The El Salvadoran Government Adopted

Decent Essays

The El Salvadoran government adopted its first comprehensive legislation to combat MS-13 and other street gangs in 2003. The measures provided were colloquially referred to as Mano Dura or Firm Hand. The government felt that that they had waited long enough to take action against the increasing threat of gang activity and would now meet the challenge head on with brutal tactics. The first Ley Anti-Mara was immediately controversial. It criminalized gang association, allowing El Salvadoran police forces to arrest and imprison suspected gang members on the spot. The law also allowed the courts to try suspected gang members under the age of eighteen as adults. Moreover, the Ley Anti-Mara spells out a list of criminal offenses such as harassing a person on neighborhood streets in a threatening manner, fighting in groups of two or more in a public setting, and communicating or identifying themselves with maras by way of signs or tattoos. These anti-mara measures were as ephemeral as they were controversial. Within a year of its passage, the El Salvadoran Supreme Court ruled that the measures were unconstitutional, arguing that it violated domestic and international law to try minors as adults, gave cases of non-gang related homicide less significance, and violated the presumption that those being tried were guilty before they had a chance to argue their case. Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled against the anti-mara measures, the government passed a second Ley

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