by Jocelyn Viterna, Associate Professor Sociology, Harvard University / José Santos Guardado Bautista, Lawyer, El Salvador
Every defendant in the Salvadoran criminal system is guaranteed three fundamental rights by the state. First, every person accused of a crime will be presume innocent until proven guilty, in accordance with the law. Second, in cases of doubt, the judge must find in favour of the defendant. Third, the Attorney General must pursue the truth, not the prosecution of the defendant, be impatial and act with total objectivity, ensuring the law is applied correctly. In the case of 17 Salvadoran women jailed for the “aggravated homicide” of their newborn babies, these three rights have been systematically violated. This report documents the systematic discrimination against these 17 women at each moment in the judicial process. To illustrate:
The police who investigated the alleged crimes only gathered evidence that would incriminate the women, and consistently failed to gather evidence that would corroborate the women’s stories. Moreover, the police regularly let civilians – including women’s neighbours or employers – do the work of gathering evidence, thus contaminating both the scene of the crime and the crdibility of the interviews.