Statement denouncing repression of peaceful protests in El Salvador

July 25th, 2007

Doctors for Global Health (DGH) joins Amnesty International and the Communities of El Salvador in signaling and denouncing the use of United States promulgated and validated anti-terrorist legislation to repress peaceful protests.

On July 2, 13 Salvadoran citizens were arrested by the anti-riot unit (Unidad para el Mantenimiento del Orden, UMO ) of the National Civilian Police while peacefully protesting water restriction and privatization in their community. Four of them had not yet arrived to the site of the peaceful demonstration and were seized from their vehicle while traveling to Suchitoto.These citizens are being charged with "Creating Public Disorder, Destruction of Property and Acts of Terrorism" under El Salvador's Anti-Terrorist Law, a law passed with full praise from the United States government.

The action of arresting peaceful protestors and thus repressing peaceful demonstration echoes actions of the late seventies and eighties, when a dictatorial government cut off any protest in the name of national security.

In a symbolic return to these days of terror, the Salvadoran government has chosen to use anti-terrorist legislation to jail persons who were peaceably exercising their democratic right to have their voices heard in decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods: their access to water.

Doctors for Global Health affirms that peaceful protest is not equivalent to terrorism. DGH urges the United States government to make clear, in a public statement, that anti-terrorist legislation should not be used as a justification for repression of peaceful protest.

The right to peaceful assembly is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is the lifeblood of any democratic society. As a signatory of that Declaration, the Salvadoran government should release these peaceful protestors and refrain from implying that such peaceful protest is in any way equivalent to terrorism.

In Health and Human Rights,

Doctors for Global Health Board of Directors

To learn more, get updates and join in actions to support the Suchitoto 13, check the Joint Action Alert of CISPES and SISTER CITIES.