Advances in Justice, Human Rights, and Security in Central America

Countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala face enduring challenges in addressing insecurity, impunity and corruption. Policymakers need answers to determine better strategic methods of improving governance in the region.

As WOLA explains, the Central America Monitor is an ongoing project that involves collecting data on a series of qualitative and quantitative indicators in eight key areas related to security, justice and human rights.

The Monitor website offers infographics and reports that examine the measures that each country is taking to strengthen the rule of law and security.

The data collected and analysed has revealed trends and areas of concern in the region, including the following:

  • Across the region, significant advances were made in tackling corruption. However, challenges remain in updating or reforming existing legislation, and in some cases, regressive laws were adopted. The ability of the three countries to stop corruption from flourishing is an especially urgent but complicated issue amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • While transparency laws and mechanisms exist across the region, some synergies prevent public officials and institutions from reporting the information diligently. For example, some of the institutions examined, specifically the security and defence ministries, are falling short in terms of making important information about how they function available to the public. In Honduras, for example, the body responsible for reviewing financial disclosures by public officials has no way of proactively determining that the information is truthful and accurate.
  • Even though Honduras and Guatemala have adopted measures aimed, in principle, at creating an enabling environment for the exercise of protecting human rights, high levels of impunity persist for crimes involving human rights violations, killings and threats against human rights defenders. Notably, in a worrying trend, in Guatemala and Honduras, criminal law is frequently abused in an attempt to prevent or halt the work of human rights defenders. In Honduras, 141 human rights defenders were killed between 2014 and 2017.
  • Specialised legislation has been adopted to help prevent, detect and combat violence and organised crime. While general homicide rates decreased, violence and insecurity remain the primary concerns for the population. In El Salvador, nine out of 10 kidnapping cases taken on by the Attorney General’s Office were archived.
  • Justice systems across the region are understaffed and facing threats that compromise their independence. These issues compromise the ability of justice systems to investigate and prosecute crimes efficiently. For example, in 2014, in Guatemala, only 2 per cent of the complaints presented to the Attorney General’s Office ended with convictions.


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