Criminal Violence and Transitional Justice in El Salvador


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In March 2015, a special response unit of El Salvador’s National Civil Police killed eight people on the San Blas coffee farm. Official reports stated that the deceased were members of MS13 who had fired at the officers, but witness testimony and ensuing investigations showed that the victims were innocent, killed in cold blood. In September 2017, the policemen were acquitted of murder charges, and the San Blas case became emblematic of a pattern of heavy-handed anti-gang tactics and human rights abuses by police who are struggling to contain an epidemic of violent crime. El Salvador is among the top five deadliest countries in the world outside of a war zone. 

El Salvador’s current insecurity is set against the backdrop of a country coming to terms with past atrocities. In July 2016, the Supreme Court of El Salvador struck down the 1993 Amnesty Law enacted at the conclusion of the country’s devastating civil war, clearing the way for prosecutors to reopen cases and victims to seek justice. How does El Salvador’s past explain its present? How will the country’s judicial system balance justice for crimes past and present? Does impunity for historical crimes hinder present-day efforts to strengthen the rule of law?

Please join the Inter-American Dialogue and Counterpart International for a discussion on transitional justice in El Salvador and the country’s current efforts to combat crime and violence. 

Follow this event on Twitter at #JusticeElSalvador and @The_Dialogue.


Mileydi Guilarte

Chief of Party, El Salvador Rights and Dignity Project, Counterpart International

Leonor Arteaga

Senior Program Officer, Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF); Member of the El Salvador National Commission for the Search of Disappeared Persons (CONABÚSQUEDA) (@larteaga52)

Chuck Call

Associate Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution, American University; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Latin America Initiative, Brookings Institution (@call4pax)


Michael Camilleri

Director, Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program, Inter-American Dialogue (@camillerimj)