On 24 December, three women, who had suffered obstetric emergencies and been accused and condemned for homicide, had their sentences commuted and were released from prison in El Salvador. Karen had served six years, Kathy eight and Evelyn 13 years. A fourth woman ‘Kenia’ was released on 17 January 2022.
All the women were supported by the Agrupación Ciudadana para la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion) along with many others over the years.
In March 2020, President Bukele said in an interview: “I am not in favour of abortion and I believe that in the end, in the future, one day we will realise that it is a great genocide being committed with abortions”. In September 2021, he stated that he would leave out of a proposal to reform the Constitution any modification that opens the door to the decriminalisation of abortion and same-sex marriage.
The Agrupación, led for many years now by Morena Herrara have said they will continuing campaigning tirelessly until the law is reformed and all the women unjustly imprisoned are free.
‘Elsy’ was imprisoned for 30 years for “aggravated homicide” following an obstetric emergency. She was released on 9 February 2022. She had already served more than a decade. Human rights groups in El Salvador celebrated her release. There were many irregularities in her trial. And even after the Supreme Court of Justice agreed to commute her sentence and the Attorney General’s office signed the release papers, her lawyers still had to appeal after a lower court refused to release her.
In the past 20 years, El Salvador has prosecuted some 181 women who suffered miscarriages and obstetric emergencies. The Agrupación have succeeded in freeing 61 of them since 2009. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in November 2021 that El Salvador had violated the rights of a woman identified as ‘Manu’ who was sent to prison for breaching the abortion laws and died while serving a 30-year sentence.
SOURCES: El Diario.es, by EFE, 10 February 2022 ; France24, by Ramiro Cué Barberena, 10 February 2022 + PHOTO of Elsy upon her release, by José Cabezas, Reuters ; France24, by AFP, 24 December 2021 ; The Guardian, by Associated Press, 9 February 2022