journey. Few details about these agreements had been released at time of writing; however, what is known about each country’s refugee protection system raises serious doubts about their ability to handle large numbers of asylum claims and offer effective protection.[372]

Each of these changes are layered upon other, earlier policy shifts engineered to create a harsh and punishing response to arriving asylum seekers. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced a "zero-tolerance" policy, which required that all migrants arriving between ports of entry, including asylum seekers, be prosecuted for the federal crimes of illegal entry or reentry. What resulted was the mass, systemic separation of families, as parents were prosecuted and children were ripped away from them to be taken into separate custody, causing irreversible, life-long trauma to over 5,400 children,[373] including all but one of the Salvadoran children interviewed for this report. Subsequently revealed internal government memos show that this policy was explicitly intended to serve as a deterrence mechanism for asylum seekers.[374] Despite the official end to family separation in June 2018,[375] many separations are still happening,[376] and the “zero-tolerance” memo was still in place, at time of writing.

Other changes have attempted to narrow the definitions United States immigration judges use to determine who merits asylum. In 2019, US Attorney General William Barr reversed a case, Matter of L-E-A[377], limiting and in some cases eliminating the possibility of even presenting a claim for asylum for individuals who are fleeing harm on the basis of their membership in a particular family. This decision holds dire consequences for many asylum seekers, including several of the Salvadoran individuals and their family members whose cases are documented in this report. Also, in 2018, then-Attorney General Sessions issued Matter of A-B[378], effectively limiting the availability of asylum to most individuals fleeing gender-based violence or violence at the hands of gangs—each of which is often central to the fears of harm that prompt people from El Salvador to flee to the United States.[379]

Former Attorney General Sessions took this decision despite caselaw in the United States clearly establishing, for decades, that gang violence and gender-based violence can constitute persecution under international refugee law.[380] This established legal understanding is shared by UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, which has concluded that people fleeing gang and gender-based violence, as well as forced recruitment by gangs, may  have valid persecution claims under the Refugee Convention.[381] Beyond that, his decision failed to evidence awareness of the state’s absence and inability or unwillingness to protect, as well as its role in active persecution, as root causes of gender-based and gang violence.

In February 2017, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) raised the threshold for demonstrating credible fear in the first stage of the asylum process. This new guideline ordered asylum officers to be stricter in assessing claims of fear made during “credible fear interviews,” the threshold interview that is required before an affirmative asylum seeker is allowed to present their claim to an immigration judge.[382]

Each of these policy changes on its own represents a significant erosion of the right to seek asylum in the United States. Taken together, the US is violating the rights of hundreds of asylum seekers on a daily basis. One proposed bill before Congress, the Refugee Protection Act of 2019, would make important strides towards reversing these, and other, harmful policies.[383]

US Law Fails to Adequately Value Long-Term Connections to US[384]

Salvadorans (and immigrants of other nationalities in similar situations) who have lived in the United States for many years in an unauthorized status, as legal permanent residents, or as TPS or DACA beneficiaries often have developed and/or deepened family and other ties to the United States. Under current US law these ties are often not weighed at all before deportation.[385] This is despite the fact that the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), the expert body that interprets and monitors state party compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has explicitly stated that the right to family unity entails limits on states’ power to regulate immigration.[386] Though it has not always ruled in favor of migrants seeking to defend against their deportations, the HRC jurisprudence establishes that any interference with a person’s family caused by deportation is “arbitrary” if the state fails to weigh that human rights impact in the balance against its own interests in deporting the person.[387] Moreover, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of non-citizens has stated, “[D]eportation is justified only if the interference with family life is not excessive compared to the public interest to be protected.”[388] Even without strong family ties, an unauthorized immigrant develops stronger ties to the country of immigration over time. Children brought as unauthorized immigrants to the US at a very young age often have no ties at all to their country of origin, other than birth, yet are subject to deportation without consideration of their ties to the US.

There is no recognized human right to immigrate to another country and obtain legal status, and states enjoy considerable leeway to remove non-citizens from their territory—particularly those who are present unlawfully.[389] But this discretion is not unlimited, and the US should ensure its immigration policies meet its obligations under international human rights law. In particular, US law should take into account the often profound human rights impacts and other hardships of deportation, and weigh those in the balance against its interest in deporting a person.

Article 12(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country,” and the Human Rights Committee has found that the definition of “one’s own country” is broader than the concept of a person’s country of nationality.[390] In two cases involving people who were brought to Australia and Canada from other countries as young children, the Committee found a violation of article 12(4) where the state sought to deport those individuals later on in life.[391] These cases are closely analogous to the situation of DACA beneficiaries and, in some cases, TPS beneficiaries as well.

Instead of requiring deportation of almost any immigrant without legal status, including those who have lived in the country for many years, US law should be changed to uphold these rights to family unity and to enter one’s own country, among others. One way to recognize these rights is to weigh them before deporting someone from the United States. Another is to implement a fair and inclusive legalization program that provides legal status for certain qualifying unauthorized immigrants in the US—including those who previously qualified for and had a prolonged temporary legal status—who meet a clearly defined set of criteria, and that aims to integrate those with strong family and community ties to the US.

US Law Should Protect People at Risk of Serious Harm Who Do Not Qualify for Asylum

In addition to all the limitations to the right to seek asylum and to be protected from return to persecution outlined above, Human Rights Watch notes two additional gaps in US law governing who should be protected from return to harm: first, US law fails to meet US treaty obligations not to return people to places where they would be at real risk of facing cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; second, US law fails to protect from deportation newly arriving asylum seekers who are fleeing situations of indiscriminate violence or other exceptional circumstances that would threaten their lives or personal security.

On the first gap, the United States has rejected any obligation to prevent people from being returned to face the risk of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment that does not rise to the level of torture, in contravention of the requirements of the Convention against Torture. In the case In re J-E- , the US Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed the appeal of a Haitian man who showed that he would most likely be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment upon return, saying, “we find that the respondent has failed to establish that these severe instances of mistreatment are so pervasive as to establish a probability that a person detained in a Haitian prison will be subject to torture, as opposed to other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.”[392]

This interpretation is inconsistent with the United States’ obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).[393] The UN Human Rights Committee, the expert body that interprets and assesses state compliance with the ICCPR, has stated that, “States parties must not expose individuals to the danger of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon return to another country by way of their extradition, expulsion or refoulement.”[394]

On the second gap in US law, countries around the world receiving migrants conduct a two-pronged assessment when considering a claim for protection against deportation.[395] First, they examine claims using the international refugee definition from the Refugee Convention: a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. But they also assess in the same individualized interview whether an asylum seeker who does not meet this definition can also be recognized as qualifying for a complementary status as a protected person if they can establish that, if returned, they would face a real risk of serious harm for reasons other than a fear of being persecuted. This type of “complementary protection” provides a safety net for those people who still face extreme risks. 

Human Rights Watch recommends that US law be amended to ensure protection from deportation for people who would face serious threats to life or physical integrity if returned to their countries because of a real risk of violence or in exceptional situations, such as natural or human-made disasters, including from the effects of climate change, for which there is no adequate domestic remedy. As this report has shown, this is important for those Salvadorans who might not meet the high persecution or torture standard but who nevertheless would be at real risk of death or serious bodily injury if returned. It is also important for individuals of any nationality who would face a real risk of serious harm after deportation from the United States.

Medium and Long-Term Recommendations

To the US Congress

  • Enact legislation that codifies into domestic law the international legal obligations of the United States by passing the Refugee Protection Act of 2019 or similar legislation that:
    • Realigns the definition of terms in US law like “particular social group” to international standards;
    • Clarifies that transit through a third country shall not be grounds for discretionary denial of asylum;
    • Provides that asylum officers, with training in asylum law and non-adversarial interviewing techniques, have initial jurisdiction over all asylum claims;
    • Ends federal criminal prosecution, such as the “zero tolerance policy,” for asylum seekers;
    • Ensures access to counsel for all persons in immigration detention and border facilities and provides counsel for certain particularly vulnerable populations;
    • Creates a presumption of release from detention for all asylum seekers.
  • Enact legislation that enables access to fair asylum determination proceedings in the United States by: 1) Rescinding the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) with retroactive effect. For individuals already in the MPP program, ensure that each has access to full and fair asylum proceedings under US law by paroling them into the United States and enrolling them in community-supported release programs that will ensure their appearance for immigration proceedings and provide support for them while their claims are pending; 2) Providing a right to readjudication for those deported to El Salvador under the Trump administration; and 3) Ending metering of asylum claims.
  • Also, in order to provide access to fair asylum determination proceedings in the United States, enact legislation to eliminate expedited removal from US law. Until such legislation is adopted, while expedited removal remains in place: 1) Provide sufficient resources to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for additional asylum officers; 2) Allow the USCIS to conduct timely in-person “credible fear” and “reasonable fear” screening interviews and address backlogs, without creating delays for affirmative asylum interviews or for USCIS interviews in the overseas US refugee admissions program; 3) Ensure that USCIS has adequate training and supervision; 4) Expand the grounds of qualification for parole.
  • Protect and safeguard the independence and impartiality of the immigration court system by adopting a law creating an independent immigration court system in the form of an Article I court, modeled after the US Bankruptcy Court.
  • Enact the New Way Forward Act of 2019 or similar legislation that improves due process for all immigrants by:
    • Ending near-mandatory deportation for people with criminal convictions and ending expedited deportation proceedings; 
    • Restoring discretion to immigration judges to grant relief to those otherwise barred by criminal records or certain conduct if it would serve humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or in the public interest;
    • Reducing unnecessary detention by adopting a presumption of liberty for immigrants during deportation proceedings;
    • Repealing laws making illegal entry and reentry federal criminal offenses, rather than simply civil offenses to be addressed in an administrative court.
  • Enact legislation providing “complementary protection” from removal to people outside their country and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States who would face serious threats to life or physical integrity if returned to their countries because of a real risk of violence or exceptional situations, such as natural or human‐made disasters, including from the effects of climate change, for which there is no adequate domestic remedy.

To Congress and the Executive Branch

  • The Attorney General should withdraw or Congress should rescind through legislation the Attorney General decisions that overruled Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decisions Matter of AB and Matter of L-E-A- narrowing gender, gang-related, and family-based grounds for asylum.
  • Ensure that US funding for Mexican border and immigration enforcement capacity includes funding:
    • To improve and expand Mexico's capacity to register and process refugee and other protection claims;
    • To increase Mexico's capacity to provide social support for asylum seekers with pending claims and for other vulnerable migrants; and
    • To integrate recognized refugees and beneficiaries of complementary protection.
  • Direct US foreign assistance to El Salvador and other countries in the region to initiatives designed to enhance due process, accountability, and equitable economic development, and support critical efforts to promote human rights, tackle corruption, strengthen the rule of law, reintegrate Salvadorans who repatriate, and provide trauma-informed care to Salvadorans.
  • End political pressure and US funding to El Salvador and other countries in the region for border security or immigration enforcement that has the purpose or effect of infringing on the right to leave one’s own country, the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries, or in any other way violates fundamental human rights.

To the US Department of Justice

  • Reduce barriers to due process and backlog in the immigration court system, including by restoring the ability of immigration judges to close cases administratively and funding court-appointed counsel for removal proceedings.
  • End reliance on gang databases as an indicator of gang membership for arrests and detention decisions without a criminal conviction evidencing gang membership and warranting detention for removal purposes.

To the Attorney General of the United States

  • Issue a new opinion reverting to the pre-2018 definition of a “particular social group” and recognizing that certain individuals (including those of Salvadoran nationality) may possess a well-founded fear of persecution and/or a need for complementary protection from removal due to factors that include long term residence in the United States, neighborhood of origin, tattoos, sexual violence, and all forms of intimate partner violence.

To the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency

  • Grant parole to people in expedited removal who have established a credible fear.
  • End all unnecessary immigration detention. In instances in which detention is warranted based on flight risk or danger demonstrated by the government to an immigration judge and regularly reviewed, locate immigration detainees in areas more accessible to families, lawyers, and community support.
  • Promulgate a new policy allowing individuals in immigration detention to access tattoo removal at their own (or at charitable organizations’) expense, without extending the period of detention for such individuals.

To the Government of El Salvador

  • Conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into allegations of killings and other abuses committed by gang members, including into their possible links to authorities.
  • Collect accurate data about victims and perpetrators of crime who are also returned migrants.
  • Train police and law enforcement not to make assumptions that individuals have committed a crime or belong to a gang based on reasons such as being a deportee or having tattoos.
  • Conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations into allegations of abuses committed by authorities and security forces and remove them from their official duties that relate to contact with the public until their cases are resolved.
  • Invest in the justice system, particularly around gender equity and inclusion, investigation capacity, and addressing state corruption and gender-based violence.
  • Enhance the government’s ability to provide trauma-informed care to victims of crime and human rights abuse.
  • Enhance the government’s reception and re-integration capacity for Salvadorans who repatriate.
  • Ensure Consular staff in the United States are monitoring abuses experienced at the hands of immigration enforcement and border protection personnel and submit complaints with individuals’ consent.

Acknowledgments

Elizabeth G. Kennedy, former researcher on El Salvador for the United States Program of Human Rights Watch, researched this report. It was jointly authored by Kennedy and Alison Parker, managing director of the US Program. Clara Long, US Program senior researcher, edited and contributed writing to the report. Thomas J. Rachko, Jr., US Program acting advocacy officer, assisted with systematic searches of Salvadoran criminal sentencing tribunals and news, as did an assistant researcher who remains anonymous for her security. Jorge Beltrán Luna, Anna-Catherine Brigida, Virginia Salazar, and Israel Serrano identified some individuals to interview. Anna-Catherine Brigida additionally edited sections of this report for brevity and clarity. Jorge Beltrán Luna did additional reporting for one neighborhood.

Grace Meng, US Program senior researcher; Thomas J. Rachko, Jr., US Program acting advocacy officer; Dani Hass, senior editor; Joseph Saunders, deputy program director; Bill Frelick, refugee rights director; Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher in the LGBT Rights Program, Nisha Varia, advocacy director of the Women’s Rights Division, Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting deputy director of the Americas Division; Michael Bochenek, senior counsel in the Children’s Rights Division and acting senior legal advisor edited the report. Colleagues from Alianza Americas also provided very helpful feedback. Remy Arthur, digital associate prepared the report for publication. Gabriela Haymes translated it into Spanish.

Most of all, Human Rights Watch thanks the persons deported and their surviving relatives who made this report possible by taking time, and risks, to share their experiences. We likewise appreciate the Salvadoran and US officials, lawyers, social service providers, researchers and others who spoke with us or identified cases during research for this report.

 

 

[1] Government of El Salvador, Ministry of Justice and Public Safety, National Civilian Police, http://www.pnc.gob.sv (accessed January 5, 2020).

[2] When reporters are present at crime scenes, they may arrive before the police, as may representatives from burial or funeral services. Once at the scene, authorities may end up interviewing people who have already talked with one or multiple reporters.

[3] A police agent explained their four objectives, as he understands them, to Human Rights Watch: “First, to understand why the person left; second, to check their personal details; third, to take photos of all their scars and tattoos; and fourth, to verify criminal records.” Human Rights Watch interview with PNC agent, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 28, 2018.

[4] Government of El Salvador, Office of the Attorney General, http://www.fiscalia.gob.sv (accessed January 5, 2020).

[5] Other crimes against all victims can be reported to local justices of the peace as well. Crimes against women can additionally be reported to municipal development offices for women (Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo de la Mujer, ISDEMU), and crimes against children can be reported to either child protection agency (Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo Integral de la Niñez y la Adolescencia, ISNA, or Consejo Nacional de la Niñez y de la Adolescencia, CONNA). In all such cases, those agencies—such as the police and forensic body—must refer the case to the District Attorney’s office.

[6] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, November 5, 2018 (who described carrying between 300 and 400 cases at any point) and Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 6, 2018 (who described carrying between 150 and 180 cases at any point). Multiple others told Human Rights Watch they struggled to recall details of specific homicides, even those occurring within the year, because they dealt with so many.

[7] By law, the District Attorney (FGR), a judge or the federal defender’s office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) orders an IML exam. In practice, however, victims themselves or other agencies will go to the IML for the needed exam before going to the FGR, judge, or PGR and may elect not to go to one of those three at all. Hospitals will also call the IML without necessarily informing the FGR or police. For this reason, FGR and IML statistics on non-homicide crimes, like rape, are often widely discrepant.

[8] Although three offices in Cabañas department and Meanguera del Golfo have just one doctor, the other offices in Ahuachapán, Chalatenango, Cuscatlán, La Paz, La Unión, Morazán, Metapán of Santa Ana, typically have two doctors who take turns working 12- to 24-hour shifts. The seven regional clinics in La Libertad, San Miguel, San Salvador, San Vicente, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, and Usulután departments have substantially more staff and can receive bodies or victims on weekends, when smaller offices are closed.

[9] Human Rights Watch interview with IML leadership, El Salvador’s Central Region, May 2, 2017.

[10] Government of El Salvador, Ministry of Security, “Plan El Salvador Seguro,” http://www.seguridad.gob.sv/dia/monitoreo-y-evaluacion/plan-el-salvador-seguro-pess/ (accessed January 17, 2020).

[11] Chalatenango, La Libertad, La Unión, and Morazán departments did not have an OLAV when we conducted this research.

[12] Child protection officials, rather than migration officials, interview boys and girls aged 17 or younger and at the time of writing also have the duty to screen for protection needs.

[13] Government of El Salvador, Institute for the Integral Development of Children and Adolescents, http://www.isna.gob.sv/ISNANEW/ (accessed January 17, 2020).

[14] Government of El Salvador, Institute for the Integral Development of Children and Adolescents, “Services” (“Servicios”), http://www.isna.gob.sv/ISNANEW/?cat=8 (accessed January 17, 2020).

[15]  Mental Health Training and Research Association, “ISNA Opens Inaugural Site of CANAF in San Vincente” (“ISNA inaugura sede del CANAF en San Vicente”), October 7, 2018, https://www.acisam.info/novedades/2018/isna-inaugura-sede-del-canaf-en-san-vicente/ (accessed January 17, 2020) and Government of El Salvador, Center for Attention to Children, Adolescents and Family, February 19, 2016, http://www.isna.gob.sv/ISNANEW/?p=1519 (accessed January 17, 2020).

[16] Susana Peñate, "4,150 Children and Adolescents Returned in Seven Months to El Salvador” (“4,150 niños y adolescentes retornados en siete meses a El Salvador”), La Prensa Gráfica, August 16, 2019, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/4150-ninos-y-adolescentes-retornados-en-siete-meses-a-El-Salvador--20190815-0481.html (accessed January 17, 2020).

[17] Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF social worker, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 2018 (date withheld for security); Human Rights Watch group interview with entire CANAF team, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 2018 (date withheld for security); and Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF attorney, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 2018 (date withheld for security).

[18] Government of El Salvador, General Directorate for Migration and Foreigners, http://www.migracion.gob.sv/# (accessed January 17, 2020).

[19] Unless otherwise referenced, information in this entry is based on Human Rights Watch interview with DAMI staff, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 28, 2018.

[20] The Center for Holistic Attention to the Migrant (CAIM) is actually El Salvador’s residential facility for non-Salvadoran migrants. It is housed in a separate building on the same property as DAMI, and returned Salvadorans can stay the night at CAIM, when needed.

[21] Salvadorans deported from Mexico are also processed at CAIM.

[22] See, for example, Shannon Dooling, “What’s Waiting for Deported Salvadorans Inside ‘La Chacra,’” WBUR News Boston, August 30, 2018, https://www.wbur.org/news/2018/08/30/deported-el-salvador-la-chacra (accessed January 17, 2020).

[23] Government of El Salvador, Ministry of Justice and Public Security, “Prison Management Model I Change” (“Modelo de Gestión Penitenciaria Yo Cambio”), https://www.transparencia.gob.sv/institutions/dgcp/documents/303032/download (accessed January 17, 2020).

[24] “I Change, The Promise Without a Budget” (“Yo cambio, la promesa sin presupuesto”), La Prensa Gráfica, October 30, 2016, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/revistas/Yo-Cambio-la-promesa-sin-presupuesto-20161030-0098.html (accessed November 23, 2019).

[25] Roberto Valencia, “‘I Change’ Makes its Way into Prisons for Gang Members” (“‘Yo cambio’ se abre paso en las cárceles de pandilleros”), El Faro, March 22, 2019, https://elfaro.net/es/201901/ef_foto/22907/‘Yo-cambio’-se-abre-paso-en-las-cárceles-de-pandilleros.htm (accessed November 23, 2019).

[26] Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos P., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 27, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Santiago U., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 28, 2019 (pseudonym).

[27] When Human Rights Watch controlled for their population, particularly violent neighborhood crime rates were consistently above national averages but were not always the highest and even sometimes fell below average in a given year.

[28] We used a variety of methods and networks to locate people harmed after deportation to El Salvador. We used attorneys and social services agencies to reach interview subjects. We also reached out to researchers, Salvadorans met through previous research projects, reporters, hundreds of immigration attorneys, social service providers and organizers and asked them to further reach out to their colleagues and networks about persons who had either been recently deported or harmed after deportation. However, many Salvadorans who get deported did not have contact with attorneys or social services in El Salvador before or after they migrated or in the US while living there. Among those Salvadorans who did contact attorneys or social services in El Salvador or the US, most did not remain in contact with their client over time, either because their organization prohibited them from doing so, limited the time a client could receive services, or other barriers arose. For example, two Salvadoran governmental agencies working with deported children explained that they wished to remain in contact at least over the year following deportation their agencies permit, but doing so is difficult, because most children migrate again. Other Salvadoran agency workers face threats themselves and thus limit where they go and with whom they meet. US-based attorneys, volunteers, and researchers who attempted to remain in contact after deportation found at times that phone numbers provided changed or no longer worked and that Facebook accounts got deactivated. Salvadoran providers also encountered phone number and location changes among former clients. If service providers did remain in contact over time, they did not always ask or care about migration status, and knew that some clients feared the stigma of disclosing migration status, so that social services providers may have had clients relevant to our investigation without knowing it. Among the small universe of known cases, social service providers in both countries must respect their clients’ confidentiality, making sharing cases or contact information for deported persons complex and often impossible.

[29] The three most common counties of residence for Salvadorans in the US are: Los Angeles County, California; Prince George’s County, Maryland; and Harris County, Texas. See Allison O’Connor, Jeanne Batalova, and Jessica Bolter, “Central American Immigrants in the United States,” Migration Policy Institute, August 15, 2019, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/central-american-immigrants-united-states (accessed August 24, 2019). We conducted interviews in each of these places and others.

[30] We chose this time frame primarily because (1) we wanted this report to reflect current conditions in El Salvador; (2) fact-checking was more feasible, since we had access to databases back to 2013 but not earlier; (3) real time constraints on how many years’ data we could analyze; and (4) this time frame includes two presidential administrations from different political parties in El Salvador and the US. However, choosing this time frame meant excluding several earlier cases, including most of the cases yielded from Salvadoran Criminal Sentencing Tribunal decisions, since investigations–when they occur–take such a long time to conclude.

[31] For the majority (81 of 106 or 76 percent) of deportees killed documented through press coverage, the harm occurred within 1 year of deportation. However, we spoke with multiple families targeted for harm in violent neighborhoods over longer periods than this. Likewise, we did uncover cases of persons killed between 2013 and 2019 more than five years after their deportation. The killing was preceded by lesser but nonetheless serious harms, including abuse by law enforcement or state officials, in some of their cases.

[32] When interviewees (officials and directly impacted individuals) described someone as deported from the US, we asked follow-up questions to try to eliminate the possibility that the individual had been deported from another country. Interviewees sometimes did not know all the details of the harmed individual’s case in El Salvador or the US, particularly around the type of immigration relief sought. We did all we could to consult other available sources to fill in those details; however, sometimes, we could not find other sources.

[33] Data from 2012-2017 obtained by Human Rights Watch via public information request submitted to DGME and received on October 24, 2018 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[34] The only mandatory information collected in these first interviews were basic biographical data and neighborhoods of residence.

[35] El Salvador’s national civilian police (PNC), medical legal [forensic] institute (IML), and attorney general’s office (FGR) attend crime scenes and form a tripartite table that is supposed to meet monthly to consolidate any discrepancies between their homicide registries. Their homicide statistics are housed within FGR. For all crimes, the FGR classifies the crime according to the criminal code.

[36] Data obtained via public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office for crime incidence data throughout El Salvador, data on homicides between 2013-2017 were received November 9, 2018 and data on sexual crimes between 2013-2017 were received November 1, 2018. Homicide data for 2018 were received February 18, 2019, sexual crime data for 2018 were received February 25, 2019 (data on file with Human Rights Watch). El Salvador’s Access to Public Information Law [Ley de Acceso a la Información Publica] became effective in 2011 and subsequently resulted in the creation of Access to Public Information Offices in governmental and non-governmental offices.

[37] “Homicides” refer to the following classifications in El Salvador’s Penal Code [Código Penal], approved in 1997 and last updated in 2008, and Special Holistic Law for a Life Free of Violence for Women [Ley Especial Integral para una Vida Libre de Violencia para Las Mujeres (LEIV)], approved in 2011: Homicidio simple (128 CP), Homicidio agravado (129 CP), Homicidio culposo (132 CP), Feminicidio (45 LEIVM), and Feminicidio agravado (46 LEIVM).

[38] “Sexual crimes” refer to the following classifications in El Salvador’s Penal Code [Código Penal]: Violación (158 CP), Violación en Menor o incapaz (159 CP), Violación y agresión sexual agravada (162 CP), Estupro (163 CP), and Estupro por Prevalimiento (164 CP).

[39] The FGR has since August 2013 operated a child disappearance reporting mechanism on Twitter called Ángel Desaparecido. It shows 220 girls and 204 boys reported as disappeared nationwide through May 2019. Researchers and reporters indicated to Human Rights Watch that gangs have used the mechanism to track down those who have offended them, and thus, an unknown number of families choose not to use it. It is likely for this reason–alongside impunity, a history of State persecution, and organized crime’s operation within the State–that in the departments of Morazán and Usulután, only one report was ever made to the site, despite at least some additional disappearances reported by the Salvadoran press. In San Vicente, only two reports were ever made, and in the departments of La Paz and La Unión, no reports were ever made. See “Disappeared Angel” (“Ángel Desaparecido”) Twitter page, https://twitter.com/alertaangelsv?lang=en (accessed January 17, 2020).

[40] Human Rights Watch searched 24 neighborhood names and four less-populous municipalities’ names, yielding 27,326 total results (each neighborhood yielded between 32 and 5,749 results, and each municipality yielded between 670 and 3,494 results). Because of time constraints, we reviewed just over 22,000 of them and note specific numbers for each neighborhood in text.

[41] The bulk of the 22,000 articles were summaries of the events (“sucesos”) of the day, which included homicides and arrests. In-depth pieces were written for some neighborhoods and these took significant time to read and summarize. For some neighborhoods—like Chaguantique—almost every result was relevant and ended up analyzed. For other neighborhoods—like Platanar—most results were relevant, but since it is the name of at least two other neighborhoods in different municipalities, we had to carefully focus on the relevant neighborhood where deportees were likely to live. Then, other neighborhoods—like Apaneca, San Francisco, Buena Vista—returned many irrelevant results, because they are such common names. But the only way for us to know that was to read them.

[42] This methodology produced a data set of media-reported incidents, which is different from a complete accounting of incidents. Moreover, these neighborhoods are probably the least likely to have complete reporting, as authorities and journalists alike told us gang members had prohibited their entry to homicide scenes in them, and journalists told us of police cordoning four or five blocks (so the press could not enter) scenes where they suspected authority participation.

[43] Thirty-seven decisions returned for “deportada,” most of them involving human trafficking but also other crimes like drug possession, extortion, fraud and homicide. For “deportado,” 223 decisions returned, only 44 of which were for human trafficking. The other crimes included arms distribution or possession, bodily harm, bribery, drug distribution or possession, extortion, feminicide, fraud, homicide, illicit association, kidnapping, rape, robbery, threats and usurpation.

[44] 1,508 links returned for “deportada,” and 2,259 links returned for “deportado.” Around 25 percent of links for both terms could not be opened. Articles ranged in subject matter from programming available to persons deported from Mexico and the United States, persons deported from other countries, like Nicaragua, persons seeking asylum or other legal relief in Canada and the United States, persons suspected to have committed a crime following a previous deportation, and persons disappeared or killed after deportation. Among the latter, one article documented the killing of a man most recently deported from Nicaragua (who was earlier deported from the United States), and two articles documented the murders of two men deported from Mexico.

[45] Multiple outlets covered some incidents with consistent but more or fewer details. Because we only identified articles for three women—one transgender, one disappeared after her deportation, and one killed after her stepson was deported—we also searched monthly summaries of news reports on girls or women by the Salvadoran Women’s Organization for Peace (Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz, ORMUSA), but found no additional mention of harm suffered after deportation from the US. For cases involving state actors as persecutors, Human Rights Watch also reviewed accompanying public pronouncements made by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and FGR and PNC on seven women and 65 men at their websites, on social media, and in news reports.

[46] Data from 2012-2017 obtained by Human Rights Watch via public information request submitted to DGME and received on October 24, 2018 (on file with Human Rights Watch); and 2018 data obtained by Human Rights Watch via public information request submitted to DGME and received on February 18, 2019 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[47] Anecdotally, such follow-up would facilitate better sampling for the type of investigation we have completed in this report. For example, while children constituted less than 1 percent–between 0.05 and 0.8 percent–of all individuals deported annually from the United States from 2012 to 2017, because they are the only subset of deportees who now require Salvadoran government follow-up, we recruited the largest percentage of child deportees of any subset.

[48] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Global Study on Homicide,” July 2019, https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/global-study-on-homicide.html (accessed October 23, 2019).

[49] Data obtained via public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office for crime incidence data throughout El Salvador, data on homicides between 2013-2017 were received November 9, 2018 and data on sexual crimes between 2013-2017 were received November 1, 2018. Homicide data for 2018 were received February 18, 2019, sexual crime data for 2018 were received February 25, 2019 (data on file with Human Rights Watch).

[50] See Nelson Rauda Zablah and Gabriela Cáceres, “PDDH: Police Executed 116 People Between 2014 and 2018” (“PDDH: La Policía ejecutó a 116 personas entre 2014 y 2018”), El Faro, August 28, 2019, https://elfaro.net/es/201908/el_salvador/23592/PDDH-La-Polic%C3%ADa-ejecut%C3%B3-a-116-personas-entre-2014-y-2018.htm?fbclid=IwAR3MMMKRWyebfe1kq8_qR_23R-MKzynnJJmvtrb4jvpc4CqwUbn8MTtp4xI (accessed January 17, 2020)(linking to report of Salvadoran Ombudsperson for the Defense of Human Rights [Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos], PDDH), “Special Report of the Ombudswoman for the Defense of Human Rights, Attorney Raquel Caballero de Guevara, about extralegal executions attributed to the National Civilian Police in El Salvador, period 2014-2018: Characterization of cases of violation of the right to life and patterns of extralegal action” (“Informe especial de la señora Procuradora para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, licenciada Raquel Caballero de Guevara, sobre las ejecuciones extralegales atribuidas a la Policía Nacional Civil, en El Salvador, periodo 2014-2018: Caracterización de casos de violación al derecho a la vida y patrones de actuación extralegal”) (hereinafter “PDDH Report”), August 2019, https://www.pddh.gob.sv/portal/file/index.php?dwfile=MjAxOS8xMC9JbmZvcm1... (accessed November 11, 2018).

[51] See Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “IACHR Presents Preliminary Observations of its On-site Visit to El Salvador” (“CIDH presenta observaciones preliminares de su visita in loco a El Salvador”), December 27, 2019, http://oas.org/es/cidh/prensa/comunicados/2019/335.asp (accessed January 12, 2020) (stating that “several civil society organizations expressed concern about the continuity of a security policy by the current Government with repressive emphasis, through the intervention of police and military forces. . . . According to the information received, there appear to be almost 13,000 military members in public security tasks. This is despite the precedent of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court that established that military members should not participate in public security. In this regard, the IACHR was informed that the new Government has initiated a process of broad recruitment of the Armed Forces to carry out citizen security tasks.”); and The National Civilian Police (“Policía Nacional Civil”) “One Month After the Territorial Control Plan Was Implemented, the Police reported 2,031 arrests” (“A un mes de implementado el Plan Control Territorial, la Policía reporta 2,031 arrestos”), July 20, 2019, http://www.pnc.gob.sv/portal/page/portal/informativo/novedades/noticias/A%20un%20mes%20de%20implementado%20el%20Plan%20Control%20Territorial%20la%20Poli#.XhuFm8hKg2w (accessed January 12, 2020) (while discussing the operations of a unit called the “Fuerza Operativa Conjunta Antidelincuencial / Anticriminal” (FOCA) or the “joint anti-crime operational force” this press release states that in the initial phase of President Bukele’s security plan, the “combined security force between the police and armed forces in 17 municipalities” has dismantled illegal businesses and criminal structures relied upon by gangs and has blocked telephone communications around prisons).

[52] See United Nations, “Chapultepec Agreement” (“Acuerdo de Chapultapec”), January 16, 1992, https://peacemaker.un.org/elsalvador-chapultepec92 (accessed December 8, 2019) (noting that “immediate reaction infantry battalions will not be necessary in the new peace reality”); nevertheless, the PDDH report lists such units implicated in extrajudicial killings. President Bukele and previous administrations in El Salvador have declared a “State of Emergency” in El Salvador, which they argue justifies the use of military units in law enforcement, despite the fact that this is contrary to the peace agreements.

[53] See, for example, Hector Silva, “The Infiltrators: Chronicle of the Corruption in the Police of El Salvador” (“Los infiltrados: Crónica de la corrupción en la policía de El Salvador”), Insight Crime, February 20, 2014, https://es.insightcrime.org/investigaciones/los-infiltrados-cronica-de-la-corrupcion-en-la-policia-de-el-salvador/ (accessed January 17, 2020); Walter Sibrián, “IDHUCA Disapproves Appointment of New PNC Director for Having Led Police Groups Involved in Extrajudicial Executions” (“IDHUCA desaprueba nombramiento de nuevo director de PNC por haber dirigido grupos policiales implicados en ejecuciones extrajudiciales”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 6, 2019, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/IDHUCA-desaprueba-nombramiento-de-nuevo-director-de-PNC-por-haber-dirigido-grupos-policiales-implicados-en-ejecuciones-extrajudiciales--20190606-0413.html (accessed January 17, 2020); Diana Escalante, “IDHUCA Criticizes Appointment of Arriaza Chicas as Police Director” (“IDHUCA critica nombramiento de Arriaza Chicas como director de la Policía”), ElSalvador.com, June 6, 2019, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/idhuca-critica-nombramiento-de-arriaza-chicas-como-director-de-la-policia/610338/2019/ (accessed January 17, 2020); Leonor Arteaga, “Bukele’s Security Policy: the Regressive Side of the Millennial President?” (“La política de seguridad de Bukele: ¿el lado regresivo del presidente milenial?”), El Faro, July 4, 2019, https://elfaro.net/es/201907/columnas/23469/La-pol%C3%ADtica-de-segurida... (accessed January 17, 2020).

[54] Central American University Institute of Human Rights, “Press Releases,” http://www.uca.edu.sv/idhuca/noticias/comunicados-de-prensa/#more-587 (accessed January 18, 2020).

[55] See Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos”), Resolution 28/2019 “‘Key January’ and Family in Respect of El Salvador” (“‘Clave Enero’ y familia respecto de El Salvador”), June 11, 2019, https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/decisiones/pdf/2019/28-19MC542-19-ES.pdf (accessed November 20, 2019).

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Gaspar T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Walter T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018 (pseudonym).

[57] “Report on the Use and Abuse of Lethal Force in Latin America: A comparative study of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela,” (“Monitor del uso de la fuerza letal en América Latina: Un estudio comparativo de Brasil, Colombia, El Salvador, México y Venezuela”), August 2019, http://monitorfuerzaletal.com (accessed November 26, 2019)( The Lethal Force Use Monitor brings together researchers from 5 countries: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela. The participants jointly developed indicators to establish a series of unified tools to measure, analyze and compare the use of lethal force by the State across the 5 countries.).

[58] Rauda Zablah and Cáceres, “PDDH: Police Executed 116 People Between 2014 and 2018” (“PDDH: La Policía ejecutó a 116 personas entre 2014 y 2018”), El Faro, August 28, 2019, https://elfaro.net/es/201908/el_salvador/23592/PDDH-La-Polic%C3%ADa-ejec... (accessed January 21, 2020).

[59] Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, World Prison Brief, “El Salvador,” https://www.prisonstudies.org/country/el-salvador (accessed November 26, 2019).

[60] IML, “Violent Homicide Deaths Occurring in El Salvador in 2018” (“Practicados A Personas Fallecidas en Henchos de Violencia (Homicidios), Ocurridos en El Salvador en el año 2018”), http://www.transparencia.oj.gob.sv, (accessed November 25, 2019) (2018 data on file with Human Rights Watch).

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador's Eastern Region, March 24, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security) (pseudonym), November 26, 2018; and Human Rights Watch interview with Yavany B., El Salvador's Central Region, December 1, 2018 (pseudonym). See also, Sarah Esther Maslin, "How an Innocent Man Wound Up Dead in El Salvador's Justice System," Washington Post, March 16, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/how-an-innocent-man-wo... (accessed December 5, 2019).

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Ransés I., Tijuana, Mexico, March 8, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018 (pseudonym).

[63] United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, El Salvador End of Mission Statement, Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, February 5, 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22634&LangID=E (accessed June 16, 2019).

[64] Ibid.

[65] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “IACHR Presents Preliminary Observations of its On-site Visit to El Salvador” (“CIDH presenta observaciones preliminares de su visita in loco a El Salvador”), December 27, 2019, http://oas.org/es/cidh/prensa/comunicados/2019/335.asp (accessed January 12, 2020).

[66] “Salvadoran Commission Close to Resolving First Case of Disappearance in War” (“Comisión salvadoreña cerca de resolver primer caso de desaparición en guerra”), La Prensa Gráfica, August 31, 2019, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Comision-salvadorena-cerca-de-resolver-primer-caso-de-desaparicion-en-guerra-20190831-0264.html (accessed November 26, 2019).

[67] Mary Beth Sheridan and Anna-Catherine Brigida, “Disappeared in El Salvador: the Return of a Cold War Nightmare,”Washington Post, October 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/disappeared-in-el-salvador-amid-a-cold-war-nightmares-return-a-tale-of-one-body-and-three-grieving-families/2019/10/19/d806d19a-e09d-11e9-be7f-4cc85017c36f_story.html (accessed January 18, 2020).

[68] Government of El Salvador, Ministry of the Economy, “National Survey of Violence Against Women” (“Encuesta Nacional de Violencia Contra las Mujeres”), May 2018, http://aplicaciones.digestyc.gob.sv/observatorio.genero/docs/ENVCM%2017.pdf (accessed January 4, 2020).

[69] Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, “At Least 2,795 Women Were Victims of Femicide in 23 Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017,” November 15, 2018, https://www.cepal.org/en/pressreleases/eclac-least-2795-women-were-victims-femicide-23-countries-latin-america-and-caribbean (accessed January 4, 2017).

[70] Louise Donovan and Christina Asquith, “El Salvador Kills Women as the U.S. Shrugs,” Foreign Policy, March 7, 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/03/07/el-salvador-kills-women-as-the-us-shrugs/ (accessed January 4, 2020); Observatory of Gender-based Violence Against Women (“Observatorio de violencia de género contra las mujeres, ORMUSA”), “Impunity is One of the Main Premises in the Fight Against Violence Against Women, Only 5% of Cases Ends in Sentencing–ORMUSA Violence Report 2017-2018” (“La impunidad es una de las principales premisas en la lucha contra la violencia contra las mujeres, solo 5% de casos termina en sentencia–Informe Violencia ORMUSA 2017-2018”), June 2018, http://observatoriodeviolencia.ormusa.org/boletinas/2018-0506_BOLETINA_VG.pdf (accessed January 4, 2020).

[71] Human Rights Watch group interviews with LGBT Salvadorans in El Salvador, May 2019 and July 2019; in Washington, DC, December 2019; and in Los Angeles, December 2019.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Paula Rosales and Nelson Rentería, “Camila's Last Night, Trans Chased by Gangs and Killed by the Police” (“La última noche de Camila, trans perseguida por pandillas y asesinada por la Policía”), Presentes, December 5, 2019, http://agenciapresentes.org/2019/12/05/la-ultima-noche-de-camila-trans-perseguida-por-pandillas-y-asesinada-por-la-policia/ (accessed January 7, 2020).

[74] Oscar Lopez, “Pressure Mounts for El Salvador to Investigate Wave of LGBT+ Killings,” Reuters, November 21, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-el-salvador-lgbt-murder-trfn/pressure-mounts-for-el-salvador-to-investigate-wave-of-lgbt-killings-idUSKBN1XW01G (accessed January 18, 2020); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a representative of COMCAVIS TRANS, December 2019.

[75] Allison O’Connor, Jeanne Batalova, and Jessica Bolter, “Central American Immigrants in the United States,” Migration Policy Institute, August 15, 2019, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/central-american-immigrants-united-states (accessed August 24, 2019).

[76] United States Federal Register, “Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador,” October 31, 2018, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/10/31/2018-23892/continuation-of-documentation-for-beneficiaries-of-temporary-protected-status-designations-for-sudan?utm_campaign=subscription%20mailing%20list&utm_source=federalregister.gov&utm_medium=email (accessed November 26, 2019).

[77] United States Federal Register, “Continuation of Documentation for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status Designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan,” November 4, 2019, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/04/2019-24047/continuation-of-documentation-for-beneficiaries-of-temporary-protected-status-designations-for-el (accessed November 26, 2019).

[78] As discussed in the methodology section, the sources for this claim are: Human Rights Watch review of 3,840 links with mentions of the word “deportada/o” in 14 Salvadoran news outlets; Human Rights Watch interviews with directly impacted individuals; Human Rights Watch interviews with officials who go to crime scenes, officials who receive victims of crime and recently-returned migrants, and Salvadoran criminal sentencing Tribunal decisions. Using these sources, we had also identified cases of killings of deportees going back as far as 2003; but we have not included those in our count, using 2013 as the cut off for recency and related reasons.

[79] Even under existing US asylum law, Salvadorans and others face major barriers to receiving fair consideration of the risks they face if returned to their countries of origin.

[80] Interviews with 41 officials from the FGR, IML, PNC and OLAV in nine departments, El Salvador, November 2018 to December 2019.

[81] Criminal Sentencing Tribunal, Santa Tecla, March 13, 2014 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[82] José Luis Sanz and Carlos Martínez, “The Letter 13” (“La letra 13”), El Faro, August 8, 2012, https://salanegra.elfaro.net/es/201208/cronicas/9302/II-La-letra-13.htm (accessed January 6, 2019); Óscar Martínez and Juan Martínez, “The Thorn in the Mara Salvatrucha” (“La espina de la Mara Salvatrucha”), El Faro, March 3, 2014, https://salanegra.elfaro.net/es/201403/cronicas/14879/La-espina-de-la-Mara-Salvatrucha.htm (accessed January 6, 2019); José Luis Sanz and Carlos Martínez, “The Revolution in Mariona” (“La Revolución en Mariona”),” El Faro, October 25, 2011, http://www.salanegra.elfaro.net/es/201110/cronicas/5917/ (accessed January 6, 2019); Roberto Valencia, “The Last Interview with El Directo” (“La ultima entrevista con El Directo”), El Faro, September 9, 2013, https://salanegra.elfaro.net/es/201309/entrevistas/13232/La-última-entrevista-con-El-Directo.htm (accessed January 6, 2019); and Efrén Lemus, “Purges in the MS-13 Leadership Over Money” (“Purgas en la cúpula de la MS-13 por dinero”), El Faro, August 9, 2016, https://elfaro.net/es/201608/salanegra/19066/Purgas-en-la-cúpula-de-la-MS-13-por-dinero.htm, (accessed January 6, 2019).

[83] Criminal Sentencing Tribunal, Santa Tecla, March 13, 2014 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with El Salvador-based researcher, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 10, 2018.

[85] Criminal Sentencing Tribunal, Santa Tecla, April 18, 2017 (on file with Human Rights Watch); Criminal Sentencing Tribunal, Santa Tecla, March 25, 2015 (on file with Human Rights Watch); Criminal Sentencing Tribunal, Santa Tecla, November 13, 2008 (on file with Human Rights Watch); and Criminal Sentencing Tribunal, Chalatenango, August 31, 2006 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[86] Criminal Sentencing Tribunal, Santa Tecla, July 11, 2016 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[87] Criminal Sentencing Tribunal, San Miguel, January 24, 2007 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with Elías F., United States East Coast, winter 2019 (location and exact date withheld for security) (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interviews with two Salvadoran journalists, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 9, 2018; Human Rights Watch interviews with two expert academics on security, gangs, and migration, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 10, 2018.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Enrico X., (location withheld for security), 2019 (date withheld for security) (pseudonym). US Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, In re (name withheld for security), (location withheld for security) Immigration Court, (date withheld for security).

[90] Human Rights Watch interview with (name withheld for security), (location withheld for security), 2019 (date withheld for security).

[91] US Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, In re (name withheld for security), (location withheld for security) Immigration Court, (date withheld for security).

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with PNC, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, November 5, 2018.

[93] The different delegations did not respond consistently to Human Rights Watch’s question about whether they had access to lists of deportees confirming crimes committed in the United States. Some said they could, some said they could not, and some said only those police investigators cleared beyond a certain level could.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with police commissioner, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, November 5, 2018.

[95] Ibid.

[96] United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, El Salvador End of Mission Statement, Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, February 5, 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22634&LangID=E (accessed June 16, 2019); “Report on the Use and Abuse of Lethal Force in Latin America: A comparative study of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela” (“Monitor del uso de la fuerza letal en América Latina: Un estudio comparativo de Brasil, Colombia, El Salvador, México y Venezuela”), August 2019, http://monitorfuerzaletal.com (accessed November 26, 2019), pp. 80-95; “Special Report of the Ombudswoman for the Defense of Human Rights, Attorney Raquel Caballero de Guevara, about extralegal executions attributed to the National Civilian Police in El Salvador, period 2014-2018: Characterization of cases of violation of the right to life and patterns of extralegal action” (“Informe especial de la señora Procuradora para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, licenciada Raquel Caballero de Guevara, sobre las ejecuciones extralegales atribuidas a la Policía Nacional Civil, en El Salvador, periodo 2014-2018: Caracterización de casos de violación al derecho a la vida y patrones de actuación extralegal”), August 2019, https://www.pddh.gob.sv/portal/file/index.php?dwfile=MjAxOS8xMC9JbmZvcm1... (accessed November 11, 2019).

[97] "Two Soldiers Killed in Front of SITRAMSS Station” (“Matan a dos soldados frente a estación del SITRAMSS”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 22, 2015, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Matan-a-dos-soldados-frente-a... (accessed November 12, 2019).

[98] “San Miguel Deportee was Killed While He Was Waiting for a US Migratory Pardon” (“Migueleño deportado fue asesinado mientras esperaba perdón migratorio de EUA”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 29, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Migueleno-deportado-fue-asesi... (accessed on June 22, 2019)

[99] Ibid.

[100]  Gadiel Castillo, “Man Killed in Santa Elena Worked at a Call Center” (“Hombre asesinado en Santa Elena trabajaba en call center”), El Diario de Hoy, August 4, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/familia-identifica-a-hombre... (accessed November 10, 2019).

[101]  Ibid.

[102]  Ibid.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with José Miguel C., El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, March 29, 2019 (pseudonym).

[104] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with PNC Officer, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, October 2, 2019.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview with Irene J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonym). Human Rights Watch also interviewed Adriana’s cousin Matías J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonym).

[106] Mirella Cáceres and David Marroquín, “Police and Family Seek Asylum in USA After Being Attacked by Gang Members in Chalatenango" (“Policía y familia piden asilo en EE.UU. luego de ser atacados por pandilleros en Chalatenango”), El Diario de Hoy, May 18, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/policia-y-familia-piden-asilo-en-ee-uu-luego-de-emboscada/482369/2018/ (accessed July 1, 2019).

[107] Ibid.

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with Jacinto K., El Salvador’s Central Region, April 4, 2014 (pseudonym).

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with Óscar K., El Salvador’s Central Region, April 4, 2014 (pseudonym).

[110] Human Rights Watch interview with Óscar K., El Salvador’s Central Region, April 4, 2014 (pseudonym).

[111] Human Rights Watch Facebook online messenger correspondence with Óscar K., El Salvador, March 22, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch Facebook online messenger correspondence with Óscar K., El Salvador, June 10, 2019 (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with Óscar K., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), December 2019 (date withheld for security) (pseudonym).

[112] These 106 cases are documented in 219 articles reviewed by Human Rights Watch, most commonly appearing in the following Salvadoran print / online outlets: La Prensa Gráfica, El Diario de Hoy, Diario1, La Pagina, and El Blog. (All articles are on file with Human Rights Watch).

[113] We also cut cases from our final count when it appeared the person had decided to voluntarily return to El Salvador without having had any contact with US immigration authorities. In one case reported by the press, we included an individual who was shot in 2018 by police seven years after his deportation in 2010 because his first experience of police harassment occurred soon after his deportation to El Salvador. For fifteen cases reported by the press that we did not include in our final tally, the date of deportation was not reported.

[114] When interviewing officials or directly impacted persons, if our questions caused us to uncover a case in which a person had been deported from Mexico or another country, we eliminated that case from our total count. For the cases documented through press searches, six deportees had no information about the country from which they were deported, therefore we eliminated these from our total count. In one case we included in our final count, some accounts reported the individual was deported from the United States, and others indicated Mexico.

[115] These 27 cases could not be corroborated in print media accounts. Authorities and reporters alike told us the press could not attend all homicide scenes, especially those in particularly dangerous neighborhoods where gang members or authorities would not let them enter or isolated rural areas they could not quickly reach. This has become even more applicable in recent years, as Salvadoran outlets have seen their budgets and staff decrease. Among the 10 cases we documented from 2016 to 2018 in interviews with directly impacted individuals, two occurred in areas that gang members or authorities had not let press enter at times, one occurred in an isolated rural area, and two occurred in an isolated rural area where gang members or authorities had previously prevented press from entering. Among the six unreported cases we documented from 2012 to 2015 in interviews with directly impacted individuals, one occurred in an isolated rural area, and one occurred in a particularly dangerous neighborhood. All 11 unreported cases documented in criminal sentencing tribunals occurred in an isolated rural area or particularly dangerous neighborhood, as well as having a day or more lapse between the killing and body discovery in more than half of the cases.

[116] “Deportee Dies in Shootout with El Salvador’s Special Reaction Force” (“Deportado muere en tiroteo con FES”), La Prensa Gráfica, July 4, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Deportado-muere-en-tiroteo-con-FES-20170704-0103.html (accessed June 23, 2019); David Marroquín and Insy Mendoza, “Two Children Attacked by Gang Members for Defending Their Mother from Rape” (“Dos ninos agredidos por mareros al defender a su madre de violación”), El Diario de Hoy, February 27, 2013, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/dos-ninos-agredidos-por-mareros-al-defender-a-su-madre-de-violacion/102064/2013/ (accessed 23 June 2019); “Armed Group Kills MS13 Deportee and Exconvict in Sonsonate" (“Grupo armado asesina a deportado y exconvicto de la MS13 en Sonsonate”), Diario1, January 12, 2019, http://diario1.com/nacionales/2019/01/grupo-armado-asesina-a-deportado-y-exconvicto-de-la-ms13-en-sonsonate/ (accessed June 22, 2019); “San Miguel Deportee Was Killed While He Was Waiting for a US Migratory Pardon” (“Migueleño deportado fue asesinado mientras esperaba perdón migratorio de EUA”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 29, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Migueleno-deportado-fue-asesinado-mientras-esperaba-perdon-migratorio-de-EUA-20170629-0048.html (accessed June 22, 2019); “Two Massacres Leave 10 Gang Members Dead in Usulután” (“Dos masacres dejan 10 pandilleros muertos en Usulután), La Prensa Gráfica, May 10, 2015, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Dos-masacres-dejan-10-pandilleros-muertos-en-Usulutan-20150510-0023.html (accessed June 23, 2019); and Claudia Huete and Liz Aguirre, “Habitants of Olocuilta Neighborhood Dismayed by Massacre” (“Habitantes de colonia en Olocuilta consternados por masacre”), La Prensa Gráfica, May 2, 2010, (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[117] See “Special Report of the Ombudswoman for the Defense of Human Rights, Attorney Raquel Caballero de Guevara, about extralegal executions attributed to the National Civilian Police in El Salvador, period 2014-2018: Characterization of cases of violation of the right to life and patterns of extralegal action” (“Informe especial de la señora Procuradora para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, licenciada Raquel Caballero de Guevara, sobre las ejecuciones extralegales atribuidas a la Policía Nacional Civil, en El Salvador, periodo 2014-2018: Caracterización de casos de violación al derecho a la vida y patrones de actuación extralegal”), August 2019, https://www.pddh.gob.sv/portal/file/index.php?dwfile=MjAxOS8xMC9JbmZvcm1... (accessed November 11, 2018). Twelve of the 48 cases–in which 25 persons were killed–the PDDH reviewed for its report occurred in La Paz department, all of them in rural areas, including in the municipalities of: El Rosario, Paraíso de Osorio, San Luis Talpa, San Pedro Masahuat, San Pedro Nonualco, Santiago Nonualco, and Zacatecoluca.

[118] We did identify 20 cases in which press descriptions of the victims, killings, and their aftermath included details that could be consistent with the activities of death squads; such as: previously witnessed police commit a crime; alleged perpetrators wearing ski masks / dark clothing / large weapons / bullet-proof vests; police locate victim minutes after family reports disappearance; one of several killings of similar victims (young males) in same geographic area. Human Rights Watch review of 39 articles appearing in Salvadoran media outlets such as La Prensa Gráfica, Diario1, El Blog, Solo Noticias, La Pagina, El Mundo, and Diario Libre SV. (All articles on file with Human Rights Watch.)

[119] “Massacre in Armenia” (“Masacre en Armenia”), ContraPunto, September 23, 2013, http://www.contrapunto.com.sv/archivo2016/ultimas-noticias/ultimas-noticias/blog/page-69 (accessed November 9, 2019); “Quadruple Homicide in Armenia Neighborhood” (“Cuádruple homicidio en cantón de Armenia”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 23, 2013, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Cuadruple-homicidio-en-canton-de-Armenia-20130923-0091.html (accessed November 9, 2019); Jaime López, Miguel Villalta, and Iris Lima, “Triple Murder on Sonsonate Soccer Field” (“Triple asesinato en una cancha de Sonsonate”), El Diario de Hoy, September 22, 2013, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/113652/triple-asesinato-en-una-cancha-de-sonsonate.html (accessed November 9, 2019); Diana Escalante, Lissette Monterrosa, and Miguel Villalta, “Gang Members Armed with M-16’s Shoot Down Three Brothers in Jiquilisco” (“Pandilleros armados con fusiles M-16 acribillaron a tres hermanos en Jiquilisco”), El Diario de Hoy, September 26, 2015, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/160540/pandilleros-armados-con-fusiles-m-16-acribillaron-a-tres-hermanos-en-jiquilisco.html (accessed November 12, 2019); and “Armed Attack Leaves Two Dead and One Injured in San Bartolomé Perulapia” (“Ataque armado deja dos muertos y un herido en San Bartolomé Perulapia”), Diario1, September 5, 2017, http://diario1.com/nacionales/2017/09/ataque-armado-deja-dos-muertos-y-un-herido-en-san-bartolome-perulapia/ (accessed November 11, 2019).

[120] See tweet from PNC Chief Howard Augosto Cotto’s Twitter page, https://twitter.com/Cotto100/status/1046763344286416896 (accessed December 3, 2019).

[121] Human Rights Watch interviews with 41 officials in nine departments at local district attorney, forensic investigators, and police officers who work in homicide scenes and participate in both crime investigations and hearings.

[122] Human Rights Watch interview with PNC investigator, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 24, 2019; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with PNC high ranking official, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, September 26, 2019. Human Rights Watch established that local police get lists of deportees suspected to be gang members (and possibly others), so police may check such lists to see if the victim matches the description of one of the persons on their list.

[123] Fifty-three articles out of 220 reporting killings of deportees from the United States reviewed by Human Rights Watch, most commonly appearing in the following Salvadoran print / online outlets: La Prensa Gráfica, El Diario de Hoy, Diario1, La Pagina, and El Blog. (All articles are on file with Human Rights Watch).

[124] For non-homicide crimes, FGR officials believe they do a thorough enough interview that migration status would likely emerge, telling Human Rights Watch: “We almost always ask [domestic, sexual and intrafamilial violence victims] about their situation. We do sometimes learn their migration status.” Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 26, 2018. However, they also believe the majority of such victims do not report these crimes to them, saying: “Because of fear, there’s a good percentage who do not report. They are intimidated by [the abuser] being her own dad, uncle, etc. A large quantity does not [report].” Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 26, 2018. Two other FGR officials did note collecting migration status would be possible and easy, based upon other components now collected that were not in the past. One said they had not collected if a person was LGBT in the past but do now. Another said they did not previously collect a person’s profession in extortion cases but do now, even going so far as to say: “For us, it is no more than putting a check. It would be easy and fast.” Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 7, 2019.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 6, 2018.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 22, 2019.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with police commissioner, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, November 5, 2018.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with IML doctor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 22, 2019.

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with José Miguel C., El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, March 29, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Óscar K., El Salvador’s Central Region, April 4, 2014 (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with Estefanie H., El Salvador’s Central Region, April 15, 2014 (pseudonym).

[130] See methodology section for a more detailed discussion of why each of these categories represents a possible undercount.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with Irene J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonym). Because articles only returned for two women–one disappeared after her deportation and one killed after her stepson was deported–we also searched monthly summaries of news reports on girls or women by ORMUSA. ORMUSA has monitored mentions of girls and women in the Salvadoran printed press since 2007 and publishes monthly summaries of the results at their website, http://observatoriodeviolencia.ormusa.org/monitoreos.php.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with Irene J. and Matías J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonyms); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ana P., United States Mountain West, March 5, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with high-ranking PNC officer, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 26, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with PNC investigator, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, March 25, 2019; and Human Rights Watch interview with IML investigator, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 7, 2019.

[133] Human Rights Watch interview with IML investigator, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 7, 2019.

[134] Since each source type yielded cases that did not fully overlap with any other source type, we know that each of the four sources is incomplete. When we asked official sources (PNC, FGR, IML, etc.) about limitations on their information, each was able to describe limitations as to why their data on killings of US deportees is likely incomplete. For further discussion of this issue, see the methodology section of this report.

[135] The newspaper, La Prensa Gráfica, surveys a representative sample (approximately 1,200 households) of the country several times a year. During their February 2017 survey, they asked respondents if someone in their family was a victim of a crime in the last three months. Fourteen percent of respondents with a margin of error between 2.2 and 2.5 percent, with 95 percent confidence said someone had been, working out to an extrapolated 868,000 members of the general population every quarter; extrapolating this figure to the year at nearly 3.5 million would be incorrect, because some victims experience crime across quarters. Regardless, during 2016, the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office (FGR) initiated only 14,162 cases. The number of crimes being investigated by the Attorney General’s office clearly make up a small fraction of even the most conservative estimate of the total offenses. See Edwin Segura, “The San Salvador Metropolitan Area Remains the Most Dangerous Region” (“El AMSS se mantiene como la región mas peligrosa”), La Prensa Gráfica, March 13, 2017, http://www.laprensagrafica.com/2017/03/13/el-amss-se-mantiene-como-la-region-mas-peligrosa. While not reported in this article, Human Rights Watch obtained the margin of error from the study’s authors. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with La Prensa Gráfica staff, October 30, 2019.

[136] See University Institute of Public Opinion, (“Instituto Universitario de Opinión Pública, IUDOP”), “Press Bulletin” (“Boletin de prensa año XXXII, No. 4, 2018”), IUDOP included in its 2018 survey this question: “Have you been a direct victim of some type of incident like a robbery, extortion or renta, threats or other criminal act during the year?” (“¿Ha sido usted víctima directa de algun hecho como robo, extorsión o renta, amenazas o de otro acto delincuencial durante el año?”) In response to this question, 1 percent of those who responded affirmatively specified they had been raped or sexually assaulted. Assuming a population of 6.5 million, 1 percent would extrapolate to roughly 65,000 rape or sexual assault victims. In 2018, the Salvadoran prosecutor’s office, FGR, documented 3,149 reports of sexual crimes, which is 4.8 percent of 65,000.

[137] See Mary Beth Sheridan and Anna-Catherine Brigida, “Disappeared in El Salvador: the Return of a Cold War Nightmare,” Washington Post, October 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/disappeared-in-el-salvador-amid-a-cold-war-nightmares-return-a-tale-of-one-body-and-three-grieving-families/2019/10/19/d806d19a-e09d-11e9-be7f-4cc85017c36f_story.html.

[138] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran journalist, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 9, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran journalist, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 8, 2018.

[139] Young Dancer who Lived in Las Palmas Community Found Dead” (“Encuentran muerta a joven bailarina que vivía en Comunidad Las Palmas”), El Diario de Hoy, July 17, 2017, (article on file with Human Rights Watch); “25 People Have Disappeared This Year” (“25 privados de libertad van este año en Usulután”), La Prensa Gráfica, March 3, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/25-privados-de-libertad-van-este-ano-en-Usulutan-20140303-0116.html (accessed October 11, 2019); “’My Husband Went to Pay Installments to a Store and Did Not Return’” (“’Mi esposo fue a pagar a unas letras a un almacén y ya no regresó’”), El Blog, June 22, 2017, http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-43551.html (accessed October 11, 2019); Flor Lazo, “Relief Teams Search for Missing Man” (“Cuerpos de socorro buscan a hombre extraviado”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 17, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Cuerpos-de-socorro-buscan-a-hombre-extraviado-20170917-0028.html (accessed October 11, 2019); Jaime López, “Youth Arrived to El Salvador from the United States and Disappeared in Sensuntepeque” (“Joven llegó a El Salvador de EE.UU. y desapareció en Sensuntepeque”), ElSalvador.com, September 23, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/joven-llego-a-el-salvador-de-ee-uu-y-desaparecio-en-sensuntepeque/521291/2018/ (accessed October 11, 2019). 

[140] Israel Serrano, “Deliveryman of ‘Nash’ Died After Falling in a Ravine Road to La Libertad” (“Repartidor de ‘Nash’ murió al caer en barranco carretera a La Libertad”), La Pagina, January 1, 2013 (article on file with Human Rights Watch); David Ernesto Perez, “They Murdered an Opposing Gang Member and Now They Have to Face Jail” (“Asesinaron a un marero del bando contrario y ahora tendrán que enfrentar cárcel”), La Pagina, February 18, 2013 (article on file with Human Rights Watch); “Man is Killed with a Stone in the Canton of El Jute” (“Asesinan a hombre con una piedra en el cantón El Jute”), La Prensa Gráfica, January 12, 2013, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Asesinan-a-hombre-con-una-piedra-en-el-canton-El-Jute-20130112-0080.html (accessed October 11, 2019); “Man Murdered on Boulevard Antiguo Cuscatlán Was Going to Visit His Son, but Car Was Left” (“Hombre asesinado en bulevar de Antiguo Cuscatlán iba a visitar a su hijo, pero se le quedó el carro”) El Blog, August 4, 2018; “Propane Gas Deliveryman Murdered in Lourdes Colón” (“Asesinan a repartidor de gas propano en Lourdes Colón”), Diario Libre, June 29, 2017, https://diariolibresv.com/nacionales/2017/06/29/asesinan-repartidor-gas-propano-lourdes-colon/ (accessed October 11, 2019); Kevin Sieff, “When Death Awaits Deported Asylum Seekers,” Washington Post, December 26, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/when-death-awaits-deported-asylum-seekers/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.da4d1269d863 (accessed October 11, 2019); Jaime García, “Saleswoman, Taxi Driver and Newborn, Among Those Killed Today” (“Vendedora, taxista y recién nacida, entre los asesinados hoy”), ElSalvador.com, September 9, 2015,  https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/162636/vendedora-taxista-y-recien-nacida-entre-los-asesinados-hoy.html (accessed October 11, 2019); “Body of Person Reported Missing Found in Santo Domingo de Guzmán” (“Encuentran cadáver de persona reportada como desaparecida en Santo Domingo de Guzmán”), La Prensa Gráfica, April 22, 2015, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Encuentran-cadaver-de-persona-reportada-como-desaparecida-en-Santo-Domingo-de-Guzman-20150422-0034.html (accessed October 11, 2019); “Missing Person Found Dead” (“Encuentran muerto a desaparecido”), La Prensa Gráfica, April 23, 2015, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Encuentran-muerto-a-desaparecido-20150423-0089.html (accessed October 11, 2019); Lilibeth Sánchez and Óscar Iraheta, “Route 42 Minibus Fare Collector Killed During Violent Day” (“Asesinan a un cobrador de microbuses de la Ruta 42 durante jornada violenta”), El Diario Hoy, April 16, 2013,  https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/104614/asesinan-a-un-cobrador-de-microbuses-de-la-ruta-42-durante-jornada-violenta.html (accessed October 11, 2019); Héctor Rivas, “Man and His Stepson Killed with AK-47” (“Matan a hombre y a su hijastro con fusil AK-47”), La Prensa Gráfica, January 28, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Matan-a-hombre-y-a-su-hijastro-con-fusil-AK-47-20180127-0070.html (accessed October 11, 2019); Human Rights Watch interview with immigration attorney, United States East Coast, February 22, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with Gaspar T. and Walter T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonyms); Criminal Sentencing Tribunal Decision, La Unión, January 13, 2016 (on file with Human Rights Watch); Human Rights Watch interview with Yaneth D., United States South, March 13, 2019 (pseudonym). As noted, these 13 cases of disappearances also appear in our total count of killings of deportees, above.

[141] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “Óscar Álvarez Rubio Regarding El Salvador” (“Óscar Álvarez Rubio respecto de El Salvador”), May 3, 2018, https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/decisiones/pdf/2018/26-18MC170-18-ES.pdf (accessed January 18, 2020).

[142] Human Rights Watch interview with IML investigators, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 22, 2019.

[143] United States Department of State, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/ (accessed January 18, 2020).

[144] For example, in searches we did of 24 neighborhoods and four less-populous municipalities that yielded roughly 22,000 articles, only 27 articles (0.1 percent) mentioned sexual crimes. Thirteen neighborhoods returned no results. Seven returned only one result. None returned more than six results.

[145] Criminal Sentencing Tribunal Decision, La Unión, January 13, 2016 (on file with Human Rights Watch) (this case is also counted in the total for deportees who were killed; as well as deportees who were disappeared before being killed). Among the 13 homicides documented in criminal sentencing tribunal decisions, one was killed by removing his testicles and penis.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Central Region, March 26, 2019.

[147] Human Rights Watch interview with Inés Z., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, March 24, 2019 (pseudonym).

[148] Human Rights Watch interview with Angelina N., United States East Coast, February 22, 2019 (pseudonym).

[149] US Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, In re Matter of (name withheld for security), (date withheld for security), (ruling on file with Human Rights Watch). Human Rights Watch interview with Angelina N., United States East Coast, February 22, 2019 (pseudonym).

[150] ibid.

[151] Ibid.

[152] Human Rights Watch interview with Angelina N., United States East Coast, February 22, 2019 (pseudonym).

[153] US Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, In re Matter of (name withheld for security), (date withheld for security), (ruling on file with Human Rights Watch) and Human Rights Watch interview with Angelina N., United States East Coast, February 22, 2019 (pseudonym).

[154] Ibid.

[155] Ibid.

[156] Ibid.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Gaspar T., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, May 21, 2019 (pseudonym).

[158] Human Rights Watch written communication with Bartolo A., January 6, 2019 (pseudonym).

[159] Criminal Sentencing Tribunal decision, San Francisco Gotera, Department of Morazán, December 8, 2014 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[160] Criminal Sentencing Tribunal decision, San Miguel, El Salvador, April 6, 2017 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[161] Human Rights Watch interview with Bernardo A., El Salvador’s Central Region, January 25, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Nelson E., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), January 26, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security) (pseudonym), November 26, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with José Miguel C., El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, March 29, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Gabriel G., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), March 23, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Santiago U., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 28, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch WhatsApp text message correspondence with Yeshua O., El Salvador’s Central Region, June 20, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Walter T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Gaspar T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Paloma V., telephone communication, United States East Coast, June 17, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch Facebook online messenger correspondence with Óscar K., El Salvador’s Central Region, June 10, 2019 (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with Irene J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonym).

[162] Human Rights Watch interview with Angelina N., United States East Coast, February 22, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Inés Z., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, April 7, 2019 (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with Irene J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonym).

[163] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Helio L., United States Mountain West, July 1, 2019 (pseudonym); David Marroquín, “Three Detained After Attack and Persecution” (“Tres detenidos tras ataque y persecución”), El Diario de Hoy, January 17, 2013, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/100235/tres-detenidos-tras-ataque-y-persecucion.html (accessed November 9, 2019); and “Presumed Gang Members Injure Man in Ciudad Delgado” (“Presuntos pandilleros lesionan a hombre en Ciudad Delgado”), La Prensa Gráfica, May 13, 2013, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Presuntos-pandilleros-lesionan-a-hombre-en-Ciudad-Delgado-20130513-0041.html (accessed November 9, 2019).

[164] Human Rights Watch interview with Elías F., United States (region withheld for security), 2019 (exact date withheld for security) (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Jacinto K. and Óscar K., El Salvador’s Central Region, April 4, 2014 (pseudonyms); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Helio L., United States Mountain West, July 1, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos P., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 27, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Angelina N., United States East Coast, February 22, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 5, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with OLAV, El Salvador’s Central Region, January 11, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with PNC investigator, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019; “Four Gang Members Killed in Usulután and La Libertad” (“Matan a cuatro pandilleros en Usulután y La Libertad”), La Pagina, June 9, 2014 (on file with Human Rights Watch); Lilibeth Sánchez and Diana Escalante, “Police Register 32 Murders Between Friday and Sunday” (“Policía registro 32 asesinatos entre el viernes y el domingo”), El Diario de Hoy, June 9, 2014, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/129747/policia-registro-32-asesinatos-entre-el-viernes-y-el-domingo.html (accessed November 9, 2019); David Marroquín, “2,841 Murders Registered on the Year, with 297 in September” (“Registran 2,841 asesinatos en el año, septiembre con 297 homicidios”), El Diario de Hoy, September 29, 2014, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/registran-2841-asesinatos-en-el-ano-septiembre-con-297-homicidios/136337/2014/ (accessed 21 June 2019); “Two Soldiers Killed in Front of SITRAMSS Station” (“Matan a dos soldados frente a estación del SITRAMSS”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 22, 2015, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Matan-a-dos-soldados-frente-a-estacion-del-SITRAMSS-20150622-0044.html (accessed November 12, 2019); and José Napoleón Morales, “Suspected Gang Members Kill a Man and Injure His Wife” (“Supuestos pandilleros asesinan a un hombre y hieren de bala a su esposa”), La Pagina, June 22, 2015 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[165] Human Rights Watch interview with Karina I., United States West Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Jacinto K. and Óscar K., El Salvador’s Central Region, April 4, 2014 (pseudonyms); Human Rights Watch interview with Yaneth D., United States South, March 13, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Jennifer B., United States East Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with PNC investigator, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019; Jenny Ventura, Jaime López and Diana Escalante, “Nine-year-old Girl Found Murdered” (“Encuentran asesinada a niña de 9 años”), El Diario de Hoy, January 4, 2015, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/143432/encuentran-asesinada-a-nina-de-9-anos.html (accessed November 12, 2019); Wilmer Lizama, “Double Homicide Registered in Moncagua, San Miguel” (“Registran doble homicidio en Moncagua, San Miguel”), El Mundo, June 16, 2017, https://elmundo.sv/registran-doble-homicidio-en-moncagua-san-miguel/ (accessed June 10, 2019); “Three Farmers Killed in Moncagua” (“Asesinan en Moncagua a tres agricultores”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 17, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Asesinan-en-Moncagua-a-tres-agricultores-20170617-0090.html (accessed November 11, 2019); Jorge Beltrán, “Why is There So Much Violence in Just One Neighborhood Called ‘El Platanar’ in El Salvador?” (“¿Por que hay tanta violencia en un solo cantón llamado ‘El Platanar’ en El Salvador?”), El Diario de Hoy, July 15, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/un-infierno-llamado-el-platanar/500528/2018/ (accessed November 11, 2019); “Two Soldiers Killed in Front of SITRAMSS Station” (“Matan a dos soldados frente a estación del SITRAMSS”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 22, 2015, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Matan-a-dos-soldados-frente-a... (accessed November 12, 2019); and José Napoleón Morales, “Suspected Gang Members Kill a Man and Injure his Wife” (“Supuestos pandilleros asesinan a un hombre y hieren de bala a su esposa”), La Pagina, June 22, 2015 (on file with Human Rights Watch); David Marroquín, “2,841 Murders Registered on the Year, with 297 in September” (“Registran 2,841 asesinatos en el año, septiembre con 297 homicidios”), El Diario de Hoy, September 29, 2014, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/registran-2841-asesinatos-e... (accessed June 21, 2019); “Four Gang Members Killed in Usulután and La Libertad” (“Matan a cuatro pandilleros en Usulután y La Libertad”) La Pagina, June 9, 2014 (on file with Human Rights Watch); Lilibeth Sánchez and Diana Escalante, “Police Register 32 Murders Between Friday and Sunday” (“Policía registro 32 asesinatos entre el viernes y el domingo”), El Diario de Hoy, June 9, 2014, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/129747/policia-registro-32-asesinatos-entre-el-viernes-y-el-domingo.html (accessed November 9, 2019); David Marroquín, “Three Detained After Attack and Persecution” (“Tres detenidos tras ataque y persecución”), El Diario de Hoy, January 17, 2013, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/100235/tres-detenidos-tras-ataque-y-persecucion.html (accessed November 9, 2019).

[166] Human Rights Watch interview with Karina I., United States West Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch Facebook online messenger correspondence with Óscar K., El Salvador’s Central Region, June 10, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Yaneth D., United States South, March 13, 2019 (pseudonym), and Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jennifer B., United States East Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym).

[167] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jennifer B., United States East Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym).

[168] Human Rights Watch interview Alexander N., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018 (pseudonym).

[169] As many as 296,000 new displacements occur a year. See Vickie Knox, “An Atomised Crisis: Reframing Displacement Caused by Crime and Violence in El Salvador,” Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, September 2018, http://www.internal-displacement.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/201809-el-salvador-an-atomised-crisis-en.pdf (accessed 21 August 2019).

[170] United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, El Salvador End of Mission Statement, Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, February 5, 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22634&... (accessed June 16, 2019).

[171] Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 5, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 6, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with social worker to internally displaced children and families for international non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 29, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with aid director for internally displaced persons for international non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, December 4, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with aid workers to internally displaced persons for national non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, December 4, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with OLAV, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 23, 2019; and Human Rights Watch interview with aid director for persons deported from Mexico and the United States for international non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, 28 March 2019. The profiles these organizations told us they could not attend are: persons who have participated in crimes against gang members, families who have a relative in a gang, and those who were deported three or more years earlier.

[172] Every two years, the Central American University (UCA) Institute of Public Opinion (IUDOP) surveys a representative sample of the Salvadoran population about a range of issues. In 2016, IUDOP asked respondents if someone had to change their residence in the past year (a separate portion of the question asked about migration outside of El Salvador). We multiplied the adult population of El Salvador in 2016 (5,800,000) by the 4.9 percent of respondents who answered affirmatively that they had to change their residence inside El Salvador during the past year. It is important to note that our estimate of 285,000 people displaced includes only adults. In addition, the margin of error for this question in the survey is 2.3, which means as few as 2.6 percent and as many as 7.2 percent may represent the true proportion. See IUDOP, “Evaluation Survey of 2016 and the Peace Accords” (“Encuesta de evaluación del año2016 y sobre los Acuerdos de Paz”), http://www.uca.edu.sv/iudop/wp-content/uploads/INFORME-141.pdf (accessed October 24, 2019).

[173] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabriel G. and his wife, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), March 23, 2019 (pseudonym).

[174] Individuals who fought against the military-led Salvadoran government forces during El Salvador’s civil war.

[175] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabriel G. and his wife, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), March 23, 2019 (pseudonym).

[176] Human Rights Watch interview with Gabriel G., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), December 15, 2019 (pseudonym).

[177] Ibid.

[178] Human Rights Watch interview with Elías F., United States (region withheld for security), (exact date withheld for security) 2019 (pseudonym), and Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Helio L., United States Mountain West, July 1, 2019 (pseudonym).

[179] Human Rights Watch interview with Angelina N., United States East Coast, February 22, 2019 (pseudonym).

[180] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Moises X., United States West Coast, January 3, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Karina I., United States West Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Yaneth D., United States South, March 13, 2019 (pseudonym); Mauricio Bolaños, “La Paz: Murder of Man Reported in Santiago Nonualco” (“La Paz: reportan asesinato de hombre en Santiago Nonualco”), La Prensa Gráfica, April 28, 2013, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/La-Paz-reportan-asesinato-de-hombre-en-Santiago-Nonualco-20130428-0020.html (accessed October 28, 2019); “His Brother Sought Asylum in the USA, the Judge Denied Him and Later, He was Killed: This is the Story” (“Su hermano pidió asilo EUA, el juez se lo negó y luego fue asesinado: esta es la historia”), La Prensa Gráfica, March 15, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/departamento15/Su-hermano-pidio-asilo-EUA-el-juez-se-lo-nego-y-luego-fue-asesinado-esta-es-la-historia-20170315-0043.html (accessed November 4, 2019); Kevin Sieff, “When Death Awaits Deported Asylum Seekers,” Washington Post, December 26, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/when-death-awaits-deported-asylum-seekers/?noredirect=on (accessed November 10, 2019); and Gadiel Castillo, “Man is Killed When He Was Going to Work” (“Hombre es asesinado cuando iba a su trabajo”), El Diario de Hoy, November 28, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/hombre-es-asesinado-cuando-iba-a-su-trabajo/543809/2018/ (accessed on June 22, 2019).

[181] Human Rights Watch interview with Gaspar T. and Walter T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonyms); Human Rights Watch interview with Santiago U., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 28, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Irene J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander N., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Zaida L., United States West Coast, July 12, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Ransés I., Tijuana, Mexico, March 8, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Digna R., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 30, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Jairo Q., El Salvador’s Central Region, January 26, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch social media interview with Óscar K., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), June 10, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Paloma V., United States East Coast, June 17, 2019 (pseudonym).

[182] Human Rights Watch interview with hospital-based OLAV official, El Salvador’s Central Region, March 26, 2019.

[183] Francisco Narváez, “Youth Murdered Who Had Recently Been Deported” (“Asesinan a joven que había sido deportado recientemente”), El Blog, June 1, 2017, http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-42799.html (accessed October 10, 2019); Flor Lazo, “Relief Teams Search for Missing Man” (“Cuerpos de socorro buscan a hombre extraviado”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 17, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Cuerpos-de-socorro-buscan-a-hombre-extraviado-20170917-0028.html, (accessed October 10, 2019); “Extortion and Murder Afflicts El Carmen” (“Extorsiones y asesinatos afligen a El Carmen”), El Diario del Hoy, February 23, 2013, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/101223/extorsiones-y-asesinatos-afligen-a-el-carmen.html (accessed October 10, 2019).

[184] Human Rights Watch interview Alexander N., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander N.’s mother and father, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018 (pseudonym); and January 23, 2019. Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander N.’s neighbor, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with journalist, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with journalist, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), May 23, 2019.

[185] All press articles described in this account are withheld for security but are on file with Human Rights Watch.

[186] Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander N.’s mother and father, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018; and January 23, 2019.

[187] Ibid.

[188] Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander N.’s mother and father, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018; and January 23, 2019.

[189] In that period, only three rural municipalities with populations of less than 2,600–El Rosario of Morazán department and [San José] Las Flores and San Fernando of Chalatenango department–registered no murders, but even so these municipalities registered multiple sexual crimes. Data obtained via public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office for crime incidence data throughout El Salvador, data on homicides between 2013-2017 were received November 9, 2018 and data on sexual crimes between 2013-2017 were received November 1, 2018. Homicide data for 2018 were received February 18, 2019, sexual crime data for 2018 were received February 25, 2019 (data on file with Human Rights Watch).

[190] Since the late-1980s, research in numerous Brazilian, Canadian and US cities with varying populations has shown that crimes, including homicide and rape, concentrate at very small units of geography. Across studies, researchers have tended to find that roughly 1.5 percent of street segments in cities see about 25 percent of crime incidents. L.W. Sherman, P.R. Gartin, and M.E. Buerger, The Geography of Crime (London: Routledge, 1989); P.L. Brantingham and P.J. Brantingham, “Hot Spots of Predatory Crime: Routine Activities and the Criminology of Place,” Criminology, vol. 27, no. 1 (1999), pp. 27-56; P.L. Brantingham, “A Theoretical Model of Crime Hot Spot Generation,” Studies on Crime and Crime Prevention, vol. 8, no. 1 (1999), pp. 7-26; D. Weisburd, S. Bushway, C. Lum, S.M. Yang, “Trajectories of Crime at Place: A Longitudinal Study of Street Segments in the City of Seattle,” Criminology, vol. 42, no. 5 (2004), pp.283-322; Ilona Szabo de Carvalho, Juan Carlos Garzon, and Robert Muggah, “Citizen Security Rising: New Approaches to Addressing Drugs, Guns and Violence in Latin America,” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF), 2013; A.A. Braga, A.V. Papachristos, and D.M. Hureau, “The Effects of Hot Spots Policing on Crime: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” Justice Quarterly , vol. 31, no.4, (2014), pp.633-63; A.S. Curmen, M.A. Andresen, and P.J. Brantingham,“Crime and Place: A Longitudinal Examination of Street Segment Patterns in Vancouver, BC,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, vol. 31, no.1 (2014), pp.127-47; and David Weisburd, “The 2014 Sutherland Address: The Law of Crime Concentration and the Criminology of Place,” Criminology, vol. 53, no. 2, (2015), pp.133-57.

[191] Data obtained via public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office for crime incidence data throughout El Salvador, data on homicides between 2013-2017 were received November 9, 2018 and data on sexual crimes between 2013-2017 were received November 1, 2018. Homicide data for 2018 were received February 18, 2019, sexual crime data for 2018 were received February 25, 2019 (data on file with Human Rights Watch).

[192] As described in the methodology section, using an open source media monitoring methodology, Human Rights Watch systematically searched the Salvadoran press for the neighborhood names (including various spelling variations, when necessary) where those interviewed lived or fled, yielding over 22,000 total results that we reviewed, and when relevant, analyzed. The results were then filtered to produce a database of neighborhood-specific violent incidents. These data have extreme limitations. However, they did allow us to identify themes on neighborhood dynamics, including poverty level, crimes committed, victims, victimizers and state actions.

[193] See US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/acestudy/ind... (accessed October 7, 2019).

[194] Human Rights Watch interview with aid director for persons deported from Mexico and the United States for international non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019.

[195] Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander N., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Yaneth D., United States South, March 13, 2019 (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with Vivian R. and Wendy R., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, March 25, 2019 (pseudonyms).

[196] Mayo Clinic, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967 (accessed December 3, 2019). A Salvadoran researcher told Human Rights Watch that “We don’t have many holistic programs here [for deportees]. … The psychosocial and cultural pieces are not addressed.” Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Salvadoran researcher, December 14, 2018.

[197] Human Rights Watch interview with LGBT service provider, El Salvador's Central Region, December 1, 2018 and Human Rights Watch interview with aid director for persons deported from Mexico and the United States for international non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019. Furthermore, since August 2013, the FGR has operated a Twitter page for disappeared children. Our search of this page revealed 13 of 17 children forcibly disappeared from Colón municipality through July 2014 disappeared from the Lourdes neighborhood. Finally, a 2014 study produced by a co-author of this report contains data that Human Rights Watch re-analyzed for this report, showing that Lourdes was among the three most common neighborhoods of origin for child migrants. The data further shows that these neighborhoods frequently registered higher-than-average numbers of disappearance, homicide and suspected death squad activity. Elizabeth G. Kennedy, “No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing Their Homes,” American Immigration Council, July 1, 2014, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/no-childhood-here-why-central-american-children-are-fleeing-their-homes (accessed January 18, 2020).

[198] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yeshua O., El Salvador’s Central Region, November 13, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with aid director for internally displaced persons for international non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, December 4, 2018. 5,749 results appeared for “Altavista” and “Alta Vista,” some of them duplicates, in 14 news sources in El Salvador between 2000 and September 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Human Rights Watch compiled all these results but completed analysis of only relevant articles from November 2009 to November 2016. Three relevant articles from the thousands are: Roberto Valencia, “Scan of a Neighborhood of Swallows Called Ciudad Futura” (“Radiografia de una colonia de golondrinas llamada Ciudad Futura”), El Faro, February 8, 2019, https://elfaro.net/es/201902/el_salvador/22992/Radiograf%C3%ADa-de-una-colonia-de-golondrinas-llamada-Ciudad-Futura.htm (accessed June 12, 2019); Ezequiel Barrera, “Attackers Used War Weapons to Kill Seven in Alta Vista” (“Atacantes usaron armas de guerra para matar a 7 en Alta Vista”), La Prensa Gráfica, July 16, 2016, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Atacantes-usaron-armas-de-guerra-para-matar-a-7-en-Alta-Vista-20160716-0019.html (accessed October 9, 2019); “Police Capture 31 Gang Members in Altavsita Neighborhood” (“Policía captura a 31 pandilleros en residencial Altavista”), El Diario de Hoy, September 29, 2016, https://historico.eldiariodehoy.com/historico-edh/26014/policia-captura-a-31-pandilleros-en-residencial-altavista.html (accessed October 9, 2019). Furthermore, since August 2013, the FGR has operated a Twitter page for disappeared children. Our search of this page revealed six of 14 children forcibly disappeared from San Martín and Tonacatepeque municipalities through May 2018 disappeared from the Altavista neighborhood. Finally, a 2014 study produced by a co-author of this report contains data that Human Rights Watch re-analyzed for this report, showing that Altavista was among the three most common neighborhoods of origin for child migrants. The data further shows that these neighborhoods frequently registered higher-than-average numbers of disappearance, homicide and suspected death squad activity. Elizabeth G. Kennedy, “No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing Their Homes,” American Immigration Council, July 1, 2014, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/no-childhood-here-wh... (accessed January 18, 2020).

[199] Human Rights Watch interview with LGBT service provider, El Salvador's Central Region, December 1, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran researcher on migration, El Salvador's Central Region, November 29, 2018. 1,231 results appeared for San Roque in 14 news sources in El Salvador between 2000 and June 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Human Rights Watch compiled all these results but completed analysis of only relevant articles in six outlets from 2013 to June 2019. Three relevant articles from the 1,231 are: “Raul Mijango’s Community” (“La comunidad de Raul Mijango”), Diario1, May 6, 2016, http://diario1.com/nacionales/2016/05/la-comunidad-de-raul-mijango/ (accessed October 16, 2019); Carmina Castro, “Woman Murdered and Her Two-month-old Son Injured in Mejicanos” (“Asesinan a mujer y hieren a su hijo de dos meses en Mejicanos”), El Salvador Times, April 5, 2019, https://www.elsalvadortimes.com/content/print/asesinan-mujer-hieren-hijo-meses-mejicanos/2019040519185757004 (accessed October 16, 2019); Jorge Archila, “Unknown Youth Eliminated by Gang Members in San Roque, Mejicanos” (“Joven desconocido fue ultimado por mareros en la San Roque, Mejicanos”), El Blog, April 5, 2019, http://elblog.com/inicio/joven-desconocido-fue-ultimado-por-mareros-en-la-san-roque-mejicanos/ (accessed October 16, 2019). Furthermore, since August 2013, the FGR has operated a Twitter page for disappeared children. Our search of this page revealed five of 29 children forcibly disappeared in Mejicanos municipality through March 2019 disappeared from the San Roque or Zacamil neighborhood.

[200] Human Rights Watch interview with LGBT service provider, El Salvador's Central Region, December 1, 2018. Human Rights Watch review of 783 articles appearing in 13 news outlets in El Salvador between January 2002 and February 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three relevant articles from the 783 are: Evelyn Machuca, “Between the Murderer and the Murder, There’s Something Called Life” (“Entre el asesino y el asesinato hay algo que se llama vida”), La Prensa Gráfica, November 8, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Entre-el-asesino-y-el-asesinato-hay-algo-que-se-llama-vida-20181107-0122.html (accessed October 8, 2019); “San Salvador Divided by Gangs’ Control” (“San Salvador dividido por el control de las pandillas”), El Diario de Hoy, December 19, 2015, https://www.elsalvador.com/fotogalerias/noticias-fotogalerias/san-salvador-dividido-por-el-control-de-las-pandillas/324851/2015/ (accessed October 16, 2019); David Martinez, “The Iberia, a Stigmatized Community That Looks to Develop its New Generations” (“La Iberia, una comunidad estigmatizada que busca desarrollar a sus nuevas generaciones”), Diario Co-Latino, April 30, 2015, https://www.diariocolatino.com/la-iberia-una-comunidad-estigmatizada-que-busca-desarrollar-a-sus-nuevas-generaciones/ (accessed October 16, 2019). Furthermore, since August 2013, the FGR has operated a Twitter page for disappeared children. Our search of this page revealed two of 49 children forcibly disappeared from San Salvador municipality through March 2019 disappeared from the Iberia neighborhood.

[201] Since August 2013, the FGR has operated a Twitter page for disappeared children. Our search of this page revealed 12 of 49 children forcibly disappeared from San Salvador municipality disappeared from the San Jacinto neighborhood.

[202] Human Rights Watch interview with aid workers to internally displaced persons for national non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, December 4, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with OLAV staff, El Salvador's Central Region, January 11, 2019; and Human Rights Watch interview with social worker to internally displaced persons for national non-profit, El Salvador's Central Region, January 23, 2019. See also, “The Crazy Life” (“La Vida Loca”), documentary, depicting the violence plaguing Campanera; “'La Vida Loca' Captures Daily Reality of El Salvador's Gangs, or Maras,” Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2019, https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laplaza/2009/04/la-vida-loca-reflects-a-depressing-and-hopeless-reality-the-documentary-filmed-by-photojournalist-and-filmmaker-chris.html (accessed January 18, 2020). The filmmaker, Christian Poveda, was killed in September 2009. Rory Carroll, “Killers of Filmmaker Christian Poveda Jailed,” Guardian, March 11, 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/mar/11/christian-poveda-murders-jailed, (accessed January 18, 2020). The neighborhood also appeared in these three representative articles: Roberto Valencia, “Scan of a Neighborhood of Swallows Called Ciudad Futura” (“Radiografia de una colonia de golondrinas llamada Ciudad Futura”), El Faro, February 8, 2019, https://elfaro.net/es/201902/el_salvador/22992/Radiograf%C3%ADa-de-una-colonia-de-golondrinas-llamada-Ciudad-Futura.htm (accessed 12 June 2019); Enrique García, “Centers Overrun with Gangs to be Re-enforced” (“Reforzaran los centros asediados por las maras”), El Mundo, February 26, 2018, https://elmundo.sv/reforzaran-los-centros-asediados-por-las-maras/ (accessed October 16, 2019); and “Ten Places Where Taxi Drivers Do Not Want to Go” (“Diez lugares donde los taxistas no queren ir”), El Diario de Hoy, March 5, 2014, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/124039/diez-lugares-donde-los-taxistas-no-quieren-ir/ (accessed October 16, 2019).

[203] Human Rights Watch interview with IML doctor, El Salvador's Eastern Region, January 22, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador's Eastern Region, January 22, 2019; and Human Rights Watch interview with Criminal Sentencing Tribunal judge, El Salvador's Eastern Region, January 23, 2019. 18th Street Surenos members killed the stepmother of a young deportee from the US, because they believed her to be an informant to police in this neighborhood. See also “Sentencing Document for 57 Alleged Gang Member Defendants,” Specialized Sentencing Court for Organized Crime Cases in El Salvador’s Eastern Region, San Miguel, August 3, 2018 (on file with Human Rights Watch). See Diana Escalante and Insy Mendoza, “Woman Killed Because of Disagreement Between Gang Members” (“Matan a una mujer por pleito entre pandilleros”), El Diario de Hoy, April 29, 2014, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/matan-a-una-mujer-por-pleito-entre-pandilleros/125579/2014/ (accessed 12 June 2019). Human Rights Watch review of 146 articles appearing in 11 news outlets in El Salvador between 2003 and April 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three representative articles from the 146 are: Insy Mendoza, “One Student Killed and Three Injured in La Unión” (“Asesinan a un estudiante y lesionan a tres en La Unión”), El Diario de Hoy, March 6, 2015, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/147746/asesinan-a-un-estudiante-y-lesionan-a-tres-en-la-union/ (accessed October 16, 2019); “A Woman is Killed Because of Gang Dispute” (“Matan a una mujer por pleito entre pandillas”), El Diario de Hoy, April 29, 2014, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/125579/matan-a-una-mujer-por-pleito-entre-pandilleros.html (accessed October 14, 2019); “Three Police Are Captured with Collaborating with Gang Members” (“Capturan a Tres Policías por Colaborar con Pandilleros”), El Mundo, May 16, 2017, https://elmundo.sv/capturan-a-tres-policias-por-colaborar-con-pandilleros/ (accessed October 16, 2019).

[204] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran journalist, El Salvador's Eastern Region, November 6, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran journalist, El Salvador's Central Region, November 9, 2018; and Human Rights Watch interview with PNC high-ranking officer, El Salvador's Eastern Region, November 26, 2018 Human Rights Watch review of 474 articles appearing in 10 news outlets in El Salvador between July 2001 and May 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three representative articles from the 474 are: “Extortion Obligates Tens of Businesses to Close in the East” (“Extorsiones obligan a cerrar decenas de negocios en Oriente”), El Diario de Hoy, June 2, 2015, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/extorsiones-obligan-a-cerrar-decenas-de-negocios-en-oriente/154450/2015/ (accessed October 16, 2019); “He Took Charge of Terrorizing Moncagua Girls and Obligating Them to Have Sex with Him” (“Se encargaba de aterrorizar a muchachas de Moncagua y las obligaba a que tuvieran sexo con el”), La Prensa Gráfica, August 3, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Se-encargaba-de-aterrorizar-a-muchachas-de-Moncagua-y-las-obligaba-a-que-tuvieran-sexo-con-el-20170803-0022.html (accessed October 16, 2019); Jorge Beltrán, “Why is There So Much Violence in Just One Neighborhood Called ‘El Platanar’ in El Salvador?" (“¿Por que hay tanta violencia en un solo cantón llamado ‘El Platanar’ en El Salvador?”), El Diario de Hoy, July 15, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/un-infierno-llamado-el-plat... (accessed November 11, 2019).

[205] Human Rights Watch interview with PNC high-ranking officer, El Salvador's Eastern Region, November 26, 2018 and Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF staff, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018. In Human Rights Watch’s review of 528 articles appearing in 11 news outlets in El Salvador between April 2011 and January 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three representative articles from the 528 are: “These are the Places That Provoke Most Fear in Salvadorans” (“Estos son los lugares que más miedo provocan a los salvadoreños”), La Prensa Gráfica, March 16, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/lpgdatos/Estos-son-los-lugares-que-mas-miedo-provocan-a-los-salvadorenos-20170316-0002.html (accessed October 16, 2019);  Wilmer Lizama, “Police Deploy FIRT–Intervention and Recuperation of Territory Force–Group in San Miguel” (“PNC despliega grupo FIRT en San Miguel”), El Mundo, July 13, 2016, https://elmundo.sv/pnc-despliega-grupo-firt-en-san-miguel/ (accessed October 16, 2019); Lucinda Quintanilla, “Extortion Obligates Tens of Businesses to Close in the East” (“Extorsiones obligan a cerrar decenas de negocios en Oriente”), El Diario de Hoy, June 2, 2015, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/extorsiones-obligan-a-cerrar-decenas-de-negocios-en-oriente/154450/2015/ (accessed October 16, 2019). Finally, a 2014 study produced by a co-author of this report contains data that Human Rights Watch re-analyzed for this report, showing that Ciudad Pacífica was among the three most common neighborhoods of origin for child migrants. The data further shows that these neighborhoods frequently registered higher-than-average numbers of disappearance, homicide and suspected death squad activity. Elizabeth G. Kennedy, “No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing Their Homes,” American Immigration Council, July 11, 2014, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/no-childhood-here-why-central-american-children-are-fleeing-their-homes (accessed January 18, 2020).

[206] Human Rights Watch interview with PNC high-ranking officer, El Salvador's Eastern Region, November 26, 2018 and Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF staff, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018. In Human Rights Watch’s review of 620 articles appearing in 11 news outlets in El Salvador between June 2000 and April 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three representative articles from the 620 are: Roberto Valencia, “Scan of a Neighborhood of Swallows Called Ciudad Futura” (“Radiografia de una colonia de golondrinas llamada Ciudad Futura”), El Faro, February 8, 2019, https://elfaro.net/es/201902/el_salvador/22992/Radiograf%C3%ADa-de-una-colonia-de-golondrinas-llamada-Ciudad-Futura.htm (accessed  June 12, 2019); Wilmer Lizama, “Police Deploy FIRT–Intervention and Recuperation of Territory Force–Group in San Miguel” (“PNC despliega grupo FIRT en San Miguel”), El Mundo, July 13, 2016, https://elmundo.sv/pnc-despliega-grupo-firt-en-san-miguel/ (accessed October 16, 2019); “The Neighborhoods Causing Fear in the East” (“Las colonias que dan miedo en el oriente”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 12, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Las-colonias-que-dan-miedo-en-el-oriente-20140912-0097.html (accessed October 16, 2019).

[207] Human Rights Watch review of 1,377 articles appearing in 13 news outlets in El Salvador between 2000 and February 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details (San Antonio Silva had more-than-normal irrelevant results, because “San Antonio” is common neighborhood name in multiple municipalities, and Silva is a common last name, including of a journalist and politician). Of relevant articles three representative ones are: “More Than a Thousand Salvadorans Leave in a Caravan With Their Eyes Toward the United States” (“Más de mil salvadoreños salen en caravana con la mirada en EEUU”), El Mundo, October 31, 2018, https://elmundo.sv/parte-segunda-caravana-de-migrantes-salvadorenos-rumbo-a-estados-unidos/ (accessed October 16, 2019); “The Killing that Uncovered a Death Squad” (“El asesinato que delató al grupo de exterminio”), El Diario de Hoy, July 24, 2016,  https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/el-asesinato-que-delato-al-grupo-de-exterminio/193811/2016/ (accessed October 16, 2019); “Three Are Killed in San Salvador, San Vicente and San Miguel” (“Asesinan a tres en San Salvador, San Vicente y San Miguel”), La Prensa Gráfica, February 26, 2015, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Asesinan-a-tres-en-San-Salvador-San-Vicente-y-San-Miguel-20150226-0088.html (accessed October 16, 2019).

[208] 507 results appeared for “Tierra Blanca” in 14 news sources in El Salvador between 2000 and October 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Human Rights Watch compiled all these results but completed analysis of only relevant articles for one sector of the neighborhood in five outlets from 2002 to June 2019. See, for example: “Information About Killings in Different Parts of the Country” (“Informan sobre asesinatos en distintos puntos del país”), La Prensa Gráfica, December 5, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Informan-sobre-asesinatos-en-distintos-puntos-del-pais-20141205-0002.html (accessed October 16, 2019); “Man Killed in San Miguel” (“Matan a hombre en San Miguel”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 25, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Matan-a-hombre-en-San-Miguel-20140625-0027.html (accessed October 16, 2019); and Rosa Fuentes, “Citizens Help Capture Rapists” (“Ciudadanos ayudan a capturar a violadores”), El Diario de Hoy, October 15, 2002, http://archivo.elsalvador.com/noticias/2002/10/15/elpais/elpais8.html (accessed October 16, 2019).

[209] Human Rights Watch review of 89 articles appearing in nine news outlets in El Salvador between July 2012 and February 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three representative articles are: “Residents of Jiquilisco at Risk Because of the Diversion of River Canal” (“Habitantes de Jiquilisco en riesgo por desvío de cauce de río”), La Prensa Gráfica, February 24, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Habitantes-de-Jiquilisco-en-riesgo-por-desvio-de-cauce-de-rio-20170224-0069.html (accessed October 15, 2019); “Usulután, Under a Wave of Killings and a Siege from Gangs” (“Usulután, bajo ola de asesinatos y asedio de pandillas”), El Diario de Hoy, March 3, 2014, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/usulutan-bajo-ola-de-asesinatos-y-asedio-de-pandillas/124984/2014/ (accessed October 16, 2019); “Ex-policeman and Ex-soldier Captured” (“Capturan a expolicía y a exmilitar”), La Prensa Gráfica, August 8, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Capturan-a-expolicia-y-a-exmilitar-20170808-0090.html (accessed October 16, 2019).

[210] Human Rights Watch review of 170 articles appearing in 12 news outlets in El Salvador between 2001 and February 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three representative articles are: Willian Martínez, “Young Woman Reported as Missing is Found Dead in Santa Elena, Usulután” (“Joven reportada como desaparecida es encontrada muerta en Santa Elena, Usulután”), Cronio, February 8, 2019, http://cronio.sv/nacionales/joven-reportada-como-desaparecida-es-encontrada-muerta-en-santa-elena-usulutan/ (accessed October 16, 2019); Iliana Avila, “A Fruit and Sweet Seller is Killed in Front of a School” (“Matan a vendedora de frutas y dulces frente a escuela”), El Diario de Hoy, August 16, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/509872/matan-a-vendedora-de-frutas-y-dulces-frente-a-escuela/ (accessed October 16, 2019); Jaime López, “Thugs Take a Man by Force and He is Found Dead in Usulután” (“Maleantes toman por la fuerza a un hombre anoche y ahora amaneció muerto en Usulután”), El Diario de Hoy, https://historico.eldiariodehoy.com/historico-edh/37704/maleantes-toman-por-la-fuerza-a-un-hombre-anoche-y-ahora-amanece-muerto-en-usulutan.html (accessed January 20, 2020).

[211] Human Rights Watch review of 170 articles appearing in 12 news outlets in El Salvador between 2001 and February 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three representative articles are: Héctor Rivas, “Deportee is Killed in La Poza” (“Deportado es asesinado en La Poza”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 1, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Deportado-es-asesinado-en-La-Poza-I-20180531-0142.html (accessed October 7, 2019); Beatriz Calderon, Francisco Aleman, and Hector Rivas, “Two Injured After Attack on Route 152 Microbus in Front of Santa Tecla Police Station” (“Dos heridos tras ataque a microbus ruta 152 frente a la PNC en Santa Tecla”), La Prensa Gráfica, May 31, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Dos-heridos-tras-ataque-a-microbus-ruta-152-frente-a-la-PNC-en-Santa-Tecla-20180531-0079.html (accessed 10 June 2019); and “11 Homicides Committed in Last 24 Hours; Attorney General also Reports Finding Human Bones in Usulután” (“11 homicidios cometidos en las últimas 24 horas Fiscalía además informó del hallazgo de osamentas en Usulután”), La Prensa Gráfica, November 8, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/11-homicidios-cometidos-en-las-ultimas-24-horas-20141108-0050.html (accessed October 7, 2019).

[212] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran journalist, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 9, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with PNC investigator, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019; and Human Rights Watch interview with IML doctor, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019. Human Rights Watch review of 342 articles appearing in 14 news outlets in El Salvador between 2000 and September 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details. Three representative articles of the 342 are: “Gang Member was Brought Down by Police During Confrontation in Ahuachapán” (“Pandillero fue abatido por la PNC durante enfrentamiento en Ahuachapán”), Solo Noticias, April 18, 2018, https://www.solonoticias.com/2018/04/18/pandillero-fue-abatido-por-la-pnc-durante-enfrentamiento-en-ahuachapan/ (accessed October 14, 2019); Iliana Rivas, “A Mother and Two Children Massacred in Ahuachapán” (“Masacran a una madre y a dos hijos en Ahuachapán”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 10, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Masacran-a-una-madre-y-a-dos-hijos-en-Ahuachapan-20170911-0407.html (accessed October 14, 2019); “Inside a House That is Being Constructed a Man Was Killed at Noon” (“Dentro de una casa en construcción asesinaron a un hombre este mediodía”), El Blog, http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-46061.html (accessed October 14, 2019).

[213] Human Rights Watch review of 1,482 articles appearing in 14 news outlets in El Salvador between 2002 and March 2019 reporting on incidents of violent crime; multiple outlets covered some incidents but often had consistent but more or less details (Apaneca had more-than-normal irrelevant results, because Apaneca is also the name of a municipality in Sonsonate department and a common neighborhood name in other municipalities). Three representative articles of the 1482 are: “The Most Feared Neighborhoods in the West” (“Las colonias más temidas en occidente”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 13, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Las-colonias-mas-temidas-en-occidente-20140913-0071.html (accessed October 14, 2019); “Authorities Report Triple Homicide in Chalchuapa” (“Autoridades reportan triple homicidio en Chalchuapa”), El Mundo, August 3, 3018, https://elmundo.sv/autoridades-reportan-triple-homicidio-en-chalchuapa/ (accessed October 14, 2019); “Confrontation Between the Police and Gang Members Leaves a Terrorist Dead in Chalchuapa” (“Enfrentamiento entre PNC y pandilleros deja un terrorista muerto en Chalchuapa”), Solo Noticias, November 25, 2017, https://www.solonoticias.com/2017/11/25/enfrentamiento-entre-pnc-y-pandilleros-deja-un-terrorista-muerto-en-chalchuapa/ (accessed October 14, 2019). Furthermore, since August 2013, the FGR has operated a Twitter page for disappeared children. Our search of this page revealed two of four children forcibly disappeared in the Chalchuapa municipality through October 2018 disappeared from the Apaneca neighborhood. In Chalchuapa municipality, neighborhoods are particularly small in size, sometimes containing only four blocks.

[214] The Salvadoran Migration Agency (DGME) collects neighborhood and municipality of origin information from those deported from both Mexico and the United States but did not agree to share this information with Human Rights Watch when we asked for it in 2018. Likewise, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) selects “high risk” neighborhoods for its funding, which often aims to “reduce migration,” but USAID does not make these neighborhoods public.

[215] See, for example, Anna-Catherine Brigida, “Kicked Out of the U.S., Salvadoran Deportees Are Struggling Simply to Stay Alive,” World Politics Review, October 9, 2018, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/26302/kicked-out-of-the-u-s... (accessed June 10, 2019). Two of these cases are also documented in Salvadoran Criminal Tribunal decisions on file with Human Rights Watch.

[216] See, for example, Enrique Ortiz, “Two Men’s Lives Taken in La Libertad” (“Le quitan la vida a dos hombres en La Libertad”), El Blog, May 20, 2019, http://elblog.com/inicio/le-quitan-la-vida-a-dos-hombres-en-la-libertad/ (accessed June 10, 2019).

[217] Human Rights Watch interviews with Salvadoran reporters in 2018 and mid-2019. See also, Wilmer Lizama, “Double Homicide Registered in Moncagua, San Miguel” (“Registran doble homicidio en Moncagua, San Miguel”), El Mundo, June 16, 2017, https://elmundo.sv/registran-doble-homicidio-en-moncagua-san-miguel/ (accessed June 10, 2019); Beatriz Mendoza and Flor Lazo, “A Man Was Killed in San Miguel When He Returned from Running Errands” (“Un hombre fue asesinado en San Miguel cuando volvía de hacer diligencias”), La Prensa Gráfica, February 26, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Un-hombre-fue-asesinado-en-Sa... (accessed June 10, 2019); and “Patrols Look for a Tailor Kidnapped by Gang Members in San Miguel” (“Patrullas buscan a un sastre privado de libertad por pandilleros en San Miguel”), El Blog, October 20, 2017, http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-47382.html (accessed June 10, 2019).

[218] “DJ in Usulután Shot Dead” (“Assesinan a balazos a DJ en Usulután”), El Blog, September 28, 2014, http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-16430.html (accessed June 10, 2019).

[219] Héctor Rivas, “Deportee is Killed in La Poza I” (“Deportado es asesinado en La Poza I”), La Prensa Gráfica, June 1, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Deportado-es-asesinado-en-La-... (accessed October 7, 2019); Beatriz Calderón, Francisco Alemán, and Héctor Rivas, “Two Injured After Attack on Route 152 Microbus in Front of Santa Tecla Police Station” (“Dos heridos tras ataque a microbús ruta 152 frente a la PNC en Santa Tecla”), La Prensa Gráfica, May 31, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Dos-heridos-tras-ataque-a-mic... (accessed June 10, 2019); and “11 Homicides Committed in Last 24 Hours” (“11 homicidios cometidos en las últimas 24 horas”), La Prensa Gráfica, November 8, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/11-homicidios-cometidos-en-la... (accessed October 7, 2019).

[220] Iliana Rivas, “A Mother and Two Children Massacred in Ahuachapán” (“Masacran a una madre y a dos hijos en Ahuachapán”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 10, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Masacran-a-una-madre-y-a-dos-... (accessed June 10, 2019).

[221] Human Rights Watch interview with official who attends crime scenes, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019.

[222] Human Rights Watch interview with separate official who attends crime scenes, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019.

[223] “Four Dead in Two Armed Attacks” (“Cuatro muertos en dos ataques armados”), La Prensa Gráfica, December 23, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Cuatro-muertos-en-dos-ataques... (accessed October 7, 2019) and “They Kill an Evangelical Pastor and His Friend in Ahuachapán” (“Matan a pastor evangélico y su acompañante en Ahuachapán”), December 22, 2014, El Diario de Hoy, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/142406/matan-a-pastor-evangel... (accessed October 7, 2019).

[224] “These Are the Places That Most Provoke Fear in Salvadorans” (“Estos son los lugares que más miedo provocan a los salvadoreños”), La Prensa Gráfica, March 16, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/lpgdatos/Estos-son-los-lugares-que-mas-m... (accessed June 12, 2019) and “The Neighborhoods That Cause Fear in the East” (“Las colonias que dan miedo en el oriente”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 12, 2014, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Las-colonias-que-dan-miedo-en... (accessed June 12, 2019).

[225] Roberto Valencia, “Scan of a Neighborhood of Swallows Called Ciudad Futura” (“Radiografia de una colonia de golondrinas llamada Ciudad Futura”), El Faro, February 8, 2019, https://elfaro.net/es/201902/el_salvador/22992/Radiograf%C3%ADa-de-una-colonia-de-golondrinas-llamada-Ciudad-Futura.htm (accessed June 12. 2019).

[226] Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 6, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 5, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with CANAF, El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with IML, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 22, 2019; and Human Rights Watch interview with FGR, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 22, 2019.

[227] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran PNC officer, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 26, 2018.

[228] Evelyn Machuca, “’Between the Killer and the Killing, There is Something Called Life’” (“’Entre el asesino y el asesinato hay algo que se llama vida’”), La Prensa Gráfica, November 8, 2019, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Entre-el-asesino-y-el-asesinato-hay-algo-que-se-llama-vida-20181107-0122.html (accessed January 18, 2020).

[229] Human Rights Watch interview Alexander N., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 25, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Vivian & Wendy R., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, March 25, 2019 (pseudonyms); and Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018 (pseudonym).

[230] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Gaspar T., May 21, 2019 (pseudonym).

[231] Human Rights Watch interviews with Teresa Q. and Teresa’s mother Gloria Q., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 28, 2019 and March 24, 2019 (pseudonyms).

[232] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran PNC officer, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 26, 2018.

[233] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran criminal sentencing judge, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 23, 2019.

[234] Human Rights Watch interview with Nohemy P., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, February 8, 2019 (pseudonym).

[235] Ibid.

[236] Francisco Narváez, “Youth Murdered Who Had Recently Been Deported” (“Asesinan a joven que había sido deportado recientemente”), El Blog, June 1, 2017, http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-42799.html (accessed October 10, 2019); Flor Lazo, “Relief Teams Search for Missing Man” (“Cuerpos de socorro buscan a hombre extraviado”), La Prensa Gráfica, September 17, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Cuerpos-de-socorro-buscan-a-h..., (accessed October 10, 2019); “Extortion and Murder Afflicts El Carmen” (“Extorsiones y asesinatos afligen a El Carmen”), El Diario del Hoy, February 23, 2013, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/101223/extorsiones-y-asesinatos-afligen-a-el-carmen.html (accessed October 10, 2019).

[237] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, November 5, 2018.

[238] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, March 29, 2019.

[239] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Moises X., January 3, 2019 (pseudonym).

[240] Human Rights Watch interview with Ransés I., Northern State of Mexico, March 8, 2019 (pseudonym).

[241] Human Rights Watch interview with Nelson E., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), January 26, 2019 (pseudonym).

[242] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Irene J. about husband, July 1, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Paloma V., June 17, 2019 (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with Walter T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonym).

[243] Human Rights Watch interview with PNC officer, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 26, 2018.

[244] Human Rights Watch interview with Irene J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonym).

[245] Data obtained via public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office for crime incidence data throughout El Salvador, data on homicides between 2013-2017 were received November 9, 2018, and data on sexual crimes between 2013-2017 were received November 1, 2018. Homicide data for 2018 were received February 18, 2019, sexual crime data for 2018 were received February 25, 2019 (data on file with Human Rights Watch).

[246] Registered cases mean those identified through a monthly coordination meeting between the FGR, IML and PNC to harmonize all reported cases of homicide. This is a crude clearance rate, following the US Federal Bureau of Investigation methodology. It is computed by dividing the number of annual arrests by the number of annual cases. An arrest in any given year may pertain to a murder from a previous year. There were 3,341 registered homicides in 2018 and 730 arrests. The arrest data is from a public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office. Data on file with Human Rights Watch.

[247] 32 arrests for 235 registered homicides in 2018. The registered cases mean those identified through a monthly coordination meeting between the FGR, IML and PNC to harmonize all reported cases of homicide and the arrest data is from a public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office. Data on file with Human Rights Watch.

[248] There may be slight differences in the definitions used between the two countries for definition of the crime and clearance. Still, this is the closest comparative measure possible. See United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States, 2018, Table 25,” September 2019. The US figure includes murder and nonnegligent manslaughter. Additional international examples include a clearance rate of 98 percent for homicides in Finland, 77 percent in the Netherlands, 83 percent in Sweden and 95 percent in Switzerland. See

Marieke Liem, Karoliina Suonpää, Martti Lehti, Janne Kivivuori, Sven Granath, Simone Walser, and Martin Killias, “Homicide Clearance in Western Europe,” European Journal of Criminology, Vol 16, Issue 1 (2019), doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/1477370818764840 (accessed January 18, 2020).

[249] Sexual crime cases are registered when a victim or witness or interested party reports an alleged sexual crime to the police, local justices of the peace, local municipal offices for women, child protection agencies (there are two in El Salvador), and/or mandatory reporters such as hospital and school staff, and the IML; in accordance with procedure, all of these cases should be reported to the FGR. Our calculation of these rates is based on the FGR’s data for rape.

[250] Data obtained via public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office for crime incidence data throughout El Salvador. Homicide data for 2018 were received February 18, 2019, sexual crime data for 2018 were received February 25, 2019 (data on file with Human Rights Watch).

[251] The US definition of rape within the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” There may be slight differences in the definitions used between the two countries for definition of the crime and clearance. Still, this is the closest comparative measure possible. United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States, 2018, Table 25,” September 2019. 

[252] Data obtained via public information request to the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Access to Public Information Office for crime incidence data throughout El Salvador. Homicide data for 2018 were received February 18, 2019, sexual crime data for 2018 were received February 25, 2019 (data on file with Human Rights Watch).

[253] Human Rights Watch interview with (name withheld for security), (location withheld for security), (date withheld for security) 2019. US Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, In re (name withheld for security), (location withheld for security) Immigration Court, (date withheld for security).

[254] Alexander Segovia, Leslie Quiñonez, Diana Contreras, Laura Pacheco and Manuel Talavera, “El Salvador: New Pattern of Violence, Territorial Impact and Community Response” (“El Salvador: Nuevo patrón de violencia, afectación territorial y respuesta de las comunidades”), Central American Institute of Investigations for Development and Social Change (“Salvador Instituto Centroamericano de Investigaciones para el Desarrollo y el Cambio Social, INCIDE”), August 2016. In 2011, State security forces killed just 0.66 percent of homicide victims, but in 2015, 2016 and 2017, they killed 5.72, 11.69, and 10.27 percent of victims, respectively. “Report on the Use and Abuse of Lethal Force in Latin America: A comparative study of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela” (“Monitor del uso de la fuerza letal en América Latina: Un estudio comparativo de Brasil, Colombia, El Salvador, México y Venezuela”), August 2019, http://monitorfuerzaletal.com (accessed November 26, 2019), pp. 80-95. Across years, officials had marked in their databases that between 92 and 99 percent of the victims in these “confrontations” were gang members, even though some were as young as 13 years old. In one such case of a 13-year-old shot dead by authorities, the Salvadoran Human Rights Ombudsperson (PDDH) found he had been shot six times from behind while on his knees.

[255] In our interviews with 41 officials from the FGR, IML, PNC and OLAV in nine departments, El Salvador, November 2018 to December 2019, officials repeatedly named most of these reasons. For the other reasons, the US State Department has repeatedly named some of these reasons for the inability of state authorities to effectively protect public safety.

[256] See Karen Musalo, “El Salvador–A Peace Worse than War: Violence, Gender and a Failed Legal Response,” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, vol. 30, Issue 1 (2019), https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1383&context=yjlf (accessed January 18, 2020). 

[257] Human Rights Watch interview with Gaspar T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonym).

[258] Human Rights Watch interview with Walter T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonym).

[259] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Zaida L., United States West Coast, July 12, 2019 (pseudonym).

[260] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Gaspar T., May 21, 2019 (pseudonym).

[261] United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, El Salvador End of Mission Statement, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, February 5, 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22634&LangID=E (accessed June 16, 2019).

[262] Anna-Catherine Brigida, “El Salvador’s Tough Policing Isn’t What It Looks Like,” Foreign Policy, July 6, 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/06/el-salvadors-tough-policing-isnt-what-it-looks-like/ (accessed  July 13, 2019).

[263] “Special Report of the Ombudswoman for the Defense of Human Rights, Attorney Raquel Caballero de Guevara, about extralegal executions attributed to the National Civilian Police in El Salvador, period 2014-2018: Characterization of cases of violation of the right to life and patterns of extralegal action” (“Informe especial de la señora Procuradora para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, licenciada Raquel Caballero de Guevara, sobre las ejecuciones extralegales atribuidas a la Policía Nacional Civil, en El Salvador, periodo 2014-2018: Caracterización de casos de violación al derecho a la vida y patrones de actuación extralegal”), August 2019, https://www.pddh.gob.sv/portal/file/index.php?dwfile=MjAxOS8xMC9JbmZvcm1... (accessed November 11, 2018).

[264] Ibid.

[265] Limitations of the data prevent us from calculating true numbers for deportations from each country in each year. Primarily, the closed-response (Y/N) box about whether a homicide victim is a deportee is only one of tens to be completed and may be skipped for reasons other than not knowing. Also, if authorities later learn a victim was a deportee, the box is not updated to reflect that knowledge. See Access to Public Information Unit (“Unidad de Acceso a la Información Pública, UAIP”), “Modification of compliance to final resolution NUE 322-A-2017” (“Modificación de cumplimiento a resolución definitiva NUE 322-A-2017”), August 17, 2018. While it does not discuss deportees among victims, fuller analysis of “use of lethal force” in El Salvador using this data is can be found in: “Report on the Use and Abuse of Lethal Force in Latin America: A comparative study of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela” (“Monitor del uso de la fuerza letal en América Latina: Un estudio comparativo de Brasil, Colombia, El Salvador, México y Venezuela”), August 2019, http://monitorfuerzaletal.com (accessed November 26, 2019), pp. 80-95.

[266] Human Rights Watch interview with Elías F., United States East Coast, winter 2019 (exact date withheld for security) (pseudonym).

[267] Human Rights Watch interview with Santiago U., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 28, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos P., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 27, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Walter T., written communication by text, April and May 2019 (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with Gaspar T., written communication by text, April and May 2019 (pseudonym).

[268] Human Rights Watch researcher reviewed Santiago’s “Yo Cambio” form, which confirmed he did not have a criminal record in El Salvador (form on file with Human Rights Watch).

[269] Human Rights Watch interview with Santiago U., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 28, 2019 (pseudonym).

[270] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Alexander N., March 20, 2019 (pseudonym).

[271] See Margaret Popkin, Peace without Justice: Obstacles to Building the Rule of Law in El Salvador  (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000); Michael McClintock, The American Connection, vol.1: State Terror and Popular Resistance in El Salvador  (London: Zed, 1986).

[272] The United Nations Truth Commission found that paramilitary groups and death squads were responsible for 25 percent of 22,000 human rights violations from 1980 to 1991 included in their review. See Americas Watch, El Salvador’s Decade of Terror  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991); Americas Watch, El Salvador–Accountability and Human Rights: The Report of the United Nations Commission on Truth for El Salvador, News from Americas Watch, vol. V, no. 7, August 10, 1993, https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/pdfs/e/elsalvdr/elsalv938.pdf; Americas Watch, El Salvador–The Jesuit Trial: An Observer’s Report, News from Americas Watch, vol. III, no. 13, December 13, 1991, https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/pdfs/e/elsalvdr/elsalv91d.pdf; and Americas Watch, “El Salvador: Impunity Prevails in Human Rights Cases,” News from Americas Watch, September 1990, https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/pdfs/e/elsalvdr/elsalv909.pdf.

[273] Human Rights Watch/Americas, El Salvador–Darkening Horizons: Human Rights on the Eve of the March 1994 Elections, vol. VI, no. 4, March 1994, p. 1 (“[A]ssassinations, which became more frequent, brazen, and selective in the fall of 1993, have continued into the new year. They have raised fears that notorious death squads which sowed terror in the 1980s have been reactivated if, in fact, they were ever disbanded.”), https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/pdfs/e/elsalvdr/elsalv943.pdf.

[274] Cynthia Arnson, “Window on the Past: A Declassified History of Death Squads in El Salvador,” in Bruce Campbell and Arthur Brenner, Death Squads in Global Perspective: Murder with Deniability  (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000)(stating that “Death squads in El Salvador were deeply rooted in official security bodies, particularly the intelligence sections of the Treasury Police, National Police, and National Guard, but also the army and air force. Privately constituted groups, especially the one headed by Roberto D’Aubuisson, distinguished themselves less for their independence from than for their degree of contact, and at times, coordination with state security bodies.”).

[275] Robert S. Kahn, Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996)(stating that “On 20 June 1984, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Political Asylum Project gave the US House Subcommittee on Rules a list of 112 Salvadoran deportees believed to have suffered human rights abuses after they were deported. ...The State Department … wrote to two Salvadoran human rights organizations … they confirmed eight of the 26 cases and provided the U.S. Embassy with eyewitness testimonies to them, [including] … Four deportees were captured in daylight by heavily armed civilians while nearby security forces ignored the abductions.… Two were taken from their homes in the city at night—one by heavily armed civilians armed with G-3 rifles, standard government issue in El Salvador.”).

[276] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from El Salvador,” https://www.refworld.org/docid/56e706e94.html, accessed December 13, 2019, (stating that “Moreover, since 2014, reports have begun to emerge of death squads and vigilante groups with possible connections to the security forces engaging in the extrajudicial killing of suspected gang members …”); United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, El Salvador End of Mission Statement, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, February 5, 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22634&LangID=E (accessed June 16, 2019) (stating, “In addition, I received various allegations of the existence of “death squads” within the Police, some of which have been confirmed by officials and corroborated by investigations.”); Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, “Report of the special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on her visit to El Salvador,” April 23, 2018, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G18/116/64/PDF/G1811664.pd... (accessed December 13, 2019).

[277] Sarah Kinosian, “El Salvador’s Security Policy is Increasing Extra Judicial Killings and Abuse,” Latin American Working Group (LAWG), February 12, 2016, https://www.lawg.org/el-salvadors-security-policy-is-increasing-extrajud... (accessed December 4, 2019); International Crisis Group, “El Salvador’s Politics of Perpetual Violence,” December 19, 2017, https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/central-america/el-s... (accessed January 22, 2019); US Department of State, “El Salvador 2018 Human Rights Report,” https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/EL-SALVADOR-2018.pdf, p. 2 (accessed December 13, 2019) (stating that “an alleged extermination group operating in San Miguel. The group, composed of civilians, some of whom were alleged rival gang members, and retired and active members of the military and police, was purportedly responsible for murder-for-hire and targeted killings of alleged gang members in San Miguel. Funding for the extermination group reportedly came from Salvadoran citizens living abroad.”); US Department of State, “El Salvador 2017 Human Rights Report,” https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/pages/attachments/2018/04/24/dos-hrr_2017_el_salvador.pdf, p. 10 (stating that “559 members of the PNC had been arrested for crimes including membership in extermination groups.”).

[278] Jorge Beltrán Luna, “Tension in El Tigre Neighborhood After the Killing of El Limonada” (“Tensión en caserío El Tigre tras el asesinato de El Limonada”), El Diario de Hoy, October 12, 2019, https://www.elsalvador.com/eldiariodehoy/tension-en-caserio-el-tigre-tra... (accessed December 4, 2019); “Supposed Extermination Group Advertises on Social Media That it Will ‘Clean La Herradura’ of Criminals” (“Supuesto grupo de exterminio advierte en redes sociales que va a ‘limpiar La Herradura’ de delincuentes”), La Prensa Gráfica, March 15, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Supuesto-grupo-de-exterminio-... (accessed December 4, 2019); Ricardo Flores and Gabriel García, “Six Police Members of Extermination Group Sentenced” (“Condenan a 6 policías miembros de grupo de exterminio”), La Prensa Gráfica, February 10, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Condenan-a-seis-policias-miem... (accessed December 4, 2019).

[279] “Special Report of the Ombudswoman for the Defense of Human Rights, Attorney Raquel Caballero de Guevara, about extralegal executions attributed to the National Civilian Police in El Salvador, period 2014-2018: Characterization of cases of violation of the right to life and patterns of extralegal action” (“Informe especial de la señora Procuradora para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, licenciada Raquel Caballero de Guevara, sobre las ejecuciones extralegales atribuidas a la Policía Nacional Civil, en El Salvador, periodo 2014-2018: Caracterización de casos de violación al derecho a la vida y patrones de actuación extralegal”), August 2019, https://www.pddh.gob.sv/portal/file/index.php?dwfile=MjAxOS8xMC9JbmZvcm1... (accessed November 11, 2018) (“Paralelamente a la adopción de las medidas extraordinarias de seguridad, se advirtio un resurgimiento de estructuras de exterminio que han generado temor y zozobra en diferentes comunidades del interior del país, algunas de las cuales se integraron con miembros de la PNC, militares y civiles, tal y como ha quedado evidenciado en algunos casos que se juducializaron.”). In addition, Salvadoran press have reported on the police and judicial proceedings in El Salvador arresting and bring to trial member of death squads and extermination groups. See, for example, Jorge Beltrán Luna, “Tension in El Tigre Neighborhood After the Killing of El Limonada” (“Tensión en caserío El Tigre tras el asesinato de El Limonada”), El Diario de Hoy, October 12, 2019, https://www.elsalvador.com/eldiariodehoy/tension-en-caserio-el-tigre-tra... (accessed December 4, 2019); Ricardo Flores and Gabriel García, “Six Police Members of Extermination Group Sentenced” (“Condenan a 6 policías miembros de grupo de exterminio”), La Prensa Gráfica, February 10, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Condenan-a-seis-policias-miem... (accessed December 4, 2019); “‘The Exterminators,’ the Group that was Killing Gang members in San Miguel’” (“‘Los exterminio’, el grupo que mataba pandilleros en San Miguel”), El Diario de Hoy, July 25, 2016, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/los-exterminio-el-grupo-que... (accessed December 4, 2019); “The Crime of a Gang Member that Uncovered an Extermination Group in San Miguel” (“El crimen del pandillero que dejó al descubierto al grupo de exterminio en San Miguel”), El Diario de Hoy, July 24, 2016, https://historico.elsalvador.com/historico/193808/el-crimen-del-pandille... (accessed December 4, 2019).

[280] Human Rights Watch interview with Yavany B., El Salvador’s Central Region, December 1, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security) November 26, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Ransés I., Tijuana, Mexico, March 8, 2019 (pseudonym).

[281] For example, police agents told the press that extermination groups could be involved in a February 2016 incident, in which a group of men in a double-cabin pickup got a 17-year-old from his home, took him away, and he was then found dead in sugar-cane fields with his eyes blindfolded, hands tied and a message on his back. “Body with Eyes Blindfolded Found in San Miguel with Message ‘This is How Gang Members Will Die’” (“Encuentran en San Miguel un cadáver con los ojos vendados y con el mensaje ‘Así morirán los pandilleros’”), El Blog, February 23, 2016, http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-27043.html (accessed July 2, 2019). Then, in March, four masked men kidnapped 19- and 25-year-old men from their homes, took them to a ravine and shot them in the head. See “Two Youth Killed in San Miguel Ravine” (“Matan a dos jóvenes en quebrada de S. Miguel”), La Prensa Gráfica, March 19, 2016, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Matan-a-2-jovenes-en-quebrada-de-S.-Miguel-20160319-0019.html (accessed July 2, 2019). Three days after that double homicide, various men in dark clothing “acting as police” attacked a 17-year-old boy as he entered his home. “Three Gang Members Killed in San Miguel” (“Matan en San Miguel a tres pandilleros”), La Prensa Gráfica, March 22, 2016, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Matan-en-San-Miguel--a-tres-pandilleros-20160322-0026.html (accessed July 2, 2019). The next day, the body of a 25-year-old man kidnapped earlier was found with his hands tied behind his back, his body showing signs of torture, with a written message left on his body. “Gang Member’s Body Found with a Message: ‘This Happens to Gang Members’” (“Localizan cadáver de pandillero con un mensaje: ‘Por mareros así les toca’”), El Blog, March 23, 2016, http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-27926.html (accessed July 2, 2019). A little over a week later, men identifying themselves as police took by force a 35-year-old man, and he was found dead days later in a different municipality. Jaime López, “Five Half-buried Bodies Found in Santo Tomas” (“Hallan cinco cadáveres semienterrados en Santo Tomas”), El Diario de Hoy, April 2, 2016, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/hallan-cinco-cadaveres-semienterrados-en-santo-tomas/186510/2016/ (accessed 2 July 2019). Before April ended, a teenage male’s body was found with his hands and feet tied and bullet wounds to the head and back. Diana Escalante and Insy Mendoza, “Businessman Killed in Ayutuxtepeque” (“Asesinan a un comerciante en Ayutuxtepeque”), El Diario de Hoy, April 19, 2016, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/asesinan-a-un-comerciante-en-ayutuxtepeque/184534/2016/ (accessed  July 2, 2019).

[282] Very early on New Year’s Day 2016, a group of at least eight armed men, dressed in camouflage clothing similar to military uniforms arrived on foot to the community. When an 11-year-old boy came running, they shot him dead. They went to one home and asked for names on a list, taking the two brothers out, putting them to their knees, and shooting them. From there, they shot and possibly killed a woman. Then, they went to two other homes looking for a man, took him out, put him to his knees and shot him dead. They last went to the home of the man’s mother, took her out, put her to her knees and shot her. See, for example, “First Day of the Year with a Massacre and a Confrontation” (“Primer día del año con una masacre y un enfrentamiento”), La Prensa Gráfica, January 2, 2016, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Primer-dia-del-ano-con-una-masacre-y-un-enfrentamiento-20160102-0025.html (accessed July 2, 2019); Liseth Alas and Lucinda Quintanilla, “Five Gang Members Die When Confronting Police in the Beginning of 2016” (“Mueren 5 pandilleros tras enfrentarse a policías en el inicio de 2016”), El Diario de Hoy, January 1, 2016, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/mueren-5-pandilleros-tras-enfrentarse-a-policias-en-el-inicio-de-2016/176047/2016/ (accessed 2 July 2019); and “2016 Starts with Two Quintuple Homicides in San Miguel and La Paz” (“2016 inicia con dos quíntuples homicidios en San Miguel y La Paz”), El Mundo, January 1, 2016, https://elmundo.sv/2016-inicia-con-quintuple-homicidio-en-san-miguel/ (accessed July 2, 2019). Then, in February 2019, four men with their faces covered and dressed in uniforms similar to police who identified themselves as police took from their home a man in the community and then another man and woman from a neighboring community from their homes and shot them dead. See, for example, Beatriz Calderon, Flor Lazo, and Juan Carlos Díaz, “Four People Were Killed in San Miguel: One Victim had an Electronic Bracelet” (“4 personas fueron asesinadas en San Miguel: una victima tenía brazalete electrónico”), La Prensa Gráfica, February 15, 2019, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/4-personas-fueron-asesinadas-en-San-Miguel-una-victima-tenia-brazalete-electronico-20190215-0183.html (accessed July 2, 2019).

[283] Then in March 2016, three youth, aged 18 to 24, and one 38-year-old man were taken from their homes to the community’s stadium. There, they were killed. See, for example, Carlos Segovia, Jaime López, and Enrique Carranza, “Four Alleged Gang Members Are Killed in San Miguel” (“Asesinan a cuatro supuestos pandilleros en San Miguel”), El Diario de Hoy, March 25, 2016, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/asesinan-a-cuatro-supuestos-pandilleros-en-san-miguel/180334/2016/ (accessed July 2, 2019). Within a seven-week period of 2018, two or more men took two male youth, aged 18 and 21, from their homes in the La Piedad section of the neighborhood and then killed them. See, for example, “Two Young People Were Killed Last Night in the Municipality of San Miguel” (“Dos jóvenes fueron asesinados anoche en el municipio de San Miguel”), Solo Noticias, September 10, 2018, https://www.solonoticias.com/2018/09/10/dos-jovenes-fueron-asesinados-anoche-en-el-municipio-de-san-miguel/ (accessed July 2, 2019), and Beatriz Calderón, Franklin Zelaya, Francisco Hernández, Juan Carlos Díaz, Broman Mármol, Ángel Gómez, and José Cardona, “A Shooting in San Salvador Leaves Five Victims” (“Tiroteo en San Salvador deja cinco víctimas”), La Prensa Gráfica, October 27, 2018, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Tiroteo-en-San-Salvador-deja-cinco-victimas-20181027-0017.html (accessed  July 2, 2019). Men in dark clothing arrived to a man’s home in January 2019, took him out and shot him in the face. See, for example, Flor Lazo, “Five Men Are Killed in Different Points of San Miguel” (“Asesinan a cinco hombres en distintos puntos de San Miguel”) La Prensa Gráfica, January 6, 2019, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Asesinan-a-cinco-hombres-en-distintos-puntos-de-San-Miguel-20190105-0272.html (accessed July 2, 2019).

[284] Jaime Anaya, “Three Men Are Killed in a Neighborhood in Puerto El Triunfo” (“Acribillan a tres hombres cantón de Puerto El Triunfo”) El Diario de Hoy, September 20, 2015, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/acribillan-a-tres-hombres-canton-de-puerto-el-triunfo/161151/2015/ (accessed July 2, 2019).

[285] In 2001, criminal groups dressed in police uniforms assaulted persons, especially those arriving from the US. See, for example, Evelyn Granados, “Criminals Suffer Reverse” (“Criminales sufren revés”), El Diario de Hoy , May 3, 2001, http://archivo.elsalvador.com/noticias/2001/5/3/ELPAIS/elpais2.html (accessed July 2, 2019) and Rosa Fuentes, “‘The Blues’ Fall in Police Operation” (“Caen ‘Los Azules’ en operativo policial”), El Diario de Hoy , August 25, 2001, http://archivo.elsalvador.com/noticias/2001/8/25/ELPAIS/elpais1.html

(accessed July 2, 2019).

[286] “A R133 Fare Collector and Two Women Are Today’s Homicide Victims” (“Un cobrador de la R133 y dos mujeres son las víctimas de homicidio de hoy”) La Prensa Gráfica, February 23, 2017, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Un-cobrador-de-la-R-133-y-dos-mujeres-son-las-victimas-de-homicidio-de-hoy-20170223-0056.html (accessed July 2, 2019) and Beatriz Calderón, Juan Carlos Díaz and Fátima Membreño, “Killers Hit and Shoot a Bread Maker in La Unión” (“Homicidas atropellan y tirotean a panadero en La Unión”) La Prensa Gráfica, October 2, 2017,

https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Homicidas-atropellan-y-tirotean-a-panadero-en-La-Unin-20171002-0014.html (accessed July 2, 2019).

[287] Iliana Ávila, “In San Miguel, Brothers Linked to Gang killed” (“En San Miguel, matan a hermanos vinculados a pandilla”) El Diario de Hoy, January 11, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/en-san-miguel-matan-a-hermanos-vinculados-a-pandilla/438000/2018/ (accessed July 2, 2019).

[288] Beatriz Calderon, Angela Alfaro, and Jessel Santos, “Two Massacres Leave 10 Gang Members Dead in Usulután” (“Dos masacres dejan 10 pandilleros muertos en Usulután”) La Prensa Gráfica, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Dos-masacres-dejan-10-pandilleros-muertos-en-Usulutan-20150510-0023.html (accessed June 23, 2019).

[289] San Miguel Deportee Was Killed While He Was Waiting for a US Migratory Pardon” (“Migueleño deportado fue asesinado mientras esperaba perdón migratorio de EUA”) La Prensa Gráfica, May 10, 2015, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Migueleno-deportado-fue-asesinado-mientras-esperaba-perdon-migratorio-de-EUA-20170629-0048.html (accessed on June 22, 2019).

[290] Armed Group Kills Deportee and Exconvict From MS13 in Sonsonate” (“Grupo armado asesina a deportado y exconvicto de la MS13 en Sonsonate”), Diario1, January 12, 2019, http://diario1.com/nacionales/2019/01/grupo-armado-asesina-a-deportado-y-exconvicto-de-la-ms13-en-sonsonate/ (accessed June 22, 2019). In an earlier case, in the San Juan de Dios neighborhood of Olocuilta municipality in 2010, according to press accounts, five men dressed in black arrived at a neighborhood basketball court. The around 40 persons present remained, because they thought the men were police. The men called out the names of youth playing a quick soccer game, then asked them to remove their shirts and primarily shot those who had tattoos, including one deported from the United States years earlier. Claudia Huete and Liz Aguirre, “Inhabitants of Olocuilta Neighborhood Dismayed by Massacre” (“Habitantes de colonia en Olocuilta consternados por masacre”), La Prensa Gráfica, May 2, 2010, (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[291] Human Rights Watch interview with Ransés I., Northern State of Mexico, March 8, 2019 (pseudonym).

[292] El Salvador’s government-issued photo identification.

[293] Human Rights Watch interview with Ransés I., Northern State of Mexico, March 8, 2019 (pseudonym).

[294] Ibid.

[295] Salvadoran news articles on persons disappeared or killed after their deportation also often indicate that that the victim had lived in the United States for years – even most of their life – beforehand. “In San Miguel, Life Taken of Man Who Returned Deported to the Country Yesterday” (“Le quitan la vida a un hombre que ayer regreso deportado al país en San Miguel”), El Blog, December 4, 2018, http://elblog.com/inicio/le-quitan-la-vida-a-un-hombre-que-ayer-regreso-deportado-al-pais-en-san-miguel/ (accessed June 21, 2019); Gadiel Castillo, “Man is Killed When He Was Going to Work” (“Hombre es asesinado cuando iba a su trabajo”), El Diario de Hoy, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/hombre-es-asesinado-cuando-iba-a-su-trabajo/543809/2018/ (accessed June 22, 2019); Anna-Catherine Brigida, “Kicked Out of the U.S., Salvadoran Deportees Are Struggling Simply to Stay Alive,” World Politics Review, November 28, 2018, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/26302/kicked-out-of-the-u-s-salvadoran-deportees-are-struggling-simply-to-stay-alive (accessed June 22, 2019); David Marroquín, “Violence Takes the Life of 64 People in the Last Four Days” (“Violencia acaba con la vida de 64 personas en los últimos cuatro días”), El Diario de Hoy, March 15, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/violencia-acaba-con-la-vida-de-64-personas-en-ultimos-cuatro-dias/460839/2018/ (accessed 21 June 2019); Jaime López, “Youth Arrived to El Salvador from the United States and Disappeared in Sensuntepeque” (“Joven llego a El Salvador de EE.UU. y desapareció en Sensuntepeque”), El Diario de Hoy, September 23, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/joven-llego-a-el-salvador-de-ee-uu-y-desaparecio-en-sensuntepeque/521291/2018/ (accessed June 21, 2019); Roberto Lovato, “Deported to Death: the Tragic Journey of a Salvadoran immigrant,” Al Jazeera, July 11, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/7/11/deported-to-death-the-tragic-journey-of-an-el-salvadoran-immigrant.html (accessed  June 21, 2019); David Marroquín, “2,841 Murders Registered on the Year, with 297 in September” (“Registran 2,841 asesinatos en el año, septiembre con 297 homicidios”), El Diario de Hoy, September 29, 2014, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/registran-2841-asesinatos-en-el-ano-septiembre-con-297-homicidios/136337/2014/ (accessed June 21, 2019); Ricardo Flores, “Witness to Crime Killed in the Capital” (“Matan en la capital a testigo de crimen”), La Prensa Gráfica, (on file with Human Rights Watch); and Julia Preston, “Losing Asylum, Then His Life,” New York Times, June 28, 2010, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/29/us/29asylum.html (accessed June 22, 2019).

[296] Human Rights Watch interview with Karina I., United States West Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Wendy R., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, December 9, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jennifer B., United States East Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Nohemy P., El Salvador’s Eastern Region, March 24, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Bernardo A., El Salvador’s Central Region, January 25, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Yavany B., El Salvador’s Central Region, December 1, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Óscar K., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), December 2019 (exact date withheld for security)(pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Ruben M.’s immigration attorney, United States East Coast, February 22, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Walter T. and Gaspar T., El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019 (pseudonyms); and Human Rights Watch interview with Ransés I., Tijuana, Mexico, March 8, 2019 (pseudonym).

[297] Allison O’Connor, Jeanne Batalova, and Jessica Bolter, “Central American Immigrants in the United States,” Migration Policy Institute, August 15, 2019, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/central-american-immigrants-united-states (accessed August 24, 2019).

[298] Since the late-1980s, research in numerous Brazilian, Canadian and US cities with varying populations has shown that crimes, including homicide and rape, concentrate at very small units of geography. Across studies, researchers have tended to find that roughly 1.5 percent of street segments in cities see about 25 percent of crime incidents. See W. Crow and J. Bull, Robbery Deterrence: An Applied Behavioral Science Demonstration: Final Report, (La Jolla: Western Behavioral Science Institute, 1975); M. Felson, “Routine Activities and Crime Prevention in the Developing Metropolis,” Criminology, vol. 25, no. 4, 1987, pp. 911-32; G.L. Pierce, S. Spaar, and L.R. Briggs, The Character of Police Work: Strategic and Tactical Implications, (Boston, MA: Center for Applied Social Research, Northeastern University, 1988); D.J. Evans and D.T. Herbert, The Geography of Crime, (London: Routledge, 1989); L.W. Sherman, P.R. Gartin and M.E. Buerger, “Hot Spots of Predatory Crime: Routine Activities and the Criminology of Place,” Criminology, vol. 27, no. 1, 1989, pp. 27-56; P.L. Brantingham and P.J. Brantingham, “Hot Spots of Predatory Crime: Routine Activities and the Criminology of Place,” Criminology, vol. 27, no. 1 (1999), pp. 27-56; P.L. Brantingham, “A Theoretical Model of Crime Hot Spot Generation,” Studies on Crime and Crime Prevention, vol. 8, no. 1 (1999), pp. 7-26; D. Weisburd, S. Bushway, C. Lum, and S.M. Yang, “Trajectories of Crime at Place: A Longitudinal Study of Street Segments in the City of Seattle,” Criminology, vol. 42, no. 5 (2004), pp.283-322; Ilona Szabo de Carvalho, Juan Carlos Garzon, and Robert Muggah, “Citizen Security Rising: New Approaches to Addressing Drugs, Guns and Violence in Latin America,” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF), 2013; A.A. Braga, A.V. Papachristos, and D.M. Hureau, “The Effects of Hot Spots Policing on Crime: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” Justice Quarterly , vol. 31, no.4, (2014), pp.633-63; A.S. Curmen, M.A. Andresen, and P.J. Brantingham, “Crime and Place: A Longitudinal Examination of Street Segment Patterns in Vancouver, BC,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, vol. 31, no.1 (2014), pp.127-47; and David Weisburd, “The 2014 Sutherland Address: The Law of Crime Concentration and the Criminology of Place,” Criminology, vol. 53, no. 2, (2015), pp.133-57. As early as 1977, research in the US found that as unemployment increased in an area, so too did the area’s homicide rate. See H. Brenner, “Health Costs and Benefits of Economic Policy,” International Journal of Health Services, vol. 7 no. 4, 1977, pp. 581-623. This is inherently tied with poverty, as areas of high unemployment are stigmatized and often provide few educational or economic opportunities. Indeed, subsequent research showed that when socioeconomic status is controlled across place and race, homicide rate discrepancies disappear. See J. Jason, L.T. Strauss, C.W. Tyler, “A Comparison of Primary and Secondary Homicides in the United States,” American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 117, no. 3, 1983, pp. 309-319; B.S. Centerwall, “Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Domestic Homicide, Atlanta, 1971-1972,” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 74, no. 8, 1984, pp. 813-5; R. Sampson and J. Laub, Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points through Life, (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1993); and Steven Whitman, Nanette Benbow, and Glenn Good, “The Epidemiology of Homicide in Chicago,” Journal of the National Medical Association vol. 88, no. 12, 1996, pp. 781-787. Such neighborhoods are likely marked by authorities who fail to make arrests as well. A Washington Post investigation found that all of the US’s 50 most populous cities had neighborhoods they dubbed as “pockets of impunity” with homicide arrest rates less than 33 percent. See Wesley Lowery, Kimbriell Kelly, Ted Mellnik, and Steven Rich, “Where Killings Go Unsolved,” Washington Post, June 6, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/investigations/where-murders-go-unsolved/ (accessed January 21, 2020).

[299] Human Rights Watch interview with aid director for persons deported from Mexico and the United States for international non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019.

[300] Human Rights Watch interview with Yeshua’s sister, United States East Coast, April 5, 2019 (pseudonym). The assault occurred when his sister attempted to take a hunting rifle away from Yeshua when he was drunk. According to our interview with Yeshua’s sister, her arm was only slightly injured by scratches during the struggle. She said that while there was some blood, her injuries were so minor that “at the hospital they did nothing.” Police were called when witnesses heard the rifle go off.

[301] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yeshua O., El Salvador’s Central Region, November 13, 2018 (pseudonym).

[302] Human Rights Watch interview with Baltazar’s sister and nephew, El Salvador’s Central Region, December 1, 2018 (pseudonym).

[303] Human Rights Watch interview with Bernardo A., El Salvador’s Central Region, January 25, 2019 (pseudonym).

[304] Human Rights Watch interview with Elías F., United States East Coast, winter 2019 (exact date withheld for security) (pseudonym).

[305] Human Rights Watch interview with surviving family member Norman S., United States (region withheld for security), March 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with surviving family member Ana P., United States Mountain West, March 5, 2019 (pseudonym).

[306] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with IML investigator, El Salvador’s Western Region, September 26, 2019.

[307] Human Rights Watch interview with Norman S., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), first quarter of 2019 (exact date withheld for security) (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Matías J., United States East Coast, March 1, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ana P., March 5, 2019 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Elías F., United States (region withheld for security), first quarter of 2019 (exact date withheld for security) (pseudonym); and Human Rights Watch interview with PNC officer, El Salvador's Paracentral Region, March 25, 2019.

[308] Human Rights Watch interview with PNC Investigator, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with police person, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, March 25, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with city hall based OLAV official, El Salvador’s Central Region, January 11, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with aid director for persons deported from Mexico and the United States for international non-profit, El Salvador’s Central Region, March 28, 2019.

[309] Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019. Two other long-term residents from the United States were killed in 2014 and 2018 one in Ahuachapán and the other in La Libertad–worked for 10 or more years in the United States to save enough money to open businesses in El Salvador. David Marroquín, “Violence Takes the Life of 64 People in the Last Four Days” (“Violencia acaba con la vida de 64 personas en los últimos cuatro días”), El Diario de Hoy, March 15, 2018, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/violencia-acaba-con-la-vida-de-64-personas-en-ultimos-cuatro-dias/460839/2018/ (accessed 21 June 2019), and David Marroquín, “2,841 Murders Registered in the Year, with 297 in September” (“Registran 2,841 asesinatos en el año, septiembre con 297 homicidios”), El Diario de Hoy, September 29, 2014, https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/registran-2841-asesinatos-en-el-ano-septiembre-con-297-homicidios/136337/2014/ (accessed June 21, 2019).

[310] Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, March 25, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with Norman S., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), first quarter of 2019 (exact date withheld for security) (pseudonym).

[311] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran official (office withheld for security), Paracentral Region, March 25, 2019.

[312] Newsweek reported on a survey of respondents in 18 countries, finding that 46 percent of respondents in the United States had tattoos – the third highest of the 18 countries surveyed. James Tennet, “Which Country Has the Most People with Tattoos? It’s not the US,” Newsweek, May 24, 2018, https://www.newsweek.com/which-country-most-people-tattoos-943104 (accessed October 9, 2019).

[313] Human Rights Watch interview with Paloma V., United States East Coast, June 17, 2019 (pseudonym).

[314] Human Rights Watch interview with Yavany B., El Salvador’s Central Region, December 1, 2018 (pseudonym); Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security) (pseudonym), November 26, 2018; Human Rights Watch interview with Ransés I., Tijuana, Mexico, March 8, 2019 (pseudonym).

[315] Human Rights Watch interview with defense attorney, United States (region withheld for security), April 4, 2019.

[316] Human Rights Watch interview with Bartolo A., El Salvador’s (region withheld for security), November 26, 2018 (pseudonym).

[317] Ibid. See also, “Why Prisoners Join Gangs,” Economist, November 12, 2014.

[318] “No Place to Hide: Gang, State, and Clandestine Violence in El Salvador,” The International Human Rights Clinic, Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School, February 2007, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5b3538249d5abb21360e858f/t/5cabca6ce4966bf580ea3471/1554762350561/No+Place+to+Hide+Cavallaro+2007.pdf.

[319] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Paracentral Region, March 29, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 22, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with IML examiners, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 24, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with IML investigators, El Salvador’s Western Region, January 7, 2019; Human Rights Watch interview with IML examiner, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 26, 2018.

[320] Human Rights Watch interview with FGR prosecutor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, January 22, 2019.

[321] Human Rights Watch interview with IML doctor, El Salvador’s Eastern Region, November 26, 2018.

[322] “My Husband Went to Pay Installments to a Store and Did Not Return” (“Mi esposo fue a pagar a unas letras a un almacen y ya no regreso”), El Blog http://elblog.com/noticias/registro-43551.html (accessed October 28, 2019).

[323] Lilibeth Sanchez and David Marroquín, “Deportee from United States Killed” (“Matan a deportado de Estados Unidos”), El Diario de Hoy (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[324] Mauricio Bolanos, “La Paz: Murder of Man Reported in Santiago Nonualco” (“La Paz: reportan asesinato de hombre en Santiago Nonualco”), La Prensa Gráfica, April 28, 2013, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/La-Paz-reportan-asesinato-de-hombre-en-Santiago-Nonualco-20130428-0020.html (accessed October 28, 2019).

[325] 25 Persons Kidnapped in Usulután This Year” (“25 privados de libertad van este año en Usulután”) La Prensa Gráfica, April 28, 2013, https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/25-privados-de-libertad-van-este-ano-en-Usulutan-20140303-0116.html (accessed October 28, 2019).

[326] Anna-Catherine Brigida, “Kicked Out of the U.S., Salvadoran Deportees Are Struggling Simply to Stay Alive,” World Politics Review , October 9, 2018, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/26302/kicked-out-of-the-u-s-salvadoran-deportees-are-struggling-simply-to-stay-alive (accessed October 28, 2019).

[327] Anna-Catherine Brigida, “Kicked Out of the U.S., Salvadoran Deportees Are Struggling Simply to Stay Alive,” World Politics Review , October 9, 2018, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/26302/kicked-out-of-the-u-s-salvadoran-deportees-are-struggling-simply-to-stay-alive (accessed October 28, 2019); Gadiel Castillo, “Man is Killed While Going to Work” (“Hombre es asesinado cuando iba a su trabajo”), ElSalvador.com, November 28, 2018 https://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/hombre-es-asesinado-cuando-iba-a-su-trabajo/543809/2018/ (accessed October 10, 2019); Criminal Sentencing Order, Tribunal de Sentencia de Santa Tecla, June 22, 2015 (sentencing document for the individual convicted in a deportee’s killing)(on file with Human Rights Watch).

 
 

[330] Human Rights Watch interview with Jaír F., United States East Coast, February 23, 2019 (pseudonym).

[331] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran journalist, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 9, 2018.

[332] Human Rights Watch interview with Salvadoran journalist, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 8, 2018.

[333] Human Rights Watch’s decades of research in US immigration detention centers has shown that detainees are rarely, if ever, allowed to leave immigration detention centers including to go to hospitals for serious medical conditions, or to attend important events such as funerals or children’s graduations. It is also extremely difficult to enter immigration detention centers, unless as an attorney representing an immigrant client. Therefore, under current US policy, detainees would experience significant barriers to leaving detention to have tattoos removed and tattoo removal professionals would experience significant challenges in entering detention centers repeatedly to remove tattoos.

[334] Human Rights Watch interview with former public defender, United States (region withheld for security), April 4, 2019.

[335] Human Rights Watch interview with migrant reinsertion official, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 28, 2018.

[336] Human Rights Watch interview with migrant reinsertion official, El Salvador’s Central Region, November 28, 2018.

[337] US Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review, In the Matter of (name and date withheld for security) (ruling on file with Human Rights Watch).

[338] Ibid.

[339] Ibid.

[340] Ibid.

[341] Ibid.

[342] US Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review, In the Matter of (name and date withheld for security). (ruling on file with Human Rights Watch).

[343] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jennifer B., United States East Coast, March 6, 2019 (pseudonym).

•  [344] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 189 U.N.T.S. 150, entered into force April 22, 1954, http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html; U.N. Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 606 U.N.T.S. 268, entered into force October 4, 1967. The United States acceded to the 1967 Protocol in 1968.

[345] The US incorporated the provisions of the 1967 Protocol into domestic law through the Refugee Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96- 212, 94 Stat. 102 (1980). As the Supreme Court has confirmed, a primary purpose of Congress in passing the Refugee Act “was to bring United States refugee law into conformance with the 1967 United Nations Protocol.” INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 426 (1987); see also, INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407, 416-24 (1984) (providing a history of the incorporation of the Refugee Convention standards into US law through the Refugee Protocol and the Refugee Act of 1980).

[346] The only exception is individuals with mental health disabilities or cognitive impairments. See Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, No. CV-10-02211 DMG (DTBx), Central District of California, (October 29, 2014).

[347] Ingrid Eagly and Steven Shafer, “Access to Counsel in Immigration Court,” American Immigration Council, September 28, 2016, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/access-counsel-immigration-court (accessed January 5, 2020).

[348] SeeMake the Road New York v. McAleenan, No. 19-cv-2369, Order by the US District Court for the District of Columbia, September 27, 2019, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/litigation_documents/challenging_the_expansion_of_expedited_order_granting_preliminary_injunction.pdf (accessed January 13, 2020).

[349] See, for example, Human Rights Watch, You Don’t Have Rights Here: US Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk of Serious Harm (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2014), https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/10/16/you-dont-have-rights-here/us-border-screening-and-returns-central-americans-risk.

[350] In September 2017, the Trump Administration announced that it would end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program (1.8 percent of Salvadorans living in the US were DACA recipients), and although three lawsuits (Regents of the University of California, et al. v. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), 908 F.3d 476 (9th Cir. 2018); Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen, 291 F. Supp. 3d 260 (E.D.N.Y. 2018); and NAACP v. Trump, 298 F. Supp. 3d 209 – (US Dist. Court, Dist. of Columbia 2018) have resulted in three nationwide injunctions, the government has appealed the injunctions to the US Supreme Court. Oral argument was held on November 12, 2019 and at the time of writing a decision was pending. At the same time, in May 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans (13.9 percent of Salvadorans in the US were Temporary Protected Status (TPS) re-registrants). TPS status is also in a precarious state, because of legal challenges due to claims that the administration ended it for Salvadorans based on racial discrimination. In the case Ramos et al v. Nielsen, 336 F. Supp. 3d 1075 (N.D. Cal. 2018), Judge Edward Chen in the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction preventing DHS from implementing TPS terminations for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan while the case is resolved on its merits. DHS published steps it is taking to comply with the injunction in Federal Register Notices issued on October 31, 2018, March 1, 2019, and November 3, 2019. Currently, an automatic extension of TPS for Salvadorans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Sudanese is in place through January 4, 2021 unless the injunction is overturned. The government has appealed the injunction to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, oral argument was held August 14, 2019 and at the time of writing a decision was pending.

[351] For further discussion of the legal arguments presented here, see Human Rights Watch, A Price Too High: US Families Torn Apart by Deportations for Drug Offenses (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2015), https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/06/16/price-too-high/us-families-torn-apart-deportations-drug-offenses#bc77e3; Human Rights Watch, Forced Apart: Families Separated and Immigrants Harmed by US Deportation Policy  (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2007), https://www.hrw.org/report/2007/07/16/forced-apart/families-separated-and-immigrants-harmed-united-states-deportation.

[352] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, art. 33(2).

[353] UNHCR, Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, UNHCR, Geneva, January 1992), para. 155.

[354] UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Executive Committee, Conclusion No. 7 (1977). The exceptions to non-refoulement in article 33(2) were intended to be used only as a “last resort” where “there is no alternative mechanism to protect the community in the country of asylum from an unacceptably high risk of harm.” James C. Hathaway, The Rights of Refugees under International Law (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 352. 

[355] The Refugee Convention and Protocol require that a refugee should be “allowed to submit evidence to clear himself, and to appeal to and be represented for the purpose before competent authority or a person or persons specially designated by the competent authority.” Ibid., art. 32(2). An individualized determination must occur before deportation, during which states must weigh two elements: 1) that a refugee has been convicted of a particularly serious crime and 2) that he or she constitutes a danger to the community. James C. Hathaway, The Rights of Refugees under International Law, pp. 344-351; Rene Bruin and Kees Wouters, "Terrorism and the Non-derogability of Non-refoulement," International Journal of Refugee Law, vol. 15, no. 1 (2003), p. 18. With regard to the first prong of the inquiry, the determination of a particularly serious crime cannot be merely rhetorical: It requires that the crime in question be distinguished from other crimes. The "particularly serious crime" exception in article 33(2) is presumed to require that the individual refugee be even more dangerous in order to fall under this exception. See Sir Elihu Lauterpacht & Daniel Bethlehem, UNHCR, "Opinion: The Scope and Content of the Principle of Non-Refoulement," June 20, 2001, paragraph 147 ("Article 33(2) indicates a higher threshold than article 1F . . .") With regard to the second prong, a government must separately assess the danger the individual poses to the community: “A judgment on the potential danger to the community necessarily requires an examination of the circumstances of the refugee as well as the particulars of the specific offence.” UNHCR, "Nationality Immigration and Asylum Bill 2002: UNHCR comments relating to serious criminals and statutory review," 2002, paragraph 3; UNHCR, Handbook, p. 157 ("The fact that an applicant convicted of a serious non-political crime has already served his sentence or has been granted a pardon or has benefited from amnesty is also relevant.").

[356] UNHCR, "The Scope and Content of the Principle of Non-Refoulement," June 20, 2001, https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/protection/globalconsult/3b33574d1/scope-content-principle-non-refoulement-opinion.html (accessed October 18, 2019), paras. 147 and 164. (“While past conduct may be relevant to an assessment of whether there are reasonable grounds for regarding the refugee to be a danger to the country in the future, the material consideration is whether there is a prospective danger to the security of the country”).

[357] 8 USCS § 1231(b)(3) (2005) INA § 241(b)(3).

[358] 8 U.S.C. Section 1231 (b)(3)(B) (stating, “[A]n alien who has been convicted of an aggravated felony (or felonies) for which the alien has been sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment of at least 5 years shall be considered to have been convicted of a particularly serious crime. The previous sentence shall not preclude the Attorney General from determining that, notwithstanding the length of sentence imposed, an alien has been convicted of a particularly serious crime.”). US immigration law’s definition of “aggravated felony” includes a broad range of crimes, including some that are actually not felonies at all. See Human Rights Watch, Forced Apart; Human Rights Watch, Forced Apart (By the Numbers): Non-Citizens Deported Mostly for Nonviolent Offenses (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2009), https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/15/forced-apart-numbers/non-citizens-deported-mostly-nonviolent-offenses; Human Rights Watch, A Price Too High: Detention and Deportation of Immigrants in the US for Minor Drug Offenses (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2015), https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/06/16/price-too-high/us-families-torn-ap....

[359] See In re Y-L-, Immigration & Nationality Laws Administrative Decisions, vol. 23, decision 270, (B.I.A. 2002). The BIA and most courts have found that an offense that is not an “aggravated felony” may be deemed a “particularly serious crime”. See for example, Matter of N-A-M-, 24 I&N Dec. 336 (BIA 2007), aff’d, N-A-M- v. Holder, 587 F.3d 1052 (10th Cir. 2009), holding that Congress did not intend to limit what offenses may be “particularly serious crimes” to those offenses classified as aggravated felonies.

[360] Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, art. 1., Dec.10 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85, art. 1., 8 C.F.R. § 208.18. See 8 CFR § 208.18.

[361] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, art. 14.1.

[362] 8 USC Sec. 1158.

[363] Human Rights Watch, “We Can’t Help You Here”: US Returns of Asylum Seekers to Mexico (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2019), https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/07/02/we-cant-help-you-here/us-returns-a....

[364] Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, “Access to Attorneys Difficult for Those Required to Remain In Mexico,” July 29, 2019, https://trac.syr.edu/whatsnew/email.190729.html (accessed November 25, 2019).

[365] “US: Family Separation Harming Children, Families,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 11, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/11/us-family-separation-harming-children-families.

[366] Immigrant advocacy groups challenged MPP in the US District Court for the Northern District of California in Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan, No. 19-00807 (N.D. Ca. 2019). The court originally halted MPP and the government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The government also moved for a stay of the order during the pendency of the appeal which the Ninth Circuit granted. See Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan, No. 19-15716, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, May 7, 2019,  http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/general/2019/05/07/19-15716%20opinion.pdf. Thus, MPP remains in effect until the Ninth Circuit reviews the merits of the case.

[367] Michelle Hackman, “At Migrant Camp in Mexico, Crowds and Complaints Swell,” Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/at-migrant-camp-in-mexico-crowds-and-complaints-swell-11574510400 (accessed November 25, 2019); “US Move Puts More Asylum Seekers at Risk: Expanded ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program Undermines Due Process,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 25, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/09/25/us-move-puts-more-asylum-seekers-risk#.

[368] Kirk Semple, “’I Didn’t Want Them to Go: Salvadoran Family Greives for Father and Daughter Who Drowned,” New York Times, June 28, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/28/world/americas/rio-grande-drowning-father-daughter.html (accessed October 23, 2019); Sharyn Alfonsi, “You’ve Seen the Image. Now, Hear a Widow Recall How her Husband and Daughter Drowned in the Rio Grande,” CBS News 60 Minutes, November 24, 2019, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tania-avalos-mother-wife-drowned-migrants-salvador-60-minutes-2019-11-24/.

[369] See Executive Office for Immigration Review, Department of Justice; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, “governing asylum claims in the context of aliens who enter or attempt to enter the United States across the southern land border after failing to apply for protection from persecution or torture while in a third country through which they transited en route to the United States,” US Federal Register, July 16, 2019, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/16/2019-15246/asylum-eligibility-and-procedural-modifications.

[370] Barr v. East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, 140 S.Ct. 3 (2019),  September 11, 2019, https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/19a230_k53l.pdf.

[371] Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands, “US Signs Asylum Deal with Honduras, the Latest in a String of Agreements with Central America,” CNN, September 25, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/25/politics/united-states-honduras-asylum-agreement/index.html (accessed November 25, 2019); Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands, “US Signs Asylum Agreement with Guatemala,” CNN, July 26, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/26/politics/guatemala-us-immigration/index.html (accessed November 25, 2019); Geneva Sands, “Deal Could Allow the US to Send Some Asylum Seekers Back to El Salvador,” CNN, September 20, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/20/politics/asylum-us-el-salvador/index.html (accessed November 25, 2019).

[372] See, for example, “Human Rights Watch Submits Comment in Opposition to the Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications Interim Final Rule,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 15, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/08/15/human-rights-watch-submits-comment-opposition-asylum-eligibility-and-procedural (accessed January 13, 2020); Eleanor Acer, “Safe Third Country Agreement with Guatemala Would Endanger, not Protect Refugees,” Human Rights First, June 14, 2019, https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/safe-third-country-agreement-guatemala-would-endanger-not-protect-refugees (accessed January 13, 2020). 

[373] Chantal da Silva, “More Than 5,400 Children Were Separated from Their Parents by the Trump Administration, ‘Shocking’ New Tally Shows,” Newsweek, October 25, 2019, https://www.newsweek.com/trump-administration-family-separation-policy-aclu-1467715 (accessed November 25, 2019).

[374] Cora Currier, “Prosecuting Parents–and Separating Families–Was Meant to Deter Migration, Signed Memo Confirms,” The Intercept, September 25, 2018, https://theintercept.com/2018/09/25/family-separation-border-crossings-zero-tolerance/ (accessed January 13, 2020).

[375] Executive Order of the President of the United States, “Affording Congress the Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” June 20, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/affording-congress-opportunity-address-family-separation/ (accessed January 13, 2020).

[376] “US: Family Separation Harming Children, Families,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 11, 2009, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/11/us-family-separation-harming-children-families; Miriam Jordan, “No More Family Separations, Except These 900,” New York Times, July 30, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/us/migrant-family-separations.html (accessed January 13, 2020).

[377] 27 I&N Dec. 40 (BIA 2017).

[378] 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018).

[379] See In Matter of E-F-H-L-, Sessions certified to himself and then overturned a third BIA decision, eviscerating the rights of asylum seekers to testify on their own behalf before they can be denied asylum and/or deported. 27 I&N Dec. 226 (A.G. 2018).

[380] See Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 338 (BIA 2014)(establishing domestic violence survivors as a “particular social group” under US asylum law in certain cases); and USCIS, “Notification of Ramos v. Holder: Former Gang Membership as a Potential Particular Social Group in the Seventh Circuit,” March 2, 2010, https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/2010/Asylum-Ramos-Div-2-mar-2010.pdf (discussing Circuit Court precedent in which gang membership is considered to be a “particular social group” under US asylum law in certain cases).

[381] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Brief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in the case O.L.B.D., petitioner, v. William P. Barr, Attorney General, respondent, March 11, 2019, https://www.refworld.org/docid/5c8924454.html (accessed October 23, 2019); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from El Salvador, March 15, 2016, https://www.refworld.org/docid/56e706e94.html (accessed October 23, 2019).

[382] United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Credible Fear and Torture Determinations and Reasonable Fear and Torture Determinations,” USCIS Memorandum, February 13, 2017, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_6gbFPjVDoxY0FCczROOFZ4SVk/edit (accessed January 13, 2019).

[383] See “Leahy & Lofgren Introduce Bicameral Refugee Protection Act of 2019,” November 21, 2019, https://lofgren.house.gov/media/press-releases/leahy-lofgren-introduce-bicameral-refugee-protection-act-2019 (accessed November 26, 2019).

[384] For further discussion of the legal arguments presented in this section, see Human Rights Watch, The Deported: Immigrants Uprooted from the Country They Call Home (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2017), https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/12/05/deported/immigrants-uprooted-country-they-call-home#5de4cc; Human Rights Watch, A Price Too High; Human Rights Watch, Forced Apart; Human Rights Watch, Forced Apart (By the Numbers).

[385] This is true except under highly limited circumstances where removal would result in “extremely unusual hardship” to the US citizen or lawful permanent resident child, spouse, or parent of the otherwise deportable person who has lived in the US for ten or more years and maintained good moral character. See Immigration and Nationality Act § 240A(b)(1).

[386] United Nations Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 15, paras. 5 and 7.

[387] See, for example, Madaferri v. Australia, Communication No. 1011/2001, UN Doc CCPR/C/81/D/1011/2001 (2004). See also, Husseini v. Denmark, Communication No. 2243/2013, UN Doc CCPR/C/112/D/2243/2013 (2014); MGC v. Australia, Communication No. 1875/2009, UN Doc CCPR/C/113/D/1875/2009 (2015).

[388] United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), The Rights of Non-Citizens, 2006, HR/PUB/06/11, http://www.refworld.org/docid/46ceabb22.html (accessed December 3, 2017).

[389] Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides that non-citizens “lawfully present in the territory of a state party” may be only be expelled pursuant to a decision made “in accordance with law,” and that the person in question should have the opportunity to have their case reviewed before some “competent authority or a person or persons especially designated by the competent authority.” Article 13 explicitly allows a limited exception to these obligations where “compelling reasons of national security otherwise require,” and excludes from its scope all immigrants who articulate no claim that their presence on the state party’s territory is “lawful.” International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966). 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976. The United States ratified the ICCPR in 1992.

[390] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 27, Freedom of Movement (art. 12), U.N. Doc, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.9 (1999), Para. 20.

[391] UN Human Rights Committee, Nystrom v. Australia, Communication No. 1557/07, U.N. Doc CCPR/C/102/D/1557/2007; UN Human Rights Committee, Warsame v. Canada, Communication No. 1959/10, U.N. Doc CCPR/C/102/D/1959/2010 (2011).

[392] 23 I&N Dec. 291 (BIA 2000).

[393] GA res. 2200A (XXI), 21 UN GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, UN Doc. A/6316 (1966); 999 UNTS 171; 6 ILM 368 (1967).

[394] UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), CCPR General Comment No. 20: art. 7 (Prohibition of Torture, or Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment), March 10, 1992, https://www.refworld.org/docid/453883fb0.html (accessed November 24, 2019).

[395] They include all European Union (EU) member states, Albania, Australia, Bosnia, Canada, Finland, Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine. Bill Frelick, “What’s Wrong with Temporary Protected Status and How to Fix It: Exploring a Complementary Protection Regime,” Journal of Migration and Human Security (forthcoming).

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Screenshot from a video showing a photo of a prisoner working at Uzbekistan's Jaslyk prison.

© 2019 VOA

(Berlin) – Uzbekistan should carry out the United Nations Committee Against Torture’s recommendations to end the “widespread, routine torture and ill-treatment” in the country, Human Rights Watch said today.

The committee’s review of Uzbekistan under the Convention against Torture highlighted that the steps Tashkent has taken to curb the use of torture have been insufficient. Urgent further measures should include full implementation of a ban on the use of torture-tainted evidence in court, opening criminal trials to the public, and rehabilitating former political prisoners tortured while in jail.

“The UN committee findings are a wake-up call to the realities of human rights in Uzbekistan today,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The reforms led by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev are important, but this report shows that key pillars of the country’s abusive, authoritarian system are still in place.”

Human Rights Watch has over many years documented the use of torture in detention in Uzbekistan, including beatings with rubber truncheons and water-filled bottles, electric shock, hanging by wrists and ankles, rape and sexual humiliation, asphyxiation with plastic bags and gas masks, threats of physical harm to relatives, and denial of food or water. It has also documented cases since President Mirziyoyev came to power in September 2016.

The committee, which held hearings with the Uzbek government and Uzbek regional and international nongovernmental groups in November in preparation for its December 6 report, said that “complaints of torture received by the prosecutor’s office increased tenfold from 2017 to 2018.” It said it was concerned however that “the number of cases in which officials were prosecuted for torture did not increase at a commensurate rate.” No specific data was provided.

The committee said it was aware of reports of an unspecified number of deaths in prison as a result of torture.

The committee said it “remains deeply concerned at reports that torture and ill-treatment continue to be routinely committed by, at the instigation of and with the consent of the State party’s law enforcement, investigative and prison officials, principally for the purpose of extracting confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings.”

The committee welcomed important legal steps by President Mirziyoyev and his government to “reduce incentives to perpetuate torture and [that] make it mandatory for procuratorial authorities and courts to verify reports of torture.” These included banning the use of torture-tainted evidence in court. It expressed concern, however, over continued reports that judges and prosecutors “tend to disregard and decline to investigate” allegations that confessions were obtained through torture. Prosecutors and judges should in future ask all defendants in criminal cases “whether they were tortured,” the committee said.

The committee said that Uzbek authorities should collect data on its steps to reduce incentives to use torture and make the data public. It also expressed concern that confessions had been used in a number of criminal trials in which defendants alleged torture and that trials of people accused of committing torture were held behind closed doors. Criminal trials should be “open to the public” the committee said.

The release from prison of “a substantial number of human rights defenders and journalists since September 2016” was welcomed by the committee. However, it criticized Uzbek authorities’ rulings that all of the claims of torture and arbitrary detention by these former political prisoners were “unsubstantiated.” The committee said Uzbekistan should take steps to “exonerate” those convicted in unfair trials or on the basis of torture-tainted evidence; provide them with “redress, including compensation and rehabilitation”; and should “consider creating an independent commission to investigate these matters.”

It criticized the government’s rejection of an application by a group of former political prisoners to establish a nongovernmental group focused on rehabilitation.

The committee addressed other key issues, stating that:

  • It was concerned about allegations of torture against Kadyr Yusupov, a retired Uzbek diplomat in jail on treason charges.
  • It welcomed the closure in August of Jaslyk prison, but said it should be permanently closed, not turned into a pretrial detention facility. Authorities should conduct an “independent inquiry into allegations of torture and ill-treatment” at Jaslyk and ensure that victims “obtain redress” and that the public is given access to the prison archives.
  • It was concerned at the “continued weakness and inefficiency of the judiciary” and the “lack of independence” from the Justice Ministry of Uzbekistan’s lawyers’ association.
  • It was concerned that human rights defenders had been involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals “to prevent them from conducting their work.” Cases cited include that of Nafosat Ollashukurova, hospitalized in this way since September. It was concerned over reports of forced labor in the cotton fields, including that “an estimated 170,000 adults were forced to work” in the 2018 cotton harvest.
  • It was concerned over reports that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are tortured in prison and persecuted by police, including through “entrapment schemes.”

The committee said the Uzbek government had given “assurances” that “an invitation to visit is being extended to the UN special rapporteur on torture,” who has not been allowed to visit the country since 2002.

Uzbekistan’s international partners should raise the report’s findings with the government and should stress that closer relations with Uzbekistan will be tied to concrete progress on these issues, Human Rights Watch said.

“As Uzbekistan is aware, the use of torture is completely banned under international human rights law,” Williamson said. “Uzbekistan needs to prioritize urgent action against torture in order to stop this terrible practice once and for all.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

 

South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min briefs the media at a government complex in downtown Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. South Korea says it has deported 2 North Koreans after finding they had killed 16 fellow fishermen onboard and fled to South Korea.

© 2019 Kim Seung-doo/Yonhap via AP
(Seoul) – The South Korean government deported two North Korean fishermen on November 7, 2019 to face murder charges in North Korea, where they face likely torture, Human Rights Watch said today.

On November 2, the South Korean navy intercepted a North Korean fishing vessel after a two-day pursuit, and brought the two North Koreans piloting the boat ashore. South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that the government conducted an inter-departmental investigation and determined that the two men, in their 20s, had killed 16 other crew members while squid fishing in the East Sea. After contacting North Korean authorities on November 5, South Korean authorities deported the two men to North Korea on November 7.

“Returning these two men to North Korea was illegal under international law because of the likelihood they’ll be tortured under North Korea’s extremely brutal legal system,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “South Korean authorities should have thoroughly investigated the allegations against the two men and ensured they had a full opportunity to contest their being returned to North Korea.”

A Unification Ministry spokesman, Lee Sang-min, said the South Korean government decided to expel the two fishermen because they were “non-political, serious criminals who did not receive protection under the Act on the Protection and Settlement Assistance for Residents Escaping from North Korea (Settlement Act), [and] could pose a threat to the lives and safety of our people if accepted into our society, and as brutal criminals could not be recognized as refugees under international laws.”

The South Korean government has not released detailed information about how it reached these determinations, Human Rights Watch said. The authorities should explain its investigation of the case, the evidence it collected, and whether the suspects had access to legal representation who had the time and opportunity to present their case before an impartial authority. The government should also explain its basis for concluding that the two would not face torture or other ill-treatment if returned to North Korea.

South Korean authorities could have prosecuted the two men for their alleged criminal acts, since under article 3 of the country’s constitution, domestic law extends to the entire Korean peninsula.

While international refugee law excludes from refugee status individuals who committed serious non-political crimes outside the receiving country, human rights law prohibits returning anyone to a country where they would be at substantial risk of being tortured, whether they are a refugee or not.

South Korea is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Article 3 provides that, “No State Party shall expel, return (refouler) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which South Korea has also ratified, stated in a general comment that governments “must not expose individuals to the danger of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon return to another country by way of their extradition, expulsion or refoulement.”

South Korea’s constitution in article 6 makes international agreements binding law and provides non-citizens with rights under international law. In addition, South Korea’s Refugee Act in article 3 prohibits refoulement of “refugee status applicants,” and article 2(3) provides that a person unrecognized as a refugee may still obtain permission to stay in South Korea on humanitarian grounds if “there are reasonable grounds to believe that his/her life or personal liberty may be egregiously violated by torture or other inhuman treatment or punishment or other circumstances.”

The South Korean government should investigate this incident and hold accountable officials who violated the basic human rights of the two fishermen, Human Rights Watch said. It should take corrective action to ensure that the right not to be returned to torture and other ill-treatment is scrupulously respected in the future.

A 2014 report by the UN Commission of Inquiry found that the North Korean government has committed crimes against humanity against people who were forcibly repatriated, with inhumane acts like torture, murder, imprisonment, deliberate starvation, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances. It also found lack of due process in its criminal justice system, in which judges lack independence and impartiality, and there is an effective presumption of guilt, not innocence.

“The South Korean government has violated international law meant to protect everyone from torture worldwide, and put these men at grave risk in North Korea,” Robertson said. “South Korean authorities need to take immediate action to ensure that nothing like this happens again.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

 

Summary

“With young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform. He spoke of making our country more open and tolerant and promised that he would address the things that hold back our progress, such as the ban on women driving. But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests.”

-Jamal Khashoggi, 2017

On January 23, 2015, Saudi Arabia’s 90-year-old King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died following a protracted illness. The country faced a deteriorating economy that was overly reliant on high oil prices and unable to meet the employment and livelihood demands of Saudi Arabia’s growing youth population. King Abdullah’s successor, Salman bin Abdulaziz, a half-brother, immediately set out to address the country’s economic plight, appointing his then 29-year-old son Mohammed as the head of the newly established Council of Economic and Development Affairs and the Minister of Defense.

Mohammed bin Salman (known by his initials MBS), a relatively unknown and junior prince prior to his father’s accession to the throne, quickly became the face of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to reform the country’s economy. In April 2016 he launched Vision 2030, an ambitious government road map for economic and developmental growth that aims to reduce the country’s dependence on oil.

The following year, in June 2017, King Salman elevated his son to crown prince, making him next in line to the Saudi throne and de facto day-to-day ruler of the country. Positive changes for women and youth, combined with a major push for foreign direct investment into the world’s largest oil producing country and lavishly funded public relations efforts helped to bolster a positive image for the crown prince on the international political scene. During visits to the United Kingdom and United States in March 2018, Prince Mohammed was lauded by officials, businesspeople, and celebrities alike.

Behind the glamor and pomp of Prince Mohammed’s newfound fame abroad and advancements for Saudi women and youth, however, lay a darker reality, as the Saudi authorities moved to sideline anyone in Saudi Arabia who could stand in the way of his political ascension. In the summer of 2017, around the time of his promotion to crown prince, authorities purged former security and intelligence officials and quietly reorganized the country’s prosecution service and security apparatus, the primary tools of Saudi repression, and placed them directly under the royal court’s oversight. With the security apparatus completely under royal court control, the authorities then launched a series of arrest campaigns, targeting dozens of critics and potential critics of Saudi government policies. These arrest waves targeted prominent clerics, public intellectuals, academics, and human rights activists in September 2017, leading businesspeople and royal family members accused of corruption in November 2017, and the country’s most prominent women’s rights advocates beginning in May 2018. The arrests waves were often accompanied by defamation and slander of those arrested in the country’s progovernment media.

Detaining citizens for peaceful criticism of the government’s policies or human rights advocacy is not a new phenomenon in Saudi Arabia, but what has made the post-2017 arrest waves notable and different, however, is the sheer number and range of individuals targeted over a short period of time as well as the introduction of new repressive practices not seen under previous Saudi leadership.

These new tactics include cases of holding detainees at unofficial places of detention, such as the detention of so-called corruption detainees at the five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh from late 2017 into early 2018, as well as the detention of prominent women’s rights activists at a “hotel” or “guesthouse” during the summer of 2018. While in unofficial detention centers, allegations have emerged that torture and mistreatment of detainees were rampant. For example, in March 12, 2018 the New York Times reported that 17 Ritz-Carlton detainees required hospitalization for physical abuse, including one man who later died in custody. In addition, in late 2018 Human Rights Watch received credible information from informed sources that authorities had tortured four prominent Saudi women activists while in an unofficial detention center, including by administering electric shocks, whipping the women on their thighs, forcible hugging and kissing, and groping.

Abusive practices also have included long-term arbitrary detention – over two years – without charge, trial, or any clear legal process. For example, some of the so-called corruption detainees arrested in late 2017 remain at this writing in detention without charge or trial, including Turki bin Abdullah, the son of the late King Abdullah and former governor of Riyadh, Adel al-Fakih, a former minister, and Bakr Binladin, a construction mogul.

 

Mass Arrests and Detention after Mohammed bin Salman becomes Crown Prince

A Timeline of Repression

June 2017

Mohammed bin Salman becomes Crown Prince

June-August 2017

Reorganization of security agencies – creation of Public Prosecution and State Security Presidency as an independent agencies under the royal court 

September 2017

Mass Arrests of Clerics, Academics, Intellectuals

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 70 people detained or arrested, including:

salman-al-awda

Salman al-Awda
Cleric, on trial for alleged Muslim Brotherhood membership facing death penalty

essam-al-zamil

Essam al-Zamil
Economist, on trial for alleged Muslim Brotherhood membership

hassan-farhan-al-maliki

Hassan Farhan al-Maliki
Religious thinker, on trial for religious ideas facing death penalty

October 2017

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 8 people detained or arrested

November 2017

Corruption Arrests, Detainees Held in Ritz Carlton

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 40 people detained or arrested, including:

al-waleed-bin-talal

Alwaleed bin Talal
Businessman, released after turning over assets

mutaib-bin-abdullah

Miteb bin Abdullah
Former minister, released after turning over assets

turki-bin-abdullah

Turki bin Abdullah
Former Riyah governor, in detention without charge or trial

January 2018

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 2 people detained or arrested

March 2018

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 5 people detained or arrested

April 2018

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 3 people detained or arrested

May 2018

Arrests of Women’s Rights Advocates

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 16 people detained or arrested, including:

lujain-al-hathloul

Loujain al-Hathloul
Human rights activist, jailed and on trial for her activism, including:

aziza-al-youssef

Aziza Yousef
Human rights activist, on trial for her activism

eman-al-nafjan

Eman al-Nafjan
Human rights activist, on trial for her activism

June 2018

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 7 people detained or arrested

July 2018

Further Arrests of Women’s Rights Advocates

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 13 people detained or arrested

samar-badawi

Samar Badawi
Human rights activist, jailed and on trial for her activism

nassima-al-sadah

Nassima al-Sadah
Human rights activist, jailed and on trial for her activism

August 2018

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 7 people detained or arrested

September 2018

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 5 people detained or arrested

October 2018

Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

November 2018

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 11 people detained or arrested

December 2018

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 1 person detained or arrested

March 2019

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 1 person detained or arrested

April 2019

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 13 people detained or arrested

May 2019

Arrests of Writers

salah-al-haidar

Salah al-Haidar
Writer and activist

June 2019

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 1 person detained or arrested

October 2019

Human Rights Watch identified approximately 4 people detained or arrested

Authorities also targeted family members of prominent Saudi dissidents and activists, including by imposing arbitrary travel bans. Omar Abdulaziz, a Canada-based Saudi dissident, said that Saudi authorities detained his two brothers in August 2018 in an effort to silence his online activism.

Other abusive practices have included extorting financial assets of detainees in exchange for their release outside of any legal process and seeking the death penalty against detainees for acts that do not resemble recognizable crimes. For example, Saudi prosecutors are currently seeking the death penalty against reformist religious thinker Hassan Farhan al-Maliki on vague charges relating to the expression of his peaceful religious ideas, as well as against the widely known cleric Salman al-Awda on charges stemming solely from his peaceful political statements, associations, and positions. Both men were detained during the September 2017 crackdown.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly used commercially available surveillance technologies to hack into the online accounts of government critics and dissidents. Citizen Lab, an academic research center based in Canada, concluded with “high confidence” that in 2018 a Saudi activist’s mobile phone was infected with spyware, and other activists have announced that they were targeted with the same spyware.

Mohammed bin Salman, who was appointed defense minister in January 2015, has also ultimate responsibility for Saudi Arabia’s abusive tactics in its four-year-old military intervention in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition which has been conducting military operations against Houthi forces in Yemen, has imposed an aerial and naval blockade and restricted the flow of life-saving goods, exacerbating an existing humanitarian crisis. Saudi-led coalition aircraft have carried out apparently unlawful attacks that hit Yemeni markets, hospitals, schools, funerals, and even a school bus filled with children.

The repressive side of MBS’s domestic record, however, was not given the international scrutiny it deserved until October 2018, when the violent murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate shocked global opinion and led to a broader examination of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.

There was massive global media coverage of Khashoggi’s death, especially as it became clear that Saudi state agents perpetrated his murder. This was accompanied by unprecedented condemnation of Saudi abuses. Dozens of business leaders and officials pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative Forum, otherwise known as “Davos in the desert,” which took place in Riyadh in late October 2018. On November 15, 2018, the United States imposed sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on 17 Saudis in connection with their alleged role in the murder.

Countries and world leaders also called attention to the continuing arbitrary detention of public dissidents and activists, particularly detained women’s rights advocates. On February 14, 2019, for example, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release “women’s rights defenders and all human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and other prisoners of conscience detained and sentenced merely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and for their peaceful human rights work.” The resolution also called for an EU-wide ban on export of surveillance systems, reiterated that arms sales to Saudi Arabia contravene the EU’s common position on arms exports, and called for “restricted measures against Saudi Arabia in response to breaches of human rights, including asset freezes and visa bans.”

On March 7, 2019, 36 countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council issued the first ever joint statement on Saudi human rights abuses, calling on Saudi Arabia “to release all individuals, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Nassima al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz, Hatoon al-Fassi, Mohammed AlBajadi, Amal Al-Harbi, and Shadan al-Anezi, detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms.”

In February 2019, a bipartisan group of US Congressional representatives led by Congresswoman Lois Frankel issued a resolution calling on Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally release jailed Saudi women’s rights activists and hold those responsible for abuses accountable. A bipartisan group of US Senators led by Senator Marco Rubio introduced a similar resolution in the US Senate. Other congressional bills and resolutions pushing for Saudi government accountability for the Khashoggi murder remain under consideration at the time of writing.

Despite this global condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s escalating domestic repression, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has continued to enjoy the unwavering support of several key world leaders, including US President Donald Trump. On November 6, 2017, following Saudi Arabia’s “corruption” arrests, Trump tweeted his support, writing, “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing.... ...Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!” On November 20, 2018, during a period of widespread criticism over the Khashoggi murder, the Trump administration issued a statement that began with the phrase “[t]he world a dangerous place!” and referred to Jamal Khashoggi as an “enemy of the state” and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The statement went on to argue that the US should continue its arms sales to Saudi Arabia because cancelling them would mean that “Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries.”

In mid-2019, while dozens of dissidents remained on trial and in prison, and with no clear accountability for allegations of torture of detainees or the murder of Khashoggi, Saudi authorities resumed efforts to improve the country’s reputation and shift the international narrative away from the Khashoggi murder, in part by announcing major women’s rights reforms. In June 2018, just weeks after the detentions of the country’s leading women’s rights advocates, Saudi authorities lifted the ban on women driving. In late July 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that Saudi women over 21 will be able to obtain passports without the approval of a male relative, register births of their children, and benefit from new protections against employment discrimination. In early August, Saudi Arabia announced further changes to regulations allowing women over 21 to travel abroad freely without permission of a male guardian. 

Despite major advances for women, ongoing arbitrary and abusive practices against dissidents and activists since mid-2017 and total lack of accountability demonstrate that the rule of law in Saudi Arabia remains weak and can be undermined at will by the country’s political leadership. It remains a criminal offense under the Saudi Arabia’s 2017 counterterrorism law to criticize the king or crown prince “in a manner that brings religion or justice into disrepute” punishable by five to ten years in prison.

In order to demonstrate that Saudi Arabia is truly reforming, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should introduce new reforms to ensure that Saudi citizens enjoy basic human rights, including freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, as well as an independent judiciary and due process of law. The authorities can signal this commitment immediately by releasing from detention all detainees detained arbitrarily or on charges based solely on their peaceful ideas or expression, dropping all charges that do not resemble recognizable crimes against dissidents on trial, and providing accountability for perpetrators of abuses such as torture or arbitrary punishments.

Recommendations

To the Government of Saudi Arabia

  • Immediately release all prisoners held solely for their peaceful practice of their rights to free expression and association, including prisoners convicted of alleged crimes, prisoners currently on trial, and prisoners held arbitrarily;
  • Investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by an independent body and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and survivors are provided with redress;
  • Allow international monitors to enter the country and grant them unfettered access to detainees;
  • Publicize all information about the ongoing trial of 11 individuals accused of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and implement recommendations by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary killings in her June 2019 report;
  • Halt all acts of intimidation, harassment, and smear campaigns against rights activists and their family members, including those carried out by individuals invested with or claiming religious authority;
  • Halt the imposition of arbitrary travel bans without justification or notification and enact changes to the Travel Documents Law ensuring that travel bans handed down by the Ministry of Interior can be challenged in court;
  • Promulgate a penal code that clearly defines acts that give rise to criminal responsibility in line with international human rights standards. The penal code should also criminalize use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Rescind article 6 of the Information Crimes Law of 2007, which is regularly used to imprison dissidents for peaceful criticism;
  • Repeal vague provisions of the 2017 Law on Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing used to unlawfully limit freedom of expression, including article 30, as well as provisions that allow for indefinite detention of suspects and temporary incommunicado detention;
  • Permit detainees to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court, ensure all detainees are brought promptly before a court to review the legality and necessity of their detention, to guarantee access to legal counsel in a timely manner, and to make statements obtained under duress or torture inadmissible in court;
  • Promptly, and prior to interrogation, allow a detainee to communicate with legal counsel of his or her choice, and inform him or her of this right at police stations, Mabahith offices, and other custodial settings of law enforcement agencies in compliance with the Law of Criminal Procedure;
  • Videotape all interrogations and promptly make the full content of those tapes available to the detainee and his or her counsel;
  • Halt practices requiring a detainee to pledge to abstain from certain acts or perform certain acts as a condition of release, unless such a pledge is part of a formal, judicially sanctioned agreement and does not in any way inhibit the exercise of the detainee’s human rights.

To Saudi Arabia’s Key Allies

  • Sanction Saudi officials at the highest levels who played a role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi or committed acts of torture;
  • Restrict export licenses of surveillance technologies to Saudi Arabia.
  • Heavily scrutinize weapons transfers that could be used to limit basic rights such as freedom of assembly;
  • Advocate for the release of dissidents and activists detained solely for peaceful criticism of Saudi authorities.

To Technology Companies

  • Halt sales of surveillance technologies to Saudi Arabia and halt existing contracts providing for ongoing training and technical support to ensure that these activities do not contribute to human rights violations;
  • Provide transparency around past sales of surveillance technologies to Saudi Arabia;
  • Investigate whether surveillance technologies sold to Saudi Arabia were used to spy on dissidents at home and abroad in violation of their terms of service and applicable human rights standards;
  • Advocate for the release of dissidents and activists detained solely for peaceful criticism of Saudi authorities.
Video

Saudi Arabia: Change Comes with Punishing Cost

Arrests, Torture, Murder Accompany Reforms

Methodology

Saudi authorities have not granted Human Rights Watch access to freely conduct in-country research since a research mission to the country in 2006. Human Rights Watch staff have visited Saudi Arabia six times since 2006, but most of these visits remained tightly circumscribed.

The report is based on telephone interviews with Saudi activists and dissidents since 2017, government statements, and court documents, as well as exhaustive reviews of Saudi local media outlets and social media. To protect those we interviewed from retaliation, we have withheld names or used pseudonyms for interviewees, unless they indicated a willingness to be named. Researchers informed all interviewees of the purpose of the interview and the ways in which the data would be used, and none of the interviewees received financial or other incentives for speaking with Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch compiled lists of detainees in Chapter IV from available evidence including interviews with Saudi human rights activists, official statements, and media reports. The lists are not exhaustive. Unless otherwise indicated, the latest available information indicates that individuals listed remain in detention.

On October 21, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Saudi government outlining the general conclusions of our research. As of early November, Saudi authorities had not replied to Human Rights Watch.

I. Saudi Arabia Under New Leadership

Since the establishment of the modern-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 the country has been ruled as an absolute monarchy, first by its founder Abdulaziz Al Saud and then, following his death, by a succession of his sons. While maintaining absolute power over decision making, Saudi leaders historically exercised power in dialogue with informal yet powerful interest groups which maintained the ability to influence decisions. These groups included the country’s conservative Sunni religious establishment of state-affiliated and independent clerics, other members of the royal family, the security services, and influential members of the Saudi business community.[1]

The emergence of Mohammed bin Salman in early 2015 began to alter the status quo. Authorities moved to systematically curtail the influence of these groups and their ability to dictate decisions. In April 2016, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers removed the powers of arrest from the country’s abusive religious police. In late 2017, as part of a sweeping crackdown on Saudi dissidents, authorities arrested prominent independent clerics critical of government policies.[2] In late 2017, authorities also rounded up tens of prominent members of the royal family, current and former government officials, and members of the business community as a part of a campaign against corruption.[3]

Beyond arrests, following his appointment as crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman and his father also meticulously moved to restructure the country’s traditional tools of repression, the internal security forces and the prosecution service, removing them from the jurisdiction of the interior ministry and placing them directly under the king, giving the royal court sole oversight over the agencies that conduct arrests and prosecutions.[4] Since his appointment as defense minister in 2015, Mohammed bin Salman has maintained control of the Saudi military. In November 2017 King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman removed control of the Saudi National Guard, an independent military force, from the late King Abdullah’s son Mutaib and jailed him for alleged corruption, effectively bringing all branches of the Saudi armed forces under royal court control.[5]

When confronted in an interview with Bloomberg in October 2018 about Saudi Arabia’s mass arrests, Mohammed bin Salman justified them as necessary for enacting reforms in Saudi Arabia, stating:

… I believe that a lot of movements that happen around the world, they happen with a price. So for example if you look at the United States of America, when for example they wanted to free the slaves. What was the price? Civil war. It divided America for a few years. Thousands, tens of thousands of people died to win the freedom for the slaves…. So if there is a small price in that area, it’s better than paying a big debt to do that move…[6]

Consolidation of Power and Restructuring the Security Apparatus

When Salman bin Abdulaziz acceded to the Saudi throne in January 2015, Prince Mohammed, the first son from his third marriage, was a relative unknown. Unlike some of his older brothers, who included Sultan bin Salman, the first Arab and Muslim ever to fly in outer space, or Abdulaziz bin Salman, a major figure in Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, Prince Mohammed did not have a significant public profile prior to 2015 nor had he studied outside the country like many prominent royal family members.[7] Rather, he had quietly served his father, primarily as an advisor to Salman while he was Minister of Defense and governor of Riyadh. According to Karen Elliott House, Prince Mohammed became close to his father by remaining by his side while he grieved the deaths of his eldest and third eldest sons in 2001 and 2002 respectively, both from heart disease.[8]

Mohammed bin Salman burst onto the international arena in January 2015 when his father, immediately after becoming king, appointed him defense minister (Salman’s former position).[9] As defense minister he quickly established himself as less cautious than his predecessors, facilitating the launch of major military operations in Yemen in March 2015 by a coalition of countries. The military campaign aimed to roll back the advances of the Ansar Allah militant group (known as the Houthis), a Zaydi Shia group which had taken over most of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, and expelled the country’s internationally-recognized government headed by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

When King Salman took the throne, he promoted Mohammed bin Nayef, Mohammed bin Salman’s cousin and former interior minister who successfully led Saudi Arabia’s counter-insurgency efforts after 2004, as deputy crown prince behind Crown Prince Muqrin, who is Mohammed bin Salman’s uncle. Within three months, however, King Salman altered the line of succession, sacking Muqrin and elevating Mohammed bin Nayef to crown prince and Mohammed bin Salman to deputy crown prince.[10]

Between April 2015 and June 2017, the division of power between Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Nayef was clear, with Mohammed bin Salman in control of the country’s economy and military, and Mohammed bin Nayef in control of domestic security affairs.

On June 17, 2017, however, the first major crack in the fragile arrangement appeared when King Salman issued a royal decree removing Othman al-Muhrij from his position as director of the country’s Public Security Directorate (police), a major agency within the Interior Ministry.[11] The same day, he also issued a royal decree severing the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) from the Interior Ministry and re-establishing it as the Public Prosecution, an “independent” entity reporting directly to the king and headed by a new head prosecution official called the Attorney General. The royal decree stated that the change was “in [accordance] with the rules and principles of many countries of the world,” and based on “the necessity of separation between executive authority in the state and the bureau and its work since it is part of the judicial authority.”[12]

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The Saudi prosecution service is a major tool of Saudi repression and has been used to terrorize peaceful Saudi dissidents since 1988 through various means, including harassment, endless summonses for interrogation, arbitrary detention, and prosecution in blatantly unfair trials on spurious charges.[13] These practices accelerated and increased following the 2017 reorganization.

On June 21, within days of removing the prosecution service from Mohammed bin Nayef’s control, King Salman acted decisively by stripping him of all his official positions and appointing his son Mohammed bin Salman crown prince and presumptive future king.[14] To secure his elevation, Mohammed bin Salman reportedly garnered all but 3 votes in the country’s allegiance council, which decides on succession issues and is made up of 34 royal family members who are sons or represent the families of sons of Saudi Arabia’s founding King Abdulaziz.[15]

Citing US intelligence officials, the New York Times reported on June 28, 2017 that Mohammed bin Nayef had not only been deposed but also placed under house arrest at his Jeddah palace and prevented from leaving the country.[16] An informed source told Human Rights Watch that in addition to placing Mohammed bin Nayef under house arrest, authorities also purged many officials loyal to him from the security apparatus, including by detaining two high-level Interior Ministry officials. Another security official close to Mohammed bin Nayef who served as Saudi Arabia’s liaison to western intelligence agencies fled the country.[17] The source said that authorities banned immediate family members of Mohammed bin Nayef and these officials from travel and froze their bank accounts and assets.[18] The sidelining of Mohammed bin Nayef and his loyalists effectively removed the most serious royal challenger to Mohammed bin Salman.

For the remainder of 2017, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed moved against other individuals who could potentially curb their power, culminating in the establishment of an anticorruption committee headed by the crown prince which carried out so-called corruption arrests on November 4, 2017, when powerful figures within the royal family and influential Saudis such as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a prominent businessman, Abdulaziz bin Fahd, a former cabinet member, Turki bin Abdullah, a former governor of Riyadh, Fahd bin Abdullah, a former defense minister, and Mutaib bin Abdullah, then-Minister of National Guard, and at least nine other princes were detained, stripped of their positions, and forced to hand over financial assets in exchange for their freedom.[19] The so-called corruption arrests appeared to especially target the sons of the late King Abdullah. Some royal detainees, including Turki bin Abdullah, remain in detention without charge at the time of writing.

In order to cement his position as crown prince, beginning in mid-2017 King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed sought to overhaul the security infrastructure of the state and effectively downgrade the previously powerful role of interior minister.

In addition to placing the prosecution service under the purview of the royal court, King Salman also created a new agency, the Presidency of State Security, which absorbed the intelligence and counterterrorism functions formerly held by the Interior Ministry. The new agency contains the General Directorate of Investigation (known as Mabahith, the notorious domestic security agency) as well as Saudi Arabia’s special counterterrorism forces, which is headed by longtime Interior Ministry official Abdulaziz bin Mohammed al-Howairini. Commenting on the change, Arab News said, “…after the rise of the terror threat [in the early 2000s], the Interior Ministry concentrated much of its efforts on fighting this scourge. This led to the addition of a large number of responsibilities, which affected the ministry’s other services such as police, traffic and the passport department.”[20]

Following the reduction of responsibilities of the Interior Ministry, King Salman appointed a new minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud, then 34, a relative of Mohammed bin Salman and son of the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.[21] The appointment of Prince Abdulaziz kept the interior minister portfolio with the Nayef faction of the royal family, which has held the position nearly continuously since 1975, but the prestige and power of the position had been drastically reduced.

The centralization of power also extended to the military, whereby in November 2017 King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman removed control of the Saudi National Guard, an independent military force, from the late King Abdullah’s son Mutaib and jailed him for alleged corruption, effectively bringing all branches of the Saudi armed forces under the control of the royal court.[22]

Since his appointment as crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman has chaired both of the Saudi Council of Ministers’ subcommittees, putting him in charge of both economic affairs as well as political and security affairs.

A Plan to Transform the Economy

Mohammed bin Salman’s consolidation of power and mass arrests, which he labelled a “small price” in comparison with other “movements around the world,” allowed him to propose his own solutions to Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning economic crisis without hinderance or obstruction from Saudi Arabia’s traditional interest groups.

When King Abdullah died in January 2015, the country faced a major economic crisis as global oil prices were plummeting from a high of US$115 per barrel in June 2014 to $35 per barrel in February 2016, wiping out 77 to 88 percent of the country’s income.[23] In September 2014, the International Monetary Fund warned that without cuts to government spending Saudi Arabia would face a budget deficit in 2015 and the prospect of spending down its cash reserves.[24] The IMF’s prediction proved accurate – in late 2015 Saudi Arabia announced a budget deficit of 367 billion riyals ($97.9 billion).[25] Furthermore, despite years of policies aimed at overhauling the Saudi private sector to ensure more employment opportunities for Saudi citizens as opposed to foreign migrant workers, the Saudi youth unemployment rate in 2014 and 2015 remained around 30 percent, a worrying statistic given that two thirds of the Saudi population is under 30 years old.[26] In late 2015 a Brookings Institution op-ed warned that Saudi Arabia “faces an economic time bomb, which, if not defused, will have severe and possibly irreversible effects both nationally and internationally.”[27]

Following his appointment by his father to head the economic council, Prince Mohammed bin Salman quickly became the face of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to counter its economic woes and overhaul the country’s economy to make it less susceptible to oil price fluctuations. By early 2016, in response to a question from the Economist on whether Saudi Arabia was facing an economic crisis, Prince Mohammed stated as follows:

We’re too far from it. We are further than the ’80s and the ’90s. We have the third-largest reserve in the world. We were able to increase our non-oil revenues this year alone by 29%. We were able to come out with more positive things than what most people thought about the economy of Saudi Arabia, regarding deficit and regarding spending. And we have clear programmes over the next five years. We announced some of them, and the rest we will announce in the near future.[28]

In April 2016, Mohammad bin Salman made good on his promise by announcing the country’s signature economic reform plan, Vision 2030, a sweeping development program aimed at diversifying the economy and creating a “global investment powerhouse.”[29] The plan lays out major strategic objectives for economic and social change accompanied by a host of programs to address issues such as housing, quality of life, pubic investment, financial sector development, and improving government performance, each with specified objectives and five-year milestones.[30]

Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has also invested heavily in creating a local entertainment industry. In May 2016, authorities created the General Entertainment Authority, a new agency with plans to invest billions of dollars in the areas of music, entertainment, sports, art, and film, among others.[31] In 2018, authorities allowed movie theaters to open, with AMC, the US movie theatre chain, opening the first movie theater in Saudi Arabia in 35 years in Riyadh. In 2019 Saudi Arabia announced plans to invest $35 billion into building 2,500 movie screens across the country by 2020.[32] At the time of writing Saudi Arabia had hosted concerts major international artists such as Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Janet Jackson, and 50 Cent.[33] The establishment of an entertainment industry has also provoked controversies, however, with the country’s Grand Mufti denouncing public entertainment and movie theaters in early 2017, the sacking of the General Entertainment Authority’s chairman in June 2018 following a controversial Russian circus performance in Riyadh featuring women wearing tight clothing, and rapper Nicki Minaj pulling out of the July 2019 Jeddah World Fest following pressure from human rights  groups.[34]

The signature piece of Prince Mohammed’s economic overhaul plan is to generate revenue through an initial public offering (IPO) of a limited percentage of the country’s massive state oil company, Saudi Aramco, on an international stock exchange. While New York, London, and Hong Kong were initially considered as venues for the IPO,  Reuters reported on October 29 that Saudi authorities would announce the start of the IPO in early November 2019 and float a one to two percent stake of the company on Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul stock exchange.[35]

Prince Mohammed’s efforts to attract international investment were temporarily hindered by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, with many international investors, financiers, and business leaders canceling their participation in Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative forum in late October 2018 as well as investors pulling their money out of the Saudi stock market.[36] By April 2019, however the Financial Times and the New York Times reported that many businesses had returned to invest in Saudi Arabia.[37] Nevertheless, whether Saudi Arabia can obtain enough capital through international investment to overhaul the country’s economy and meet the needs of Saudi Arabia’s rapidly growing society remains to be seen.

II. Due Process Violations

Saudi Arabia’s arrest campaigns since 2017 are notable for both the number of individuals targeted over a short period of time and the introduction of new ad hoc abusive practices that represent a significant deterioration in a country where the rule of law was already tenuous. These practices include the use of unofficial places of detention, extorting individuals to hand over assets or make statements in return for their release, and seeking the death penalty for “crimes” based on individuals’ peaceful speech and activities, among others.

Some of the ad hoc and abusive practices introduced since 2017 are associated with Mohammed bin Salman’s former advisor, Saud al-Qahtani, whom King Salman fired in October 2018 for his alleged role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.[38] Citing US intelligence sources, the New York Times reported that the crown prince authorized a secret campaign against Saudi dissidents over a year before Khashoggi’s murder, empowering his then-advisor, al-Qahtani, to oversee a team dubbed the “Rapid Intervention Group,” which conducted at least a dozen operations prior to the targeting of Khashoggi in October 2018.[39] One of the operations the report cites is the targeting of Saudi women’s rights activists, and the timeline of the group’s formation corresponds roughly with the beginning of the arrest campaigns in September 2017.[40] In mid-August 2017, just before the arrests began, al-Qahtani tweeted the following comment: “Do you think that I make things up with guidance? I am a trustworthy employee who carries out the orders of my masters the king and crown prince.”[41]

Despite a Public Prosecution statement alleging that al-Qahtani was involved in the Khashoggi affair, he is reportedly not one of the 11 individuals on trial for the murder, and the Wall Street Journal reported in February 2019 that al-Qahtani continues to serve as an informal advisor to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.[42] In October 2019, Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom Khalid bin Bandar stated that al-Qahtani remains under investigation and “in his home,” but that “no concrete evidence” has emerged regarding his involvement in the murder.[43]

Long-term Arbitrary Detention without Charge

Saudi Arabia has a long, notorious record of holding criminal suspects without charge or trial for months and even years. In May 2018, for example, Human Rights Watch analyzed data from a public online Saudi Interior Ministry prisoner database, which revealed that authorities at that time had detained 2,305 people who are under investigation for more than six months without referring them to a judge, while 1,875 were detained for more than a year and 251 for over three years while under investigation.[44]

Saudi Arabia’s Law of Criminal Procedure provides that a person may be detained without charge for a maximum of five days, renewable up to six months by an order of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (now Public Prosecution). After six months, the law requires that a detainee “be directly transferred to the competent court or be released.”[45]

Despite Saudi law, however, many individuals targeted in arrest campaigns since 2017 were held up to a year without charge, and the legal status of others remains unclear, particularly among some of those arrested in the November 2017 “corruption” crackdown. Those who remain in detention without clear legal status at this writing include Prince Turki bin Abdullah, the former governor of Riyadh and son of the late King Abdullah; Prince Turki’s associate Faisal al-Jarba; Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman and his father, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Mohammad; a former planning minister, Adel al-Fakieh; and a construction mogul, Bakr Binladin.[46]

An informed source told Human Rights Watch that Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz and his father, both businessmen, have remained in detention without charge or trial since their arrests in January 2018. The source said that Prince Salman believes he was detained in retaliation for his advocacy on behalf of his detained family members after the November arrests. To the source’s knowledge, the authorities did not freeze Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz or his father’s assets or ask for financial settlements. They are in al-Ha’ir prison, south of Riyadh. Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz is married to a daughter of King Abdullah.[47]

Another informed source told Human Rights Watch that Faisal al-Jarba, a confidant of Prince Turki bin Abdullah, remains in detention without charge.[48] The Washington Post reported that in June, the Jordanian authorities had detained al-Jarba in Amman, where he had fled to seek safety, and eventually drove him to the Saudi border and handed him over to Saudi authorities. Prince Turki himself also remains in detention without charge, the source said.[49]

Authorities also detained and held a Saudi American medical doctor and popular television host, Walid al-Fitaihi, for 21 months without charge or trial. A family member told Human Rights Watch that authorities initially held al-Fitaihi in the Ritz-Carlton for two months before transferring him to al-Ha’ir prison south of Riyadh.[50] In late January 2019 the authorities transferred him again to Dhahban prison north of Jeddah. The family member said that in early March 2019 Saudi authorities raided the family’s home in Jeddah following a New York Times story alleging that al-Fitaihi was mistreated in detention.[51] He said that 15-16 men came to the house, bringing along al-Fitaihi himself wearing arm and leg shackles, and took all the computers and mobile phones in the house. The family member said he did not know why al-Fitaihi had been targeted for arrest. On August 1, 2019, Saudi authorities released al-Fitaihi pending the outcome of his trial.[52]

Those detained in the September 2017 arrest wave, including Salman al-Awda, Hassan Farhan al-Maliki, Ali al-Omari, and Awad al-Qarni, remained in detention without trial for nearly a year before authorities finally began to charge them and put them on trial in September 2018. Nevertheless, some trials have been marred by unexplained delays and postponements, including the trial of Salman al-Awda. Authorities took al-Awda to court for a scheduled hearing on July 28, 2019, but after waiting five hours the court abruptly postponed the hearing until November without explanation. Authorities then suddenly held a series of hearings in early October and scheduled the final hearing for October 10, but on October 10 they postponed the final hearing without explanation.[53]

Similarly, for Saudi women’s rights activists detained beginning in May 2018, authorities held them for 10 months before filing charges.[54] After three or four trial sessions in March and April, however, Saudi authorities do not appear to have convened any substantive hearings in their cases, for which there has been no explanation.[55] At the time of writing most of the women are free but banned from travel abroad pending the outcomes of their trials, but others, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdulaziz, and Nassima al-Sadah, remain in detention.

Extended detention without charge or trial or without an appearance before a judge is arbitrary and violates both Saudi law and international human rights standards.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has determined that detention is arbitrary when the detaining authority fails to observe, wholly or in part, the norms related to the right to due process, including for a prompt hearing before a judge following the initial detention.[56] Principle 11 of the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states that a detainee must be “given an effective opportunity to be heard promptly by a judicial or other authority,” and that a judicial or other authority should be empowered to review the decision to continue  detention.[57]

The Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Saudi Arabia ratified in 2009, also guarantees the right of anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge to be brought promptly before a judge or other officer of the law, and to have a trial within a reasonable time or be released. The charter says that, “Pre-trial detention shall in no case be the general rule.”[58]

Unofficial Places of Detention

In flagrant violation of Saudi law and international standards, Saudi authorities held some detainees in unofficial places of detention. The most high-profile incident was the detention of dozens of leading businesspeople, members of the royal family, and current and former government officials in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel between November 2017 and February 2018.[59] In January 2018, a spokesperson from Marriott, which owns the Ritz-Carlton brand, said, “The hotel is operating under the directive of local authorities and not as a traditional hotel for the time being.”[60]

In addition, Saudi women activists detained beginning in May 2018 say that most of their mistreatment took place at an unofficial detention facility they called a “hotel” between May and August, after which they were moved to Dhahban prison. One source indicated that the women were taken to a room called an “officer’s guesthouse,” but the location of this room is unclear.[61] A family member of Loujain al-Hathloul told the New York Times that the women were held in what appeared to be an unused palace in Jeddah.[62]

Holding detainees at unofficial detention centers violates international standards. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, in its general comment on article 7of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), stated that “…provisions should be made for detainees to be held in places officially recognized as places of detention and for their names and places of detention, as well as for the names of persons responsible for their detention, to be kept in registers readily available and accessible to those concerned, including relatives and friends.”[63]

Extorting Financial Assets or Public Statements in Return for Release

After detaining over 300 leading businesspeople, royal family members, and current and former government officials at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in November 2017, Saudi authorities reportedly pressured them to hand over assets to the state in return for their release outside of any clear or recognizable legal process.[64]

Many reportedly made deals. Alwaleed al-Ibrahim, for example, the head of the MBC Group, reportedly turned over the control of the company to Saudi authorities and was released in January 2018.[65] In March 2019, Reuters reported that Bakr Binladin and two of his brothers detained in the Ritz-Carlton were forced to sell a significant percentage of the Binladin Group construction company to Istidama, a subsidiary of the Saudi Finance Ministry, and all were removed from the restructured company’s board.[66] Authorities released prominent businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in January 2018 after he reached a financial settlement with Saudi authorities but remained in control of his company. He called his arrest a “misunderstanding.”[67] Likewise, authorities released prominent businessmen Amr Dabbagh and Mohammed al-Amoudi in January 2019 after they reportedly made deals, though the terms have not been made public.[68]

An informed source with close ties to six men held at the Ritz-Carlton between November 2017 and January 2018 told Human Rights Watch that authorities extorted financial settlements from detainees through physical coercion as well as freezing their bank accounts and banning their relatives from travel abroad. He said that some detainees were forced to transfer money held in bank accounts abroad into the country so that Saudi authorities could seize it, and that authorities only released some detainees after they signed IOUs pledging to pay specified sums of money.[69]

In addition to financial settlements, informed sources told Human Rights Watch that Saudi authorities also offered to release two prominent women’s rights activists in mid-2019 if they went on television to refute allegations that authorities had tortured them in detention. In August 2019, family members of Loujain al-Hathloul said that authorities had recently offered her release and an end to her trial if she signed a statement refuting the allegations of torture, which she initially agreed to do, but refused the offer after the authorities said she must make the statement on camera.[70] An informed source told Human Rights Watch that a high-level official with the Presidency of State Security visited another detained woman activist in July or August and offered to release her and provide financial compensation if she refuted the torture allegations on television.[71]

Arbitrary Travel Bans on Family Members

In addition to directly targeting Saudi citizens for arrest since September 2017, in some cases authorities have also punished their family members by imposing arbitrary bans on travel outside the country or freezing their assets and access to government services.

A family member of the detained cleric Salman al-Awda told Human Rights Watch that Saudi authorities imposed arbitrary travel bans on 17 members of his immediate family following the arrest. He said that the family only found out about the bans when another family member attempted to leave the country and was refused. He said the immigration officer told his family member that the royal court itself had imposed the travel bans for unspecified reasons.[72]

In addition, a family member of detained doctor Walid al-Fitaihi, who has US as well as Saudi nationality, told Human Rights Watch that following al-Fitaihi’s arrest Saudi authorities arbitrarily imposed travel bans on all members of al-Fitaihi’s immediate family, all of whom are also US citizens. He said that he went to the airport to attempt to travel out of the country several times in 2018 but was stopped each time after a fingerprint scan at the immigration checkpoint. Officials there did not give him an explanation for the ban.[73]

A source close to a former Saudi intelligence official purged alongside Mohammed bin Nayef told Human Rights Watch that Saudi authorities banned two of his children from travel abroad and froze all of their financial assets inside the country.[74] He also said that he has spoken with former detainees who were permitted to travel abroad but only on condition that they leave a close family member behind as collateral to ensure their  return.[75]

Saudi human rights activists told Human Rights Watch that authorities also imposed arbitrary travel bans on family members of prominent women’s rights activists following their detentions in May 2018.[76]

In arbitrarily imposing the travel bans on family members of detainees, the Ministry of Interior appears to have broken Saudi law. Aside from a judicial ruling by a court, the interior minister may impose bans “for defined reasons related to security and for a known period” and must notify those banned within one week of the ban.[77] For family members of detainees, in no case did the ministry inform those on whom they imposed travel bans of the bans themselves or the specific reasons for subjecting them to the bans.

Arbitrary travel bans violate international human rights law which guarantees everyone the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.[78]

Seeking the Death Penalty for Peaceful Political Affiliation and Ideas

Saudi Arabia carries out more executions per year than all but a few countries. Since 2014, Saudi Arabia has executed over 860 individuals, mostly for murder, violent acts, and nonviolent drug crimes.[79] Outside of those executed for drug crimes, capital trials involved accusations of acts of violence in nearly all cases. In 2018, however, Saudi prosecutors began seeking the death penalty against individuals solely based on their peaceful political affiliations or ideas.

Those currently facing capital trials absent any allegation of violence include the prominent cleric Salman al-Awda. In September 2018, local Saudi media outlets printed the first five of al-Awda’s charges, and Human Rights Watch reviewed the others from a copy of the court’s charge sheet it obtained.[80] The initial charges are mostly related to his alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations supposedly connected to it. One such organization listed in the charge sheet, the International Union of Muslim Scholars, was not named as a terrorist organization by Saudi authorities until November 20, 2018, over two months after al-Awda’s arrest.[81]

The first charge against al-Awda reads:

Corrupting the land by repeatedly endeavoring to shake the structure of the nation and bring about civil strife; inflaming society against the rulers and stirring up unrest; and connection to characters and organizations and holding meetings and conferences inside and outside the kingdom to enact the agenda of a terrorist organization against the nation and its rulers.[82]

Multiple charges relate to his public solidarity with imprisoned dissidents, opposing the Saudi-led isolation of Qatar in mid-2017, and alleged ties to the Qatari government. Other charges include having “a suspicious relationship” with the former Gaddafi government in Libya, publicly opposing Saudi Arabia’s hosting of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, “mocking governmental achievements,” and “offending patriotism and loyalty to the government and the country…”[83]

Another detainee against whom Saudi authorities are seeking the death penalty is Hassan Farhan al-Maliki, a reformist religious thinker. Human Rights Watch reviewed al-Maliki’s charge sheet, which consists of 14 charges, nearly all with no resemblance to recognized crimes.[84] The first two charges relate to his peaceful expression of his religious opinions about the veracity of certain sayings of the prophet and his criticism of several seventh century Islamic figures. Other charges include “insulting the country’s rulers and the Supreme Council of Religious Scholars, and describing them as extremist,” and accusing Gulf countries of supporting the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).[85]

Prosecutors also charged al-Maliki with praising Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and “having sympathy” for the Houthi group in Yemen, and expressing his religious views in television interviews, attending discussion groups in Saudi Arabia, writing books and studies and publishing them outside of Saudi Arabia, possession of banned books, defaming a Kuwaiti man by accusing him on Twitter of supporting ISIS, and violating the country’s notorious cybercrime law.[86]

The charge sheet also accuses al-Maliki of crossing illegally from Saudi Arabia into northern Yemen for research about his family origins and history in 2001, after Saudi authorities had banned al-Maliki from travel abroad. Saudi Arabia does not have a comprehensive written penal code and only a limited number of written criminal regulations. Charges not based on a written text, which include all but one of al-Maliki’s, do not have a statute of limitation.[87]

Evidence cited by prosecutors in the charge sheet consisted entirely of al-Maliki’s alleged confession, his tweets, and material confiscated from his home and electronic devices. It says that he allegedly confessed to “calling for freedom of belief, and that it is the right of any person to adopt beliefs that he sees as correct, and it is not permitted to restrict these [beliefs] or impose certain beliefs,” as well as his denial that the crime of apostacy should be punishable by death, “seeing that there is no truth to it legally.” He also allegedly confessed to saying that “those [clerics] who ban singing or music in all its forms are extremists, as there is no evidence for banning it and that the prophet [peace be upon him] listened to it.”[88]

International standards, including the Arab Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Saudi Arabia, require countries that retain the death penalty to use it only for the “most serious crimes,” and in exceptional circumstances. In 2012, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions stated that where used, the death penalty should be limited to cases in which a person is intentionally killed and not used to punish drug-related offenses.

Cyber Spying and Online Harassment

In addition to the post-2017 arrest waves, Saudi Arabia has reportedly deployed commercially available surveillance technologies to hack into the online accounts of government critics and dissidents. Citizen Lab, an academic research center based in Canada, concluded with “high confidence” that in 2018 the mobile phone of Omar Abdulaziz, a prominent Saudi activists based in Canada, was targeted and infected with spyware known as Pegasus, which is produced and sold by the Israeli technology firm NSO group.[89] According to Citizen Lab, “Once a phone is infected [with Pegasus spyware], the customer has full access to a victim’s personal files, such as chats, emails, and photos. They can even surreptitiously use the phone’s microphones and cameras to view and eavesdrop on their targets.”[90]

In addition to Abdulaziz, other Saudis abroad have alleged that the Saudi government targeted them with cyberattacks using Pegasus in recent years, including an unnamed researcher for Amnesty International, UK-based Saudi human rights activist Yahya Assiri, and UK-based Saudi comedian and dissident Ghanim al-Masarir .[91]

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius revealed in March 2019 that Saudi officials acquired spyware tools from NSO Group, but that the company had “frozen new requests from the kingdom” over concerns that it may have been “misused.”[92] In response to growing international criticism over its sales of spyware to abusive governments, NSO group announced a new Human Rights Policy in September 2019, pledging to “identify, prevent and mitigate the risk of adverse human rights impact” related to the use of its spyware and surveillance products.[93]

Saudi officials have openly used Twitter to harass and target dissidents. On August 17, 2017, Saud al-Qahtani himself started the hashtag “#The_Black_List” in which he called on Saudis to suggest online critics to target.[94] Before his dismissal in October 2018, al-Qahtani also served as the director of the Saudi Federation for Cyber Security and Programming, a governmental organization that seeks to “build national and professional capabilities in the fields of cyber security and programming in line with established and internationally recognized practices and standards.”[95]

In addition, rumors have surfaced among Saudi dissidents that Saudi authorities may have the capability of unmasking anonymous Twitter users. The rumors appear driven in part by a Tweet by al-Qahtani from August 18, 2017, in which he states: “Does a pseudonym protect you from #the_black_list? No 1) States have a method to learn the owner of the pseudonym 2) the IP address can be learned using a number of methods 3) a secret I will not say.”[96]

More broadly, Saudi Arabia’s targeting of critics has been a growing problem, including online critics on Twitter, whom authorities have arrested or intimidated into silence.[97]

III. Torture Allegations

In addition to the mass arrest campaigns of dissidents since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince in June 2017, information from Saudi activists and media reports indicates that incidents of torture and mistreatment in detention have also increased.

In March 2019, the Guardian newspaper reported that it had received several leaked medical reports following examinations of at least 60 detainees commissioned by King Salman. The medical reports reportedly noted that detainees were suffering from ailments including “malnutrition, cuts, bruises and burns.”[98] Detainees examined included Adel Banaemah, Mohammed Al Bisher, Fahad al-Sunaidi, Zuhair Kutbi, Abdulaziz Fawzan al-Fawzan, Yasser al-Ayyaf, as well as prominent women’s rights activists Samar Badawi, Hatoon al-Fassi, and Abeer Namankani.[99]

The most high-profile allegations of torture and mistreatment that have come to light stem from the Ritz-Carlton detentions between November 2017 and February 2018 and the allegations of torture by women’s rights advocates from May to August 2018.

Alleged Torture of Women’s Rights Advocates

In November 2018, Human Rights Watch obtained credible evidence that Saudi authorities tortured at least four women activists in detention. The torture included electric shocks, whippings, waterboarding, and sexual harassment and assault including touching and groping.[100]

The treatment of prominent activist Loujain al-Hathloul was described in detail by her sister in an article for the New York Times in January 2019. According to her sister, “[Loujain] said she had been held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder. My parents then saw that her thighs were blackened by bruises.”[101] Other human rights groups have reported additional allegations, including prolonged solitary confinement of the women, displaying naked photographs of one of the women during interrogation, beatings on the feet (falaka or bastinado), and forcing two detainees to kiss each other on the lips.[102]

According to informed sources, the torture sessions took place at an unofficial detention facility called a “hotel” or “officer’s guesthouse” near Jeddah. The women were held there between May and August. One source told Human Rights Watch that the men responsible for mistreating the women were from “cyber security,” a probable reference to officers working under the authority of the former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani, who was reportedly fired for his role in the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.[103] After transferring all the women to Dhahban Prison in August, sources stated that authorities would occasionally take women out of the prison for additional torture sessions at the unofficial detention facility.[104]

Around December 2018, following reporting of the allegations, authorities transferred some of the women to al-Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh, others to Dammam Prison in Dammam, while some remain in Dhahban Prison.[105] Western media outlets have reported that Saudi authorities opened two investigations into the torture allegations by women’s rights advocates, one by Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, a government agency, and one by Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecutor, which reports directly to the royal court.[106]

On March 1, 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution announced that it would refer the women to trial. A representative of the prosecution office denied the torture allegations, telling media that the allegations had been investigated by the Public Prosecution and Human Rights Commission and found to be unsubstantiated.[107]

Ritz-Carlton Allegations

In March 2018, the New York Times reported that Saudi authorities used physical abuse to coerce so-called corruption detainees to hand over assets following their detention in the Ritz-Carton hold in early November 2017. The report stated that at least 17 people required hospitalization for abuse in detention, including one, Maj. Gen. Ali al-Qahtani, an aide to Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who later died in detention. The report cited a person who saw the body, which had signs of physical abuse including a twisted neck and burns that appeared to be from electric shocks.[108]

The Times expanded on these initial allegations in November 2018, reporting that the mistreatment included “beatings, electrical shocks and suspension upside down for long periods.” The November report also said that some former detainees had shown their family members lasting scars from beatings and electric shocks, and in one case a photo of the bruises and scars was shared with the Times.[109]

The Times also reported that among those tortured in the Ritz-Carlton was medical doctor Walid al-Fitaihi who holds both Saudi and American nationality. During an interrogation session which he later reportedly recounted to friend, “he was slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear and bound to a chair. He was shocked with electricity in what appears to have been a single session of torture that lasted about an hour.”[110]

The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2018 that another detainee, Hani Khoja, a former employee of the management consulting firm McKinsey and Company, was repeatedly beaten by Saudi authorities at the Ritz-Carlton. [111] Authorities eventually released Khoja in January 2019.[112]

IV. Comprehensive List of Detainees

After Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince, the Saudi authorities initiated a series of arrest campaigns which appeared aimed at stamping out all domestic opposition to his policies and reforms. The arrests targeted clerics, intellectuals, journalists, businesspeople, royal family members, high-level government officials, and women’s rights advocates.

Human Rights Watch compiled lists of detainees from available evidence including interviews with Saudi human rights activists, official statements, and media reports. The lists are not exhaustive. Unless otherwise indicated, the latest available information indicates that individuals listed remain in detention.

Human Rights Watch does not endorse all the views expressed by individuals mentioned in this report. These views, which in some cases may be offensive or objectionable, nevertheless do not amount to speech that Saudi Arabia can lawfully restrict without violating international human rights standards.

Arrests of Dissidents Beginning in September 2017

In September 2017, three months after Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince, Saudi authorities launched a sweeping arrest campaign targeting dozens of prominent Saudis including clerics, academics, intellectuals, journalists, and human rights activists.

Among the individuals arrested were popular clerics Salman al-Awda, Awad al-Qarni, and Ali al-Omari. Al-Awda and al-Qarni were members of the “Sahwa Movement” in the early 1990s, which called for reforms in Saudi Arabia including an elected parliament and constitution. Both maintain large followings on social media platforms. Saudi authorities also targeted individuals such as Essam al-Zamil, an economist who had called into question Saudi projections of revenue from the Aramco initial public offering (IPO), as well as Mustafa al-Hasan, an academic, Abdullah Al-Malki, a reformist academic and writer, Hassan al-Maliki, a religious reformist, Khalid al-Alkami, a journalist, and dozens of other clerics including Ibrahim al-Nasser, and Ibrahim al-Fares.[113] Authorities imprisoned human rights activists Abdulaziz al-Shubaily and Issa al-Hamid around the same time, after both had recently lost appeals of convictions for their human rights work following unfair  trials.[114]

A September 12 Saudi Press Agency announcement confirmed the arrests, stating that the Presidency of State Security, the country’s new counterterrorism agency, had worked “to monitor the intelligence activities of a group of people for the benefit of foreign parties against the security of the kingdom and its interests, methodology, capabilities, and social peace in order to stir up sedition and prejudice national unity.” It said the group included Saudis and foreigners.[115]

Reuters noted that many of those detained had failed to sufficiently back Saudi policies, including the policy of isolating Qatar.[116] A relative of Salman al-Awda told Human Rights Watch he said he believed that authorities arrested al-Awda because he hadn’t complied with an order from Saudi authorities to tweet a specific text to support the Saudi-led isolation of Qatar.[117]

Detainee List

2017

  1. Awad al-Qarni, preacher, university professor, and author, detained in September 2017, on trial, public prosecution seeking the death penalty for alleged membership in the Muslim Brotherhood.
  2. Ali al-Omari, imam, author, detained in September 2017, on trial, public prosecution seeking the death penalty for alleged membership in the Muslim Brotherhood.
  3. Salman al-Awda, sheikh, detained in September 2017, on trial, public prosecution seeking the death penalty for alleged membership in the Muslim Brotherhood.
  4. Ali Badahdah, imam, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  5. Idris Abkar, imam, detained in September 2017.
  6. Khaled al-Shannar, preacher, detained in September 2017.
  7. Adel Bana’mah, preacher, academic, detained in September 2017.
  8. Khalid al-Mhawesh, academic and public figure, detained in September 2017.
  9. Abdullah al-Sweilem, imam, detained in September 2017.
  10. Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), detained in September 2017, serving eight-year prison sentence.
  11. Issa al-Hamid, founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), detained in September 2017, serving nine-year prison sentence.
  12. Abdul Aziz Al Abdullatif, sheikh, detained in September 2017, serving five-year prison sentence following 2018 conviction.
  13. Mustafa al-Hasan, academic scholar and novelist, detained in September 2017.
  14. Ziad Bin Naheet, poet, detained in September 2017 and released in December 2017.
  15. Essam al-Zamel, economic researcher and writer, detained in September 2017, on trial for alleged membership in the Muslim Brotherhood.
  16. Abdullah al-Maliki, academic, detained in September 2017.
  17. Khalid al-Awda, brother of Salman al-Awda, detained in September 2017.
  18. Abd al-Muhsin al-Ahmad, doctor, preacher, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  19. Walid al-Huwairini, Islamic scholar, detained in September 2017.
  20. Yusuf al-Ahmad, preacher, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  21. Ibrahim al-Fares, preacher, university assistant professor, detained in September 2017.
  22. Ibrahim al-Naser, preacher, detained in September 2017.
  23. Muhammad al-Habdan, imam, detained in September 2017.
  24. Ghorm al-Bishi, preacher, detained in September 2017.
  25. Mohammed bin Abdel Aziz al-Khodeiri, preacher, detained in September 2017.
  26. Mohammed Musa al-Shareef, imam, detained in September 2017.
  27. Ibrahim al-Harithi, sheikh, detained in September 2017.
  28. Hassan Farhan al-Maliki, preacher, detained in September 2017, on trial facing charges related to his religious ideas.
  29. Al-Abbas al-Maliki, son of the Islamic scholar Hasan al-Maliki, detained in October 2017.
  30. Khaled al-Ajimi, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  31. Fahd al-Snaidy, media figure, detained in September 2017, on trial beginning in September 2018.
  32. Mohammad al-Khudairi, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  33. Mohammad al-Shannar, preacher, detained in September 2017, on trial beginning in September 2018.
  34. Hamood al-Omari, preacher, detained in September 2017.
  35. Ibrahim Hael al-Yamani, university professor and a former mufti, detained in September 2017.
  36. Muhammad Saleh al-Munajid, scholar and founder of website Islamqa.info, detained in September 2017.
  37. Mousa al-Ghanami, preacher, detained in September 2017.
  38. Muhamad al-Barrak, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  39. Sami Abdulaziz al-Majid, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  40. Fawwaz al-Ghaslan, poet, detained in September 2017, released in May 2019.
  41. Habib bin Ma’laa al-Mutairi, university professor and a member of the National Society for Human Rights, detained in October 2017.
  42. Razin bin Mohammad al-Razin, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  43. Mohammed bin Saud al-Bisher, university professor, detained in October 2017.
  44. Sa’ad bin Matar al-Otaibi, teaching assistant in university, detained in September 2017.
  45. Mubarak bin Zuair, teaching assistant in university, detained in October 2017.
  46. Sheikh Jamal al-Najim, university professor, detained in October 2017, on trial.
  47. Malik al-Ahmed, university professor and media consultant, detained in September 2017.
  48. Saeed bin Farwa, preacher, detained in September 2017.
  49. Sheikh Sami al-Ghayheb, director of the Unit to Combat Extortion Crimes in the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, detained in October 2017.
  50. Salim al-Deeni, undersecretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, detained in September 2017.
  51. Ahmed al-Sowayan, president of the Islamic Press Association, detained in September 2017.
  52. Ali Abu al-Hasan, pedagogue and media figure, detained in September 2017.
  53.  Khalid al-Alkami, writer and journalist, detained in September 2017.
  54. Zayed al-Banawi, retired colonel, detained in October 2017.
  55. Sami al-Thobaiti, journalist, detained in September 2017.
  56. Rabea Hafiz, chanter, detained in September 2017.
  57. Musa’ed bin Hamad al-Kathairi, media figure, detained in September 2017.
  58. Ali al-Jahni, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  59. Yousef al-Mahous, imam, dean of Hatwa College of Science and Human Studies at Majmaah University, detained in September 2017.
  60. Yousef Ahmad al-Qasem, Islamic jurisprudence professor, member of the Higher Judicial Institute at Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, detained in September 2017.
  61. Abdullatif al-Hussein, university professor, detained in October 2017.
  62. Abdulaziz al-Zahrani, university professor, detained in September 2017.
  63. Sonhat al-Otaibi, business consultant, detained in September 2017, released temporarily in April 2019.
  64. Munawer al-Noub al-Abdali, sheikh, detained in September 2017.
  65. Nayef al-Sahafi, preacher, detained in September 2017.
  66. Mohammad bin Saleh al-Moqbel, sheikh, president of Quran memorization society, detained in September 2017.
  67. Mohammad al-Dosari, judge, detained in September 2017, released.
  68. Omar al-Haseen, judge, detained in September 2017, released.
  69. Sultan bin Hanas bin Shaddah, detained in September 2017, released.
  70. Bandar al-Tuwaijiri, judge, detained in September 2017, released.
  71. Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al-Abdallatif, judge, detained in September 2017, released.
  72. Turki bin Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, judge, detained in September 2017, released.
  73. Ahmad al-Amira, undersecretary of the Justice Ministry, detained in September 2017.
  74. Yousef al-Faraj, office director of the minister of justice, detained in September 2017.
  75. Owaid bin Hmood al-Atwi, former university professor, Vice President of the Graduate Studies and Scientific Research at Tabuk University, detained in September 2017, released.
  76. Rashed al-Shehri, head of the Supreme Court in Jeddah, detained in September 2017.
  77. Saud bin Ghosn, sheikh, detained in September 2017.
  78. Jamil Farsi, writer, detained in September 2017.
  79. Yousef al-Molhem, online activist, satirist, detained in September 2017.
  80. Fayez bin Damekh, media figure, detained in September 2017.
  81. Saad al-Breik, sheikh, detained in November 2017.
  82. Ruqayya al-Moharib, university professor, detained in September 2017, released in March 2019.
  83. Noora al-Saad, academic, detained in September 2017, released.

2018

  1. Ahmad al-Rashid, lawyer, detained in April 2018.
  2. Abdullah al-Mofleh, novelist, online activist, detained in September 2018.
  3. Sultan al-Jumeiri, author, detained in September 2018.
  4. Ahmad Abdulaziz al-Zahrani, brother of the activist Omar Abdulaziz al-Zahrani, detained in August 2018.
  5. Abdulmajid Abdulaziz al-Zahrani, brother of activist Omar Abdulaziz al-Zahrani, detained in August 2018.
  6. Safar al-Hawali, prominent Islamic scholar, detained in July 2018.
  7. Abdulrahman al-Hawali, son of Safar al-Hawali, detained in July 2018.
  8. Abdullah al-Hawali, son of Safar al-Hawali, detained in July 2018.
  9. Ibrahim al-Hawali, son of Safar al-Hawali, detained in July 2018, released in February 2019.
  10. Abdulrahim al-Hawali, son of Safar al-Hawali, detained in July 2018.
  11. Saadallah al-Hawali, brother of Safar al-Hawali, detained in July 2018.
  12. Ahmad bin Ali al-Hawali, a relative of Safar al-Hawali, detained in August 2018.
  13. Abdullah bin Ali al-Hawali, a relative of Safar al-Hawali, detained in September 2018.
  14. Ismail Hassan, secretary of Safar al-Hawali, August 2018.
  15. Ahmad al-Amari, sheikh, former dean of the Quran Faculty in the Islamic University of Medina, detained in September 2018 and died in custody in January 2019.
  16. Saleh Al Taleb, sheikh, imam at the Grand Mosque, detained in August 2018.
  17. Ali bin Abbar al-Za’al, poet, tribal Sheikh, detained in May 2018, released in February 2019.
  18. Nasser al-Omar, sheikh, former university professor, detained in August 2018.
  19. Yasser Abdullah al-Ayyaf, activist, detained summer 2018.
  20. Abdulaziz al-Fawzan, preacher, professor at the Higher Judicial Institute at the Imam Mohammed bin Saud university, detained in July 2018.
  21. Muhammad al-Duhas al-Otaibi, preacher, teacher at the Institute of the Holy Mosque of Mecca, detained in July 2018, released in July 2019.
  22. Ali bin Saeed al-Ghaamdi, preacher, detained in July 2018, released in February 2019 due to deteriorating health conditions.
  23. Mohammed al-Bajadi, founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), detained in May 2018.
  24. Mamdouh al-Harbi, preacher, detained in August 2018, released in January 2019.
  25. Turki al-Jaser, journalist, detained in March 2018.
  26. Ayda al-Ghamidi, mother of the activist Abdullah al-Ghamidi who lives in exile, detained in March 2018.
  27. Adel al-Ghamidi, brother of the activist Abdullah al-Ghamidi who lives in exile, detained in March 2018.
  28. Sultan al-Ghamidi, brother of the activist Abdullah al-Ghamidi who lives in exile, detained in March 2018.
  29. Ahmed Bathaf, university professor, detained in May 2018.
  30. Salah al-Shehi, journalist, detained in January 2018, sentenced to five years in prison.
  31. Turki al-Dosari, media figure, detained in April 2018.
  32. Bader bin Ali al-Otaibi, sheikh, detained in April 2018, released in January 2019.
  33. Abdul Aziz al-Mehdi, comedian, detained in June 2018, released in January 2019.
  34. Nawwaf Talal al-Rasheed, poet, dual Qatari and Saudi citizen, detained in May 2018, released in April 2019.
  35. Omar al-Saeed, member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), detained again in June 2018.
  36. Hussein Abu al-Rahha, artist, detained in November 2018.
  37. Khaled bin Suleiman al-Omair, political activist, detained in July 2018.
  38. Marwan al-Mreesi, Yemeni journalist, detained in June 2018.
  39. Ali al-Shammari, poet, detained in June 2018.
  40. Abdulrahman al-Sahdan, employee at the Saudi Red Crescent, detained in March 2018.
  41. Abdulrahman Mohammad al-Arifi, son of Islamic scholar Mohammad al-Arifi, detained in December 2018.
  42. Sheikh Bandar Baleelah, imam at the Grand Mosque, detained and released in September 2018.
  43. Noha al-Balawi, online activist, detained in January 2018, on trial.

2019

  1. Abdullatif Hussein al-Nasser, sheikh, detained in June 2019.
  2. Faisal bin Sultan bin Jahjaah bin Hameed, tribal Sheikh, detained in October 2019.
  3. Abdulaziz al-Awda, activist and a relative of Salman al-Awda, detained in October 2019.
  4. Abdulrahman al-Mahmoud, sheikh and former member of the teaching committee at Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, detained in October 2019.
  5. Omar al-Moqbal, sheikh, detained in October 2019.

November 2017 “Corruption” Arrests

On the evening of November 4, 2017 the Saudi Press Agency announced a royal decree establishing a high-level anticorruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.[118] Later in the evening, the Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya began reporting that Saudi authorities were conducting mass detentions of prominent individuals allegedly involved in corruption.[119]

Those detained included Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an influential businessman and chairman of Kingdom Holding Company. In addition to Alwaleed bin Talal, the detainees included a former national guard minister, Prince Mutib bin Abdullah; a former finance minister, Ibrahim al-Assaf, a former planning minister, Adel Fakih; a former Riyadh governor, Prince Turki bin Abdullah; a former royal court chief, Khalid al-Tuwaijri, Bakr Binladin, the chairman of the Saudi Binladin Group; and Alwaleed al-Ibrahim, owner of the MBC television network.

Following the arrests, three government officials told Reuters that the detainees included 11 princes, four ministers, dozens of former ministers, and several influential businessmen and media executives. The same report indicated that authorities were holding the detainees at the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.[120]

While in detention at the Ritz-Carlton, authorities pressured detainees to hand over assets to the state in exchange for their release outside of any recognizable legal process, and many reportedly made deals.[121] In March 2018, the New York Times reported that Saudi authorities used physical abuse to coerce detainees to hand over assets, stating that at least 17 detainees required hospitalization following this abuse.[122]

On January 31, the Saudi Press Agency released a statement by the royal court saying that the anti-corruption committee, led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, had “concluded its tasks” after summoning 381 people to give evidence.[123] The statement said that those not indicted on corruption charges had been released, while 87 had agreed to settlements and 56 had been refused settlements and remained in custody “to continue the investigations process.” The statement said that the authorities had referred eight others to the public prosecutor after they refused to settle. The statement concluded that “more than SR400 billion (US$107 billion) was retrieved to the state treasury in the form of real estate, companies, cash, and other assets.”[124] The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh resumed normal business operations in early February 2018.[125]

An informed source close to six of the detainees held in the Ritz-Carlton told Human Rights Watch that even though most of the detainees reached settlements and were released, they remain tightly monitored by authorities, even those who returned to their previous positions or portions of their companies or financial assets. He said that in some cases authorities have forced former detainees to involuntarily return to their former companies or positions or compel them to accept new roles.[126]

Detainee List

  1. Adel Fakih, former minister of economy and planning, detained in November 2017.
  2. Waleed al-Ibrahim, chairman of MBC group, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  3. Amr al-Dabbagh, chairman of al-Dabbagh Group and former head of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, detained in November 2017, released in January 2019.
  4. Bakr Binladin, chairman of Binladin Group, detained in November 2017.
  5. Saad Binladin, Binladin Group, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  6. Saleh Binladin, Binladin Group, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  7. Fawaz Alhokair, businessman, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  8. Hani Khoja, businessman, detained in November 2017, released in January 2019.
  9. Ibrahim al-Assaf, minister, detained and released in November 2017.
  10. Mohammed al-Jasser, former Minister of Economy and Planning, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  11. Sultan al-Dweish, executive director of Future Investment, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  12. Ibrahim al-Muaqel, headed the Human Resources Development Fund, detained in November 2017, released in January 2019.
  13. Abdulrahman Fakih, businessman, detained in November 2017.
  14. Hamed al-Dweili`, former deputy minister, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  15. Khalid al-Baltan, businessman, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  16. Rami al-Nuaimi, son of former minister, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  17. Khalid Abdullah al-Molhem, businessman, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  18. Khalid al-Tuwaijri, former head of the Saudi Royal Court, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  19. Loay Nazer, son of former Planning Minister Hisham Nazer, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  20. Major General Ali al-Qahtani, Saudi military officer and associate of Prince Turki bin Abdullah, detained in November 2017, died in custody.
  21. Mansour al-Balawi, former chairman of al-Ettihad sports club, detained in November 2017.
  22. Mohammad Hussein al-Amoudi, Saudi-Ethiopian businessman, detained in November 2017, released in January 2019.
  23. Mohammed al-Tobaishi, former head of protocol of the Royal Court, detained and released in November 2017.
  24. Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, founder of Al Tayyar Travel, detained in November 2017.
  25. Osama al-Bar, former mayor of Mecca province, detained in November 2017, released in January 2019.
  26. Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, detained in January 2018.
  27. Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Mohammad Al Saud, detained in January 2018.
  28. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, businessman and member of the Saudi royal court, detained in November 2017, released in January 2018.
  29. Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahad, former minister, detained in November 2017, released in 2018.
  30. Prince Fahd bin Abdullah bin Mohammad Al Saud, former deputy defense minister, former commander of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and member of House of Saud, detained in November 2017.
  31. Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, son of late King Abdullah, former head of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority, detained in November 2017, released in December 2017.
  32. Prince Khalid bin Talal, businessman, brother of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, detained in November 2017, released in November 2018.
  33. Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah, son of King Abdullah and former governor of Mecca province, detained in November 2017, released in December 2017.
  34. Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah al-Saud, son of the late King Abdullah and former minister of the Saudi National Guard, detained and released in November 2017.
  35. Prince Turki bin Abdullah, son of the late King Abdullah, former governor of Riyadh province, detained in November 2017.
  36. Faisal al-Jarba, associate of Prince Turki bin Abdullah, detained in November 2018.
  37. Prince Turki bin Nasser, former military official, detained in November 2017,released in January 2018.
  38. Saleh Kamal, businessman, detained in November 2017, released in December 2017.
  39. Sami al-Zuhaibi, consultant, detained in November 2017, released in January 2019.
  40. Sami Baroum, businessman, detained in November 2017, released in January 2019.
  41. Saud al-Daweesh, former CEO of Saudi Telecom company, detained in November 2017,released in December 2017.
  42. Walid al-Fitaihi, doctor and public figure, detained in November 2017, released in August 2019, on trial.
  43. Zuhair Fayez, businessman, detained in November 2017.
  44. Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammad al-Sultan, Commander of the Royal Saudi Navy, detained in November 2017.

Detention of Women’s Rights Advocates

In May 2018, just weeks before Saudi authorities lifted the ban on women driving on June 24, Saudi authorities opened a large-scale coordinated crackdown against the country’s women’s rights movement. Authorities initially arrested at least 13 prominent women’s rights activists and accused several of them of grave crimes that appear to be directly related to their activism. Government-aligned media outlets carried out an alarming campaign against them, branding them “traitors.”[127]

In November 2018, Human Rights Watch obtained credible evidence that Saudi authorities tortured at least four of the detained women activists while holding them at an unofficial detention facility called a “hotel” or “officer’s guesthouse,” presumably in Jeddah, between May and August. The torture included electric shocks, whippings, and sexual harassment and assault including touching and groping.[128]

On March 1, 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that the detained women’s rights advocates would face charges.[129] A Public Prosecution statement described the detainees as undertaking “coordinated and organized activities … that aim to undermine the Kingdom’s security, stability, and national unity.”[130] A Public Prosecution spokesperson also told local media on March 1 that the Saudi Human Rights Commission and National Society for Human Rights had investigated the torture claims and found no evidence to support  them.[131]

On March 13, Saudi Arabia opened individual trials of 10 women before the Riyadh Criminal Court, and the women learned their charges for the first time. The women on trial included nine women activists including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Hatoon al-Fassi, Shaden al-Onaizi, Amal al-Harbi, Abeer Namankani, Maysa al-Manea, as well as Roqaya al-Muhareb, an Islamist detainee originally arrested during a separate crackdown in September 2017.[132]

Informed sources who reviewed the prosecutor’s written charge sheets have described to Human Rights Watch the content of charges for three of the detainees, nearly all of which are related to peaceful human rights work, including promoting women’s rights and calling for an end to Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system. The sources said that charges against the other women are similar. Prosecutors also accused the women of sharing information about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia with journalists based in Saudi Arabia, diplomats, and international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, deeming such contacts a criminal offense.[133]

On March 28, 2019, authorities allowed the “temporary release” of Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, and Roqaya al-Muhareb.[134] On May 3, Hatoon al-Fassi, Shaden al-Onaizi, Amal al-Harbi, Abeer Namankani, and Maysa al-Manea were also “temporarily released.”[135] Loujain al-Hathloul and Mayaa al-Zahrani remain in detention for unknown reasons.

Three other prominent women’s rights activists, Samar Badawi, Nour Abdulaziz, and Nassema al-Sadah, were finally brought to trial in Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court on June 27, but the charges against them have not been made public.[136]

The May 2018 arrests also included men connected to the women’s rights movement, including lawyer Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh, activist Mohammad al-Rabea, and businessman Abdulaziz al-Mashal. Al-Modaimeegh and al-Mashal were released in December and January respectively, but al-Rabea remains in detention apparently without charge.[137]

Detainee List

  1. Nouf Abdelaziz, writer and women’s rights activist, detained on June 6, 2018, on trial.
  2. Mayaa al-Zahrani, women’s rights activist, detained on June 10, 2018.
  3. Hatoon al-Fassi, women’s rights activist, contributor to al-Riyadh newspaper, associate professor at King Saud University, detained on June 21, 2018, released in May 2019.
  4. Loujain al-Hathloul, women’s rights activist, detained on May 15, 2018, on trial.
  5. Eman al-Nafjan, women’s rights activist, blogger, detained on May 24, 2018, released on March 28, 2019.
  6. Aziza al-Yousef, women’s rights activist, detained on May 15, 2018, released on March 28, 2019.
  7. Amal al-Harbi, wife of activist Fawzan al-Harbi a member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, detained in July 2018, released in May 2019.
  8. Nassima al-Sadah, human rights activist, detained in late July 2018, on trial.
  9. Samar Badawi, human rights activist, detained in late July 2018, on trial.
  10. Shadan al-Onezi women’s rights activist, detained in May 2018, released in May 2019.
  11. Abeer Abdullah Al Namankany, women’s rights activist, detained in November 2018, released in May 2019.
  12. Maysa al-Manea, women’s rights activist, detained in May 2018, released in May 2019.
  13. Madeeha al-Ajroush, women’s rights activist, detained and released in May 2018.
  14. Hessa al-Sheikh, women’s rights activist, detained and released in May 2018.
  15. Aisha al-Manea, women’s rights activist, detained and released in May 2018.
  16. Walaa al-Shubbar, women’s rights activist, detained and released in May 2018.
  17. Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh, lawyer and human rights activist, detained on May 15, 2018, released in December 2018.
  18. Mohammad al-Rabea, women’s rights activist, detained on May 15, 2018.
  19. Abdulaziz al-Meshaal, philanthropist, women’s rights activist, detained on May 15, 2018, released in January 2019.

April 2019 Arrests

Around April 4, 2019, despite continuing international criticism stemming from the Khashoggi murder, Saudi Arabia carried out a new round of arrests, this time targeting 13 writers and activists. Saudi human rights activists told Human Rights Watch that they did not know the specific basis of the arrests but said that all of those detained had connections to the Saudi women’s rights movement.[138]

One of those detained on April 4, Salah al-Haidar, is a US-Saudi dual citizen and the son of prominent women’s rights activist, Aziza al-Yousef. In addition to al-Haidar, those detained included Bader al-Ibrahim, a writer and medical doctor who is also a US-Saudi dual citizen; and Mohammad al-Sadiq, Abdullah al-Dehailan, Naif al-Hendas, Ayman al-Drees, Redha al-Bori, and Moqbel al-Saqqar, and Thumar al-Marzouqi and his wife, Khadijah al-Harbi, all of whom are writers. The others are Abdullah al-Shehri a lawyer, his wife Sheikha al-Urf, a physician, and Fahad Abalkhail, an independent activist. Al-Harbi was pregnant at the time of her arrest.[139]

In March, Saudi authorities detained Anas al-Mazrou, a lecturer at King Saud University, after he raised the issue of the detained Saudi women’s rights activists during a panel discussion at the Riyadh Book Fair in February.[140]

Detainee List

  1.  Salah al-Haidar, writer and activist, detained in April 2019.

2. Bader al-Ibrahim, writer and medical doctor, detained in April 2019.

3. Mohammad al-Sadiq, writer, detained in April 2019.

4. Adullah al-Dehailan, writer, detained in April 2019.

5.  Naif al-Hendas, writer, detained in April 2019.

6. Ayman al-Drees, writer, detained in April 2019.

7. Redha al-Bori, writer, detained in April 2019.

8. Moqbel al-Saqqar, writer, detained in April 2019.

9. Thumar al-Marzouqi, writer, detained in April 2019.

10. Khadijah al-Harbi, writer, detained in April 2019.

11. Abdullah al-Shehri, lawyer, detained in April 2019.

12. Sheikha al-Urf, physician, detained in April 2019

13. Fahad Abalkhail, activist, detained in April 2019.

14. Anas al-Mazrou, lecturer at King Saud University, detained in March 2019.

Acknowledgements

This report was researched and written by Adam Coogle, senior researcher with the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, with extensive research support from a research assistant in the Middle East and North Africa division and Aaron Burroughs, intern with the Middle East and North Africa division.

The report was reviewed by a Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director; Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher; Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor; and Tom Porteous, deputy program director. Diana Naoum, coordinator in the Middle East and North Africa division, provided editorial and production assistance. Senior coordinator, Jose Martinez, and administrative manager, Fitzroy Hepkins, prepared the report for publication.

 

 

[1] Steffen Hertog, Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats: Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010); Nabil Mouline, The Clerics of Islam: Religious Authority and Political Power in Saudi Arabia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014).

[2] “Saudi Arabia: A Move to Curb Religious Police Abuses,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 18, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/18/saudi-arabia-move-curb-religious-pol... “Saudi Arabia: Prominent Clerics Arrested,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 15, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/15/saudi-arabia-prominent-clerics-arrested.

[3] “Saudi Arabia: Corruption Arrests Raise Due Process Concerns,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 8, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/11/08/saudi-arabia-corruption-arrests-rais....

[4] Adam Coogle, “Essam Koshak Case Will Test Saudi Arabia’s ‘Reformed’ Prosecution Service,” commentary, Human Rights Watch, July 18, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/18/essam-koshak-case-will-test-saudi-ar... “Saudi Arabia creates new security authority,” Saudi Gazette, July 20, 2017, http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/513421 (accessed September 16, 2019).

[5] Katie Paul, “Saudi prince, relieved from National Guard, once seen as throne contender,” Reuters, November 4, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-government-defence-newsmaker/sa... (accessed September 17, 2019).

[6] Stephanie Flanders, Vivian Nereim, Donna Abu-Nasr, Nayla Razzouk, Alaa Shahine, and Riad Hamade, “Saudi Crown Prince Discusses Trump, Aramco, Arrests: Transcript,” Bloomberg, October 5, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-05/saudi-crown-prince-di... (accessed September 16, 2019).

[7] Karen Elliott House, “The Making of Saudi Arabia’s Energetic, Ruthless Crown Prince,” The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-making-of-saudi-arabias-energetic-ruthl... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman named defense minister,” Al Arabiya, January 23, 2015, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/01/23/Saudi-Princ... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[10] Justin Vela, “Saudi Arabia’s King Salman changes line of succession,” The National, April 25, 2015, https://www.thenational.ae/world/saudi-arabia-s-king-salman-changes-line... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[11] Abdallah al-Barqawi, “By Order of the King, Ending the Service of the Director of Public Security, Changing the Name of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution, and Dismissals and Appointments,” SABQ, https://sabq.org/%D8%A8%D8%A3%D9%85%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%84%D9%83... (accessed October 30, 2019). 

[12] Royal Decree 240 available here: https://www.spa.gov.sa/viewstory.php?lang=ar&newsid=1640804 (accessed August 30, 2019).

[13] Human Rights Watch, Challenging the Red Lines: Stories of Rights Activists in Saudi Arabia, December 17, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/report/2013/12/17/challenging-red-lines/stories-righ....

[14] “Saudi Arabia: Leadership Change Should Prioritize Improving Rights,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 22, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/22/saudi-arabia-leadership-change-shoul....

[15] Naser Al Wasmi, “Saudi Arabia’s Allegiance Council gives Prince Mohammed bin Salman vote of confidence,” The National, June 21, 2017, https://www.thenational.ae/world/saudi-arabia-s-allegiance-council-gives... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[16] Ben Hubbard, Eric Schmitt, and Mark Mazzetti, “Deposed Saudi Prince Is Said to Be Confined to Palace,” New York Times, June 28, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/world/middleeast/deposed-saudi-prince... (accessed August 30, 2019); “Saudi Arabia: Clarify Status of Ex-Crown Prince,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 27, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/27/saudi-arabia-clarify-status-ex-crown....

[17] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with informed source, October 29, 2019.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Stephen Kalin and Katie Paul, “Future Saudi king tightens grip on power with arrests including Prince Alwaleed,” Reuters, November 5, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests/future-saudi-king-tight... (accessed August 30, 2019); “Saudi Arabia: Corruption Arrests Raise Due Process Concerns,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 8, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/11/08/saudi-arabia-corruption-arrests-rais....

[20] “Saudi Arabia forms new apparatus of state security,” Arab News, July 21, 2017, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1132466/saudi-arabia (accessed August 30, 2019).

[21] “PROFILE: New Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef,” Al Arabiya, June 21, 2017, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2017/06/21/PROFILE-The-new-Sau... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[22] Katie Paul, “Saudi prince, relieved from National Guard, once seen as throne contender,” Reuters, November 4, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-government-defence-newsmaker/sa... (accessed September 17, 2019).

[23] Kenneth Rogoff, “What’s behind the drop in oil prices?” World Economic Forum, March 2, 2016, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/what-s-behind-the-drop-in-oil-pri... (accessed August 28, 2019).

[24] Martin Dokoupil, “Saudi could see budget deficit next year, risks draining reserves -IMF,” Reuters, September 24, 2014, https://www.reuters.com/article/imf-saudi-budget/saudi-could-see-budget-... (accessed August 28, 2019).

[25] “Saudi plans spending cuts, revenue push to shrink 2016 budget deficit,” Reuters, December 28, 2015, https://www.reuters.com/article/saudi-budget/saudi-plans-spending-cuts-r... (accessed August 28,2019).

[26] The World Bank, “Unemployment, youth total (% of total labor force ages 15-24) (modeled ILO estimate) – Saudi Arabia,” https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.ZS?locations=SA (accessed August 28, 2019); Ismaeel Naar, “Saudi Arabia launches committee to tackle unemployment,” Al Arabiya, October 15, 2015, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/economy/2015/10/15/Saudi-Arabi... (accessed August 28, 2019).

[27] Luay Al-Khatteeb, “Saudi Arabia’s economic time bomb,” The Brookings Institution, December 30, 2015, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/saudi-arabias-economic-time-bomb/ (accessed August 28, 2019).

[28] “Transcript: Interview with Muhammad bin Salman,” The Economist, January 6, 2016, https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2016/01/06/transcript-i... (accessed August 29, 2019).

[29] Vision 2030, available at: https://vision2030.gov.sa/en (accessed August 29, 2019).

[30] Ibid.

[31] Michelle Cioffoletti, “The Restructuring of Saudi Arts and Entertainment,” The Arab Gulf States Institute, August 8, 2019, https://agsiw.org/the-restructuring-of-saudi-arts-and-entertainment/ (accessed August 30, 2019).

[32] Nick Vivarelli, “Saudi Arabia Says It Will Invest $35 Billion in Movie Theaters by 2020,” Variety, April 4, 2019, https://variety.com/2019/film/news/saudi-arabia-movie-theaters-invest-35... (accessed August 30 2019).

[33] Michelle Cioffoletti, “The Restructuring of Saudi Arts and Entertainment,” The Arab Gulf States Institute, August 8, 2019, https://agsiw.org/the-restructuring-of-saudi-arts-and-entertainment/ (accessed August 30, 2019).

[34] “Saudi Arabia's religious authority says cinemas, song concerts harmful,” Reuters, January 17, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-saudi-entertainment-idUSKBN1511LL (accessed May 30, 2019); Bethan McKernan, “Saudi Arabia's entertainment chief fired after conservative backlash over Russian circus ‘nudity',” The Independent, June 19, 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-russia... (accessed August 30, 2019); “Nicki Minaj pulls out of Saudi Arabia concert after backlash,” The Guardian, July 9, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/jul/09/nicki-minaj-pulls-out-of-s... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[35] Hadeel Al Sayegh, Davide Barbuscia, and Saeed Azhar, “Saudi Aramco aims to begin planned IPO on November 3: sources,” Reuters, October 29, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-aramco-ipo/saudi-aramco-aims-to... (accessed October 31, 2019).

[36] Dominic Dudley, “International Investors Are Pulling Out Of The Saudi Stock Market In The Wake Of Khashoggi Murder,” Forbes, November 30, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2018/11/30/investors-shun-sau... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[37] Andrew England and Ahmed Al Omran, “Saudi Arabia attracts financiers again as Khashoggi outrage fades,” Financial Times, April 24, 2019, https://www.ft.com/content/615e2ff6-6678-11e9-9adc-98bf1d35a056 (accessed August 30, 2019); Michael J. de la Merced, Stanley Reed, and Daisuke Wakabayashi, “Business Quietly Returns to Saudi Arabia After Khashoggi’s Murder,” New York Times, April 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/business/saudi-arabia-business.html (accessed August 30, 2019).

[38] “General: royal decree on releasing royal court advisor Saud al-Qahtani from his position,” Saudi Press Agency, October 19, 2018, https://www.spa.gov.sa/viewstory.php?lang=ar&newsid=1830333 (accessed August 31, 2019).

[39] Mark Mazzetti and Ben Hubbard, “It Wasn’t Just Khashoggi: A Saudi Prince’s Brutal Drive to Crush Dissent,” New York Times, March 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/world/middleeast/khashoggi-crown-prin... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[40] Ibid,

[41] Tweet by Saud al-Qahtani (@saudq1978) on Twitter social media platform, August 17, 2017, https://www.arab48.com/%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A7/%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AF... (accessed October 30, 2019).

[42] “Full text: Saudi Arabia's public prosecution briefing on the Jamal Khashoggi murder investigation,” Arab News, November 15, 2018, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1405526 (accessed August 31, 2019); Dion Nissenbaum, Warren P. Strobel, and Summer Said, “U.S. Seeks Accountability for Former Saudi Aide in Khashoggi Killing,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-seeks-accountability-for-former-saudi-a... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[43] Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), “A Conversation with HRH Prince Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom,” October 14, 2019, https://www.rusi.org/event/conversation-hrh-prince-khalid-bin-bandar-al-... (accessed October 23, 2019); “A Conversation with HRH Prince Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud,” October 15, 2019, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=945&v=QbUaaspPKww (accessed October 23, 2019).

[44] “Saudi Arabia: Thousands Held Arbitrarily,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 6, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/05/06/saudi-arabia-thousands-held-arbitrarily.

[45] Saudi Criminal Procedure Law, art. 114, available at: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/ar/sa/sa045ar.pdf (accessed October 30, 2019).

[46] “Saudi Arabia: Clarify Status of ‘Corruption’ Detainees,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 18, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/18/saudi-arabia-clarify-status-corrupti....

[47] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with informed source, February 8, 2019.

[48] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with informed source, January 24, 2019.

[49] Karim Faheem and Loveday Morris, “Saudi campaign to abduct and silence rivals abroad goes back decades,” Washington Post, November 4, 2018, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/world/saudi-campaign-to-abduct-and-silen... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[50] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with family member of Walid al-Fitaihi, March 13, 2019.

[51] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Saudi Arabia Is Said to Have Tortured an American Citizen,” New York Times, March 2, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-torture... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[52] Ben Hubbard, “Saudi Arabia Frees Doctor With U.S. Citizenship After 21 Months,” New York Times, August 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/01/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-doctor-... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[53] “Saudi court postpones hearing of prominent preacher Awdah: son,” Reuters, July 28, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests/saudi-court-postpones-h... (accessed August 31, 2019); Human Rights Watch interview with al-Awda family member, October 2019.

[54] “Saudi Arabia: Women’s Rights Activists Charged,” Human Rights Watch news release, March 1, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/01/saudi-arabia-womens-rights-activists....

[55] Human Rights Watch interviews with Saudi human rights activists, August 2019.

[56] United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “Fact Sheet No. 26, The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet26en.pdf (accessed August 31, 2019).

[57] Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (Body of Principles), adopted December 9, 1988, G.A. Res. 43/173, annex, 43 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 298, U.N. Doc. A/43/49 (1988).

[58] League of Arab States, Arab Charter for Human Rights, adopted May 22, 2004, reprinted in 12 Int'l Hum. Rts. Rep. 893 (2005), entered into force March 15, 2008, art 14.

[59] “Saudi Arabia: Corruption Arrests Raise Due Process Concerns,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 8, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/11/08/saudi-arabia-corruption-arrests-rais....

[60] “Saudi hotel to reopen after being used as prison in corruption purge,” Reuters, January 15, 2018, https://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKBN1F41MF (accessed August 31, 2019).

[61] “Saudi Arabia: Allow Access to Detained Women Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 6, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/06/saudi-arabia-allow-access-detained-w....

[62] Mark Mazzetti and Ben Hubbard, “It Wasn’t Just Khashoggi: A Saudi Prince’s Brutal Drive to Crush Dissent,” New York Times, March 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/world/middleeast/khashoggi-crown-prin... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[63] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 20, HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 30, para 11.

[64] “Saudi Arabia: Clarify Status of ‘Corruption’ Detainees,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 18, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/18/saudi-arabia-clarify-status-corrupti....

[65] Simeon Kerr, “Top Saudi broadcaster caught up in Riyadh’s corruption shakedown,” January 27, 2018, https://www.ft.com/content/a50075d2-0069-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5 (accessed August 30, 2019).

[66] Stephen Kalin, “Exclusive: Saudi Arabia curbs family influence in Binladin group shake-up,” March 18, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-binladin-exclusive/exclusive-sa... (accessed August 30, 2019); Katie Paul, Tom Arnold, Marwa Rashad, and Stephen Kalin, “As a Saudi prince rose, the Bin Laden business empire crumbled,” September 27, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/saudi-binladin-fall/ (accessed August 30, 2019).

[67] Sarah Dadouch and Katie Paul, “Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed released as corruption probe winds down,” Reuters, January 27, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests-princealwaleed/saudi-bi... (accessed August 30, 2019); Kate Kelly, “Freed From a Gilded Cage, a Famed Saudi Investor Returns to the Markets,” New York Times, August 2, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/02/business/saudi-investor-alwaleed.html (accessed August 30, 2019).

[68] Summer Said, Rory Jones, and Justin Scheck, “Saudis Release Consultant, Billionaire Imprisoned in Crackdown,” The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudis-release-ex-mckinsey-consultant-billi... (accessed August 31, 2019); Nizar Manek and Vivian Nereim, “One of the Mideast's Richest Men Is Among Freed Saudi Detainees,” Bloomberg, January 27, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-27/saudi-ethiopian-billi... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[69] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with informed source, October 29, 2019.

[70] Sarah El Sirgany and Tamara Qiblawi, “Jailed Saudi activist rejects deal to deny torture for release, says family,” CNN, August 14, 2019, https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/14/middleeast/saudi-hathloul-torture-int... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with informed source, August 16, 2019.

[72] “Saudi Arabia: Cleric Held 4 Months Without Charge,” Human Rights Watch news release, January 7, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/07/saudi-arabia-cleric-held-4-months-wi....

[73] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with family member of Walid al-Fitaihi, March 13, 2019.

[74] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with informed source, October 29, 2019.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Saudi human rights activists, October 2019.

[77] Saudi Travel Documents Law, art. 6, available at: https://laws.boe.gov.sa/BoeLaws/Laws/LawDetails/e29f08fa-d53e-4944-b22b-... “Saudi Arabia: Lift Travel Ban on Government Critics,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 13, 2007, https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/02/13/saudi-arabia-lift-travel-ban-governm....

[78] UN Commission on Human Rights, The right of everyone to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country, 11 March 1985, E/CN.4/RES/1985/22, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3b00f06e4f.html (accessed August 31, 2019).

[79] Documentation of Saudi execution announcements, on file with Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch and Justice Project Pakistan, “Caught in a Web”: Treatment of Pakistanis in the Saudi Criminal Justice System, March 7, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/03/07/caught-web/treatment-pakistanis-sa....

[80] “Details of Charges Facing Salman al-Awda,” Erem News, September 4, 2018, https://www.eremnews.com/news/arab-world/saudi-arabia/1481280 (accessed August 31, 2019); Charge sheet on file with Human Rights Watch.

[81] “Political: The Kingdom, Egypt, the Emirates, and Bahrain Announce the Addition of Two Entities and Eleven Individuals to their Prohibited Terrorism List,” Saudi Press Agency, November 23, 2017, https://www.spa.gov.sa/1690714 (accessed August 31, 2019).

[82] “Details of Charges Facing Salman al-Awda,” Erem News, September 4, 2018, https://www.eremnews.com/news/arab-world/saudi-arabia/1481280 (accessed August 31, 2019); Charge sheet on file with Human Rights Watch.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Charge sheet on file with Human Rights Watch.

[85] “Saudi Arabia: Religious Thinker on Trial for His Life,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 23, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/23/saudi-arabia-religious-thinker-trial....

[86] Ibid,

[87] Ibid.

[88] Ibid.

[89] Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Adam Senft, Bahr Abdul Razzak, and Ron Deibert, “The Kingdom Came to Canada: How Saudi-Linked Digital Espionage Reached Canadian Soil,” Citizen Lab, October 1, 2018, https://citizenlab.ca/2018/10/the-kingdom-came-to-canada-how-saudi-linke... (accessed October 18, 2019).

[90] Ibid.

[91] “Amnesty International Among Targets of NSO-powered Campaign,” Amnesty International, October 1, 2018, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/08/amnesty-international... (accessed October 18, 2019); Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Nick Hopkins, “Saudi Arabia accused of hacking London-based dissident,” The Guardian, May 28, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/28/saudi-arabia-accused-of-ha... (accessed October 18, 2019); Thomas Brewster, “Exclusive: Saudi Dissidents Hit With Stealth iPhone Spyware Before Khashoggi's Murder,” Forbes, November 21, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2018/11/21/exclusive-saudi-d... (accessed October 18, 2019).

[92] David Ignatius, “How the mysteries of Khashoggi’s murder have rocked the U.S.-Saudi partnership,” Washington Post, March 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/how-the-mysterie... (accessed October 18, 2019).

[93] NSO Group, “Human Rights Policy,” https://www.nsogroup.com/governance/human-rights-policy/ (accessed October 18, 2019).

[94] Tweet from Saud al-Qahtani (@saudq1978) on Twitter social media platform, August 17, 2017, https://twitter.com/bellingcat/status/1144263147416670209/photo/1 (accessed October 30, 2019).

[95] Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, “About,” https://safcsp.org.sa/en.html (accessed February 7, 2019).

[96] Tweet from Saud al-Qahtani (@saudq1978) on Twitter social media platform, August 18, 2017, http://www.alhayat.com/article/881627/%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%...(accessed October 30, 2019).

[97] Manal al-Sharif, “I’m a Saudi activist. Twitter put my life in danger.” Washington Post, November 9, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/11/09/im-a-s... (accessed February 7, 2019).

[98] Nick Hopkins, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Kareem Shaheen, “Leaked reports reveal severe abuse of Saudi political prisoners,” Guardian, March 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/31/leaked-reports-reveal-abus... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[99] Ibid

[100] “Saudi Arabia: Allow Access to Detained Women Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 6, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/06/saudi-arabia-allow-access-detained-w... Margherita Stancati and Summer Said, “Saudi Arabia Accused of Torturing Women’s-Rights Activists in Widening Crackdown on Dissent,” Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-arabia-accused-of-torturing-women-act... (accessed February 15, 2019); “Deposed aide to Saudi crown prince accused of role in female activists' torture,” Reuters, December 6, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-khashoggi-aide/deposed-aide-to-... (accessed February 15, 2019).

[101] Alia al-Hathloul, “My Sister Is in a Saudi Prison. Will Mike Pompeo Stay Silent?” New York Times, January 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/13/opinion/saudi-women-rights-activist-prison-pompeo.html (accessed February 15, 2019).

[102] “ALQST Confirms New Details of Torture of Saudi Women Activists as British MPs Seek Access to Prisons to Investigate,” ALQST, January 3, 2019, https://alqst.org/eng/confirms-new-details-of-torture-of-saudi-women-act... (accessed February 15, 2019)

[103] “Saudi Arabia: Allow Access to Detained Women Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 6, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/06/saudi-arabia-allow-access-detained-women-activists; “Deposed aide to Saudi crown prince accused of role in female activists' torture,” Reuters, December 6, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-khashoggi-aide/deposed-aide-to-... (accessed February 15, 2019).

[104] “Saudi Arabia: Allow Access to Detained Women Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 6, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/06/saudi-arabia-allow-access-detained-w....

[105] Human Rights Watch communications with informed sources, January and February 2019.

[106] Vivian Nereim, “Saudis to Probe Allegations That Women Activists Torture,” Bloomberg, January 13, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-13/saudis-said-to-probe-... (accessed February 15, 2019); Margherita Stancati and Summer Said, “Jailed Women’s Rights Activists Tell Saudi Investigators of Torture,” Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/jailed-womens-rights-activists-tell-saudi-i... (accessed February 15, 2019).

[107] “Saudi Persecution Denies Activist Subjected to Torture,” Al Arabiya, March 2, 2019, https://www.alarabiya.net/ar/saudi-today/2019/03/02/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D... (accessed April 4, 2019).

[108] Ben Hubbard, David D. Kirkpatrick, Kate Kelly, and Mark Mazzetti, “Saudis Said to Use Coercion and Abuse to Seize Billions,” New York Times, March 11, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/11/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-corrupt... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[109] Ben Hubbard and David D. Kirkpatrick, “Behind Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Rise, Two Loyal Enforcers,” New York Times, November 14, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-crown-p... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[110] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Saudi Arabia Is Said to Have Tortured an American Citizen,” New York Times, March 2, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-torture... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[111] Summer Said, Justin Scheck, and Bradley Hope, “Former McKinsey Executive Imprisoned by Saudis,” Wall Street Journal, December 28, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-mckinsey-executive-imprisoned-by-sau... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[112] Summer Said, Rory Jones, and Justin Scheck, “Saudis Release Consultant, Billionaire Imprisoned in Crackdown,” The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudis-release-ex-mckinsey-consultant-billi... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[113] “Saudi Arabia: Prominent Clerics Arrested,” Human Right Watch news release, September 15, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/15/saudi-arabia-prominent-clerics-arres... “Saudi economist who criticized Aramco IPO charged with terrorism: activists,” Reuters, October 1, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests/saudi-economist-who-cri... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[114] “Saudi Arabia: Prominent Clerics Arrested,” Human Right Watch news release, September 15, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/15/saudi-arabia-prominent-clerics-arrested.

[115] “State Security Presidency monitors intelligence activities by group of persons for benefit of foreign parties against security of Kingdom,” Saudi Press Agency, September 12, 2017, https://www.spa.gov.sa/viewfullstory.php?lang=en&newsid=1665140#1665140 (accessed August 30, 2019).

[116] “Saudi clerics detained in apparent bid to silence dissent,” Reuters, September 10, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-security-arrests/saudi-clerics-... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[117] “Saudi Arabia: Cleric Held 4 Months Without Charge,” Human Rights Watch news release, January 7, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/07/saudi-arabia-cleric-held-4-months-wi....

[119] “Princes and former ministers detained in Saudi Arabia corruption probe,” Al Arabiya, November 5, 2017, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/11/05/Princes-and-former... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[120] Stephen Kalin and Katie Paul, “Future Saudi king tightens grip on power with arrests including Prince Alwaleed,” Reuters, November 5, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests/future-saudi-king-tight... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[121] Sarah Dadouch and Katie Paul, “Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed released as corruption probe winds down,” Reuters, January 27, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests-princealwaleed/saudi-bi... (accessed August 30, 2019); Kate Kelly, “Freed From a Gilded Cage, a Famed Saudi Investor Returns to the Markets,” New York Times, August 2, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/02/business/saudi-investor-alwaleed.html (accessed August 30, 2019).

[122] Ben Hubbard, David D. Kirkpatrick, Kate Kelly, and Mark Mazzetti, “Saudis Said to Use Coercion and Abuse to Seize Billions,” New York Times, March 11, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/11/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-corrupt... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[123] “Statement by the Royal Court: Anti Corruption Committee Concludes Its Tasks,” Saudi Press Agency, January 30, 2019, https://www.spa.gov.sa/viewstory.php?lang=en&newsid=1880379 (accessed August 30, 2019).

[124] Ibid.

[125] Angela Dewan, Schams Elwazer and Tamara Qiblawi, “Saudi Ritz-Carlton reopens after stint as lavish prison,” CNN, February 11, 2018, https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/11/middleeast/saudi-ritz-carlton-reopens... (accessed August 31, 2019).

[126] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with informed source, October 29, 2019.

[127] “Saudi Arabia: Growing Crackdown on Women’s Rights Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 23, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/05/23/saudi-arabia-growing-crackdown-women....

[128] “Saudi Arabia: Allow Access to Detained Women Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 6, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/06/saudi-arabia-allow-access-detained-w... Margherita Stancati and Summer Said, “Saudi Arabia Accused of Torturing Women’s-Rights Activists in Widening Crackdown on Dissent,” Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-arabia-accused-of-torturing-women-act... (accessed February 15, 2019); “Deposed aide to Saudi crown prince accused of role in female activists' torture,” Reuters, December 6, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-khashoggi-aide/deposed-aide-to-... (accessed February 15, 2019).

[129] “Saudi Arabia: Women’s Rights Activists Charged,” Human Rights Watch news release, March 1, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/01/saudi-arabia-womens-rights-activists....

[130] “The Public Prosecution Issues Statement, regarding Arrest of Individuals, by State Security,” Saudi Press Agency, March 1, 2019, https://www.spa.gov.sa/viewfullstory.php?lang=en&newsid=1894009 (accessed August 30, 2019).

[131] “Saudi Public Prosecution Denies Women Detainee Subjected to Torture,” Al Arabiya, March 2, 2019, https://www.alarabiya.net/ar/saudi-today/2019/03/02/النيابة-السعودية-تنفي-تعرض-موقوفة-للتعذيب (accessed August 30, 2019).

[132] “Saudi Arabia: Abusive Charges Against Women Activists,” Human Rights Watch news release, March 21, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/03/21/saudi-arabia-abusive-charges-against....

[133] Ibid.

[134] Karim Faheem, “Saudi Arabia temporarily releases 3 women arrested in crackdown on activists,” Washington Post, March 28, 2019, https://beta.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/saudi-arabia-temporari... (accessed August 30, 2019).

[135] “Saudi Arabia temporarily frees four women activists,” BBC, May 3, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48142640 (accessed August 30, 2019).

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with Saudi individual, July 2019.

[137] Vivian Nereim, “Saudi Lawyer Who Defended Activists Is Freed, Sources Say,” Bloomberg, December 24, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-24/saudi-lawyer-who-defe... (accessed August 30, 2019); Human Rights Watch interviews with Saudi human rights activists, January 2019.

[138] Human Rights Watch interviews with Saudi human rights activists, April 2019.

[139] Human Rights Watch interviews with Saudi human rights activists, April 2019.

[140] “Saudi Arabia: New wave of arrests and travel bans latest assault on freedom of expression,” Amnesty International, April 5, 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/04/saudi-arabia-new-wave-of-... (accessed August 30, 2019); “Professor Anas al-Mazrou at King Saud University defends the rights of women activists detained at a book fair,”, March 28, 2019, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV3bbNq7Ma4 (accessed August 30, 2019).

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Video

Saudi Arabia: Change Comes with Punishing Cost

Arrests, Torture, Murder Accompany Reforms

(Washington, DC) – Important social reforms enacted under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been accompanied by deepening repression and abusive practices meant to silence dissidents and critics, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 62-page report, “‘The High Cost of Change’: Repression Under Saudi Crown Prince Tarnishes Reforms,” documents ongoing arbitrary and abusive practices by Saudi authorities targeting dissidents and activists since mid-2017 and total lack of accountability for those responsible for abuses. Human Rights Watch found that despite landmark reforms for Saudi women and youth, ongoing abuses demonstrate that the rule of law in Saudi Arabia remains weak and can be undermined at will by the country’s political leadership. 

“Mohammed bin Salman has created an entertainment sector and allowed women to travel and drive, but Saudi authorities have also locked away many of the country’s leading reformist thinkers and activists on his watch, some of whom called for these very changes,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “A truly reforming Saudi Arabia would not subject its leading activists to harassment, detention, and mistreatment.”

The report is based on interviews with Saudi activists and dissidents since 2017, government statements, and court documents, as well as exhaustive reviews of Saudi local media outlets and social media.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appointed his son, Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince, making him next in line to the Saudi throne and the country’s day-to-day ruler. His elevation coincided with positive changes, fostering a positive image for the crown prince on the international political scene.

Behind the glamor and pomp and the advancements for Saudi women and youth, however, lay a darker reality, as the Saudi authorities moved to sideline anyone who could stand in the way of Mohammed bin Salman’s political ascension. In the summer of 2017, around the time of his promotion to crown prince, authorities quietly reorganized the country’s prosecution service and security apparatus, the primary tools of Saudi repression, and placed them directly under the royal court’s oversight.

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Mutaib bin Abdullah detained during 2017 corruption arrest and held in Ritz
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Ahmed al-Assiri implicated in Khashoggi killing, reportedly on trial
 
 

The authorities then began a series of arrest campaigns. They targeted prominent clerics, public intellectuals, academics, and human rights activists in September 2017, leading businesspeople and royal family members accused of corruption in November 2017, and the country’s most prominent women’s rights advocates beginning in May 2018. The arrest waves were often accompanied by defamation and slander of those arrested in the country’s pro-government media.

Detaining citizens for peaceful criticism of the government’s policies or human rights advocacy is not new in Saudi Arabia, but what has made the post-2017 arrest waves notable is the sheer number and range of people targeted over a short period, and new repressive practices.

These include holding people at unofficial detention sites, such as so-called corruption detainees held at the five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh from late 2017 into early 2018, and the prominent women’s rights activists held at what they described as a “hotel” or “guesthouse” during the summer of 2018. Allegations have emerged of rampant torture and mistreatment at those sites.

Abusive practices also have included long-term arbitrary detention – two years in some cases – without charge, trial, or any clear legal process. Some of the so-called corruption detainees arrested in late 2017 remain in detention without charge or trial, including Turki bin Abdullah, the son of the late King Abdullah and former governor of Riyadh, and Adel al-Fakih, a former government minister.

The authorities also targeted family members of prominent Saudi dissidents and activists, including imposing arbitrary travel bans. Omar Abdulaziz, a Canada-based Saudi dissident, said that Saudi authorities detained his two brothers in August 2018 to silence his online activism.

Other abusive practices have included extorting financial assets in exchange for releasing detainees, outside of any legal process, and seeking the death penalty for acts that do not resemble recognizable crimes. Saudi prosecutors are currently seeking the death penalty against a reformist religious thinker, Hassan Farhan al-Maliki, on vague charges relating to the expression of his peaceful religious ideas, and against a well-known cleric, Salman al-Awda, on charges stemming solely from his peaceful political statements, associations, and positions. Both were detained during the September 2017 crackdown.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly used commercially available surveillance technologies to hack into the online accounts of government critics and dissidents. Citizen Lab, an academic research center based in Canada, concluded with “high confidence” that in 2018, the mobile phone of a prominent Saudi activist based in Canada was infected with spyware. It allowed full access to a victim’s personal files, such as chats, emails, and photos, as well as the ability to surreptitiously use the phone’s microphones and cameras to view and eavesdrop.

The repressive side of the crown prince’s domestic record, however, was not given the international scrutiny it deserved until October 2018, when the violent murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, at Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate shocked global opinion and led to a broader examination of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.

To demonstrate that Saudi Arabia is truly reforming, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should introduce new reforms to ensure that Saudi citizens enjoy basic human rights, including freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, as well as an independent judiciary and due process of law.

The authorities can signal this commitment immediately, Human Rights Watch said, by releasing from detention everyone detained arbitrarily or on charges based solely on their peaceful ideas or expression, dropping all charges against dissidents that do not resemble recognizable crimes, and providing justice for abuses such as torture or arbitrary punishments.

“It’s not real reform in Saudi Arabia if it takes place in a dystopia where rights activists are imprisoned and freedom of expression exists just for those who publicly malign them,” Page said.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Pakistan is moving to make torture a criminal offense, an important step in stemming widespread abuses by the police.

A bill submitted to parliament this week by Senator Sherry Rehman – The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act 2019 – would make torture by police a criminal offense for the first time.

A Pakistani police officer monitors the area during a Shiite Muslim's Muharram procession in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.

© 2017 AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

While Pakistan’s constitution prohibits the use of torture for extracting evidence, domestic law currently does not actually criminalize torture. Pakistan is party to international treaties that prohibit the use of torture and other ill-treatment, notably the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In recent months, several incidents of torture and custodial death have spotlighted the pervasive culture of abuse. On September 1, Salahuddin Ayubi, arrested for theft, died in police custody. His family said he had a mental health condition. A forensic report confirmed that he had been severely beaten. In August, the Punjab anti-corruption department discovered a cell run by police officers in Lahore where suspects were kept in secret detention and tortured. The government has ordered inquiries into both incidents.

Human Rights Watch has documented the Pakistani police’s widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment, particularly during criminal investigations. Those from marginalized groups are at particular risk of abuse. Torture is typically used to obtain confessions and other information from suspects, or to extract bribes from those arbitrarily detained. Officials claim the police resort to physical force because they are not trained in sophisticated methods of investigation and forensic analysis.

In April, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chairperson of the National Assembly’s committee on human rights, promised to introduce legislation to eliminate “the barbaric practice of torture.” On October 10, Dr. Shireen Mazari, the minister for human rights, acknowledged the need to put an end to the practice of torture and custodial deaths.

Pakistan needs to reform its police force to end abuse and protect detainees. This proposed law could be an important first step.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am