El Salvador

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons on her visit to El Salvador (A/HRC/38/39/Add.1)


Human Rights Council
Thirty-eighth session
18 June–6 July 2018
Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Note by the Secretariat

The Secretariat has the honour to transmit to the Human Rights Council the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, on her visit to El Salvador.

El Salvador is experiencing an epidemic of generalized, gang-related violence, with homicide levels above most conflict-affected countries. As a consequence of this extremely unfortunate situation, there are extremely high levels of internal displacement. The Special Rapporteur considers that the challenge of internal displacement is a hidden and publicly unacknowledged crisis in El Salvador. Victims of violence and internal displacement commonly have to take their safety and protection measures into their own hands due to the lack of an effective State protection system for internally displaced persons. While the difficulties facing the Government are significant, fully acknowledging the challenges of internal displacement is an essential yet currently missing step in effectively confronting the crisis and providing the necessary protection and durable solutions for internally displaced persons.

I. Introduction

  1. The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, visited El Salvador at the invitation of the Government between 14 and 18 August 2017. She held consultations with senior government representatives, United Nations bodies and agencies, national and international civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and those experiencing internal displacement. The Special Rapporteur would like to thank the Government of El Salvador for its excellent cooperation and all those government representatives whom she met and who provided valuable information to her both during and after the visit. As described in A/HRC/38/39/Add.4, some recent efforts by the Government to try to tackle the lack of information on the internal displacement situation must be acknowledged. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the launch of the profiling study on internal mobility due to violence in El Salvador1, led by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security. The study, carried out through a nationally-representative statistical methodology, identified that 1% of the sample had been internally displaced due to violence between 2006 and 2016. These results can be extrapolated to the total population in the country, indicating that at least 71,500 people were displaced in El Salvador in that timeframe.

  2. The Special Rapporteur met officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Public Security and ministry officials (the director of the national civil police, the director of the victims and witnesses programme, and General Directorate of Migration and Foreign Affairs) and the Minister of Governance and Territorial Development. She met with representatives of the Public Defenders’ Office, members of the Legislative Assembly and Supreme Court of Justice, magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber, and representatives of the National Council on Citizen Security and Coexistence, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, the National Council for Children and Adolescents, and the Institute for Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Development. She also met with municipal mayors and other municipal officials and she visited the Migrant Reception Centre at La Chacra. She consulted ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic community.

  3. The Special Rapporteur also met the United Nations country team, and would like to thank its Resident Coordinator and the rest of the team, as well as representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and others who provided outstanding support and information relating to issues of internal displacement. She also thanks the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for its valuable support in the preparation and conduct of her visit. She visited victims of internal displacement and their representatives and thanks in particular community members, activists, and representatives of civil society organizations who met with her and provided essential information.

  4. The Special Rapporteur’s visit focused on displacement caused by generalized violence, particularly by organized criminal gangs. She emphasizes that this cause of internal displacement falls clearly within the scope of the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which establish that internal displacement can be caused by factors including conflict, natural disasters, development projects and, most significantly in the context of the visit to El Salvador, as a result of generalized violence. While many associate internal displacement most readily with conflict and disaster, it is important to recognize that Governments have an obligation to prevent and respond to displacement caused by generalized violence and to protect the human rights of those internally displaced by it to the best of their ability and resources.