Human Rights First Recommends U.S. Sanctions for Rights Abuses in El Salvador

WASHINGTON – Human Rights First formally recommended Global Magnitsky sanctions against four Salvadoran officials with the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and State. These officials were involved in severe human rights abuses in connection with the brutal and indiscriminate government crackdown against alleged gang members in El Salvador, which has affected thousands of people without apparent involvement in gangs.

“When U.S. partners like El Salvador commit abuses on a massive scale, the U.S. government has an obligation to speak out and ensure that there are consequences for those perpetrating them,” said Amanda Strayer, Supervising Staff Attorney for Accountability at Human Rights First. “Building on calls for sanctions from other civil society groups, Human Rights First has formally recommended that the U.S. government use targeted sanctions as part of a broader effort to pressure Salvadoran authorities to cease these abuses and deter other countries in the region from adopting the same abusive policies.”

Since the government of El Salvador responded to an increase in gang-related killings by declaring a state of emergency in March 2022, it has detained more than 71,900 people, including children, on suspicion of gang involvement, usually with little to no evidence. Human rights groups and others have documented widespread arbitrary detentions and mass arrests; fair trial and due process violations; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment during the detention process; torture and deaths in custody; and enforced disappearances.

These human rights abuses, which meet the criteria for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky program and other U.S. sanctions authorities, were made possible by the government’s suspension of various constitutional protections under the ongoing state of emergency. They are expected to worsen under a new law that permits mass trials of up to 900 people at once and extends prison sentences up to 60 years for gang-related charges. The state of emergency has been extended 18 times and is an indefinite suspension of fundamental rights.

Since the U.S. government established the Global Magnitsky program in 2017, Human Rights First has worked with other NGOs to submit more than 100 sanctions recommendations by coordinating a global coalition of more than 300 civil society organizations advocating for targeted sanctions to promote accountability. About one-third of all U.S. Global Magnitsky sanctions have a basis in coalition members’ recommendations.

For more information about Human Rights First’s work on targeted human rights and anti-corruption sanctions, visit


Published on September 14, 2023


Related Posts

Seeking asylum?

If you do not already have legal representation, cannot afford an attorney, and need help with a claim for asylum or other protection-based form of immigration status, we can help.