El Salvador: An à la carte constitution could deepen the human rights crisis in the coming years

The human rights situation in El Salvador has deteriorated alarmingly over the past five years, especially in the areas of civil and political rights. Against this backdrop and in response to the recent amendment to Article 248 of the country’s Constitution, a change that limits people’s right to participate in future constitutional reform processes, Ana Piquer, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:

“It is disturbing to think how the constitutional amendment adopted during the last session of the outgoing Legislative Assembly could undermine human rights in the future and limit people’s ability to participate in public affairs. This new method that the government wants to use to amend the constitution is poised to drastically reduce the space for debate and reflection and limit societal involvement in matters of public interest.

It is disturbing to think how the constitutional amendment passed during the last session of the outgoing Legislative Assembly could undermine human rights in the future and limit people’s ability to participate in public affairs.

Ana Piquer, Americas Director at Amnesty International

“Furthermore, over the past three years, the ruling party has used its supermajority in the Legislative Assembly to erode the independence of the judicial system, weaken scrutiny and accountability mechanisms, systematically violate due process guarantees and for 26 consecutive months rights to suspend those international standards must be protected in all circumstances.

“There is a legitimate fear that this amendment to the Constitution will open the door to other amendments that will undermine the legal protection of human rights in El Salvador.”

Extra information

Article 248 originally provided that any amendment to the Constitution had to be approved by two separate Legislative Assemblies. This method allows a longer period to consider changes and creates better conditions for public debate and deliberation, which in turn gives the population a greater hand in decisions on public affairs. In practice, the original amendment method could promote public control over the changes in question and give different sectors of society multiple opportunities to express their opinions and concerns.

The amendment approved on April 29 creates a second path for changing the constitution. In this case, one legislature can make an amendment if three-quarters of the Legislative Assembly is in favor of the amendment.

The new Legislative Assembly, which like the previous ones is dominated by the ruling party, will be able to approve this new method. The large majorities in the legislature have already made it possible to fast-track changes to several other laws between May 2021 and April 2024. In some cases, these changes were sudden, without consultation, and without opportunity for participation from civil society organizations, which often represent minority or marginalized groups.

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