Representation image. gorodenkoff

Tens of thousands of people arrested during El Salvador President Nayib Bukele's crackdown on criminal gangs could be tried in groups, according to a legislation passed by the country's Congress on Wednesday.

Prosecutors will be allowed to simultaneously try hundreds of people alleged to be part of the same gang or from the same area of El Salvador, Reuters reported.

The new legislation, which was passed by 67 votes in favor and six against, seeks to boost order as well as efficiency, said legislators from Bukele's New Ideas party. The party has a majority in Congress.

Up to 900 people from the same group could be prosecuted at one time, said Justice Minister Gustavo Villatoro. The legislation also increases jail time for those found to be gang leaders from 45 to 60 years.

President Bukele's war on the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gangs started last year when he declared a "state of emergency" following a wave of violence. Constitutional rights were suspended and 71,976 people accused of being in gangs were detained.

Following his government's crackdown on crime, many polls showed support for Bukele shooting up to around 90%. On Tuesday, he retweeted favorable statistics about his time as the President after they were posted by the conservative Twitter account End Wokeness.

The tweet read, "He took one of the deadliest countries and made it the safest in Latin America. How did he do it? He jailed the criminals."

The statistics might show that some people approve of his methods to put an end to gang dominance in the Central American country. But some international rights groups have slammed his actions, saying that this has led to human rights abuses such as deaths in custody, torture and arbitrary detentions.

The legislators who passed the measure said that people who are found not having any affiliations to gangs should be released.

Manuel Melendez, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University and researcher on Salvadoran politics, said, "'We're not arresting innocent people' turned into 'We're arresting innocent people but not keeping them', which turned into 'We're keeping them but the courts will set them free eventually.'"

Referring to the new measure, Ingrid Escobar, spokesperson for Humanitarian Legal Aid, a group providing assistance to Salvadoran detainees, said that inmates are at risk of being tried for crimes that they did not even commit.

She noted that they could be prosecuted simply "for living in a place stigmatised by gangs, despite not necessarily being gang members themselves."

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.