Constitutional Provisions

The 1983 Constitution of El Salvador protects the rights to life, physical and moral integrity, and liberty.Art. 2, 1983 Constitution of El Salvador (as amended).All forms of torture are prohibited.Art. 27, 1983 Constitution of El Salvador (as amended).Article 7 provides that the inhabitants of El Salvador "have the right to meet peacefully, without arms, for any lawful purpose". 

Article 159 stipulates that:

Public Security shall be the duty of the National Civil Police, which shall be a professional body, independent of the Armed Force and detached from all party activity.

The National Civil Police shall be charged with the functions of urban police and rural police, which guarantee order, security and public tranquility, as well as collaboration in the investigation of crime, and all the proceeding in accordance with the law and with strict respect for human rights.

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints No
CAT Optional Protocol 1 Not party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties

1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1948 Charter of the Organization of American States State Party
1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights State Party
Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights Yes

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

The Policía Nacional Civil is the national police of El Salvador. By the end of 2015, El Salvador’s homicide rate (105/100,000) was the highest in the world.C. Wade, Latin American Politics and Development, Westview Press, New York, 2018, pp. 395–409.This rate reduced to 60/100,000 by the end of 2017, accompanied by an increase in reports of extrajudicial executions.

According to Article 15 of the 2001 Organic Law on the National Civil Police determines that

1. In the performance of their duties, the members of the National Civil Police shall use, to the extent possible, non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only when other means are inefficient or not guarantee in any way the intended legitimate result achievement.

2. The members of the National Civil Police will not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others, in the event of imminent danger of death or serious injury, in order to prevent the Commission of a particularly serious crime involving a serious threat to life, in order to stop a person who represents this danger and put resistance and only in the event that less extreme measures are insufficient.... 

El Salvador has reported that Law enforcement and prison officers are guided in their work by the Conceptual Framework for the Use of Force and Lethal Weapons in the National Civil Police of El Salvador (Marco Conceptual para el Uso de la Fuerza y el Empleo de Armas Letales en la Policía Nacional Civil de El Salvador). This document sets out the detailed steps before, during, and following the use of force and firearms.

Police Oversight

In 2017, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security created the Police Action and Human Rights Committee, principally to serve as an inter-agency body for following up on police misconduct in El Salvador. 



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2018 Concluding Observations on El Salvador, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern 

about the increase in the number of people killed by the National Civil Police and the Armed Forces and about reports of arbitrary detention, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, as well as about the “death squads” said to be operating within the police and the Armed Forces. The Committee is also concerned about impunity for these alleged crimes and about reports that a high percentage of these cases are dismissed.... 

The Committee was also concerned "about complaints and reports of torture, ill-treatment and excessive use of force by the police, members of the Armed Forces and other public officials". It called on El Salvador to 

strengthen the role of the National Civil Police in the maintenance of law and order and enable it to assume the law and order functions exercised by the Armed Forces. It should ensure that all cases of alleged extrajudicial execution, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance are investigated in a prompt, thorough and impartial manner, that searches are carried out for missing persons, that the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished, and that victims receive full reparation.

In early 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions conducted a mission to El Salvador. In her report, she stated that:

the percentage of murders allegedly attributed to the police increased from less than 1% in 2010 (11 of 4004 homicides) to almost 5% in 2015 (328 of 6656) and more than 10% in 2017 (412 of 3954). ...

In addition, the Special Rapporteur received various allegations of the existence of “death squads” within the police and military, some of which have been confirmed by officials and corroborated by investigations. In August 2017, the Attorney-General’s Office announced opening investigations into three death squads operating in the country - two in the eastern zone and one in the western zone - in which police officers were involved. 


In September 2018, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) received reports of the National Civil Police carrying out extrajudicial killings to curb gang activity from non-governmental organisations.


1983 Constitution of El Salvador (as amended) (English translation)

2001 Organic Law on the National Civil Police (Spanish original)

Marco Conceptual para el Uso de la Fuerza y el Empleo de Armas Letales en la Policía Nacional Civil

Periodic Report of El Salvador under CAT (2020)

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on El Salvador (2018)

Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on her mission to El Salvador (2018)