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El Salvador: New attempt to criminalize lawyer Bertha María Deleón’s work

Monday, 10 May 2021

On May 4th, Bertha María Deleón suffered another attempt to criminalize her work as a lawyer and human rights defender by politician Walter Araujo. He is being prosecuted for spreading hateful and misogynistic messages against the lawyer.

Bertha is a criminal lawyer who defends human rights and in particular women’s rights. She has extensive experience as a legal representative of women victims of various types of violence, including her work defending women charged because of obstetric complications. The Salvadoran lawyer has also been critical of the management of the current government of El Salvador.

Bertha María Deleón is the target of a discrediting campaign by Walter Araujo, with the aim of damaging her professional reputation as a lawyer. The politician Araujo is being sued for constantly expressing gender-based attacks against the lawyer on social networks.

On May 4th, Walter Araujo initiated a new legal attempt to criminalize the lawyer for the practice of her profession. Araujo alleges that Bertha revealed information about the above-mentioned case in which the lawyer is a victim.

This new act of intimidation against the Salvadoran lawyer is particularly worrying since the dismissal of all the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General. This jeopardizes the respect of due process.

The OIAD strongly condemns the attempt to criminalize lawyer Bertha María Deleón.

The OIAD reminds the Salvadoran authorities that the independence of lawyers is one of the main indicators of democratic health and the consolidation of the rule of law. This is in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990):

“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;” (Principal 16)

“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.” (Principal 17)

The Observatory wishes to remind the Salvadoran authorities that the Republic of El Salvador has ratified and signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishing the independence of the judiciary:

“All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. (…)” (Article 14)