Gang Members Stripped And Pushed Into Tight Formation As Punishment For Violent Outbreak In El Salvador
El Salvador’s president recently caused controversy by sharing photos of gang members who were stripped and pushed into tight formation as punishment for a violent outbreak.
The harrowing images were shared on the official Twitter account for President Nayib Bukele’s press office at the weekend, April 26, after he ordered a 24-hour lockdown of prisons while police investigated numerous homicides.
The images, taken at Izalco jail, showed an eye-opening contrast to social distancing measures being carried out across the globe, as the imprisoned gang members could be seen straddling one another in long rows, with most wearing only shorts and some wearing protective face masks.
Police could be seen standing over the prisoners, wearing masks and riot gear.
President Bukele’s decision to share the images has been met with backlash from human rights groups, with Erika Guevara, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, describing the situation as ‘worrisome’, Reuters reports.
We view these photos taken of people deprived of their liberty in the prisons with great concern, they are scenes where people are brought together in prison yards in a humiliating, demeaning manner.
Bukele shared the images after 22 homicides were reported in a single day, the highest total since he took office last year. The president appears to believe orders for the violence came from imprisoned gang leaders.
As well as sharing the photos, Bukele issued orders for police to place gang members in sealed, steel, box-like cells and gave permission for authorities to use lethal force against gang members on the streets.
He also ordered members of rival gangs be placed into shared cells in the hope of preventing members of the same gangs from communicating.
Speaking to his security cabinet, the president said:
We are going to make sure the gang members who committed these killings regret having made this decision for the rest of their lives.
From now on, all the gang cells in our country will remain sealed. They will no longer be able to see outside the cell.
This will prevent them from using signs to communicate with the hallway. They will be inside, in the dark, with their friends from the other gangs.
While on a tour of the prison, Reuters witnesses saw staff soldering metal sheets onto the doors of prisoners’ cells.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, who works as executive director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas, has expressed concerns El Salvador may slide into autocracy if global powers do not take action against Bukele.
We have the duty to make sure that El Salvador does not become another dictatorship. The only way to stop this is to have a strong reaction by the international community.
Bukele has come under fire from human rights campaigners in the past, but he has ignored criticism and said it is his duty to protect Salvadorans.
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