EL SALVADOR: Tier 2
The Government of El Salvador does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous period; therefore, El Salvador remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by convicting an official who engaged in commercial sex with a trafficking victim, investigating more trafficking cases, prosecuting child sex trafficking crimes, and providing services to some girl victims. The government promulgated regulations to further implement the 2014 anti-trafficking law intended to strengthen its interagency anti-trafficking council. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not investigate and has never prosecuted any labor trafficking cases. The judicial system’s overreliance on victim testimony contributed to victims facing threats of reprisal from traffickers, which undermined efforts to hold traffickers accountable. Services for adults, boys, and LGBTI victims were severely lacking. The government did not follow up on investigations of official complicity from previous years, constraining overall efforts to combat trafficking.
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A government official was convicted for purchasing sexual services from a trafficking victim and received a sentence of five years imprisonment. The government did not provide any updates on two investigations from previous years, one involving several officials for the alleged purchase of sex acts from trafficking victims and a second involving a public official suspected of sex trafficking. It did not report any developments in a 2012 case of three prison guards arrested for facilitating sex trafficking or a 2009 investigation of trafficking-related complicity by the former head of the prosecutorial anti-trafficking unit.
The judicial system’s inexperience with trafficking cases, overreliance on victim testimony, and threats of reprisal from traffickers undermined the effectiveness of the judicial system’s response to trafficking. Judges in criminal courts could order civil compensation awards in trafficking cases; however, victims had to work through the civil courts to receive payment. In 2016, no sentences included such compensation. The government reported having procedures to protect victims’ identities in court and allow for victims to provide testimony via teleconference, but did not report using these procedures. Identified trafficking victims generally were not charged, jailed, or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. However, due to the lack of a formal mechanism to screen vulnerable populations, some unidentified victims may have been punished for such crimes. Furthermore, civil society organizations reported the government treated as criminals children forced to engage in illicit activity by criminal groups, rather than providing them protection as trafficking victims. The 2014 trafficking law provides foreign trafficking victims the right to seek residency status, which would allow them to work legally, but no victims had received such benefits.