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El Salvador

El Salvador has dedicated counterterrorism legislation primarily through a law adopted in 2006. In April 2022, however, the Parliament adopted new legislation to reduce the age of criminal responsibility for membership of terrorist groups from sixteen years to twelve while increasing the already severe penalties for other terrorist offences.  

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

The aim of the 2006 law is to prevent and sanction crimes which

evidence intent to provoke a state of alarm, fear, or terror in the population, by putting in imminent danger or affecting the life or physical or mental integrity of persons, as well as affecting property of significant value or importance, or the democratic system or the security of the State or international peace.Art. 1, 2006 Law on Terrorism.

The implementation of the law is to be in strict adherence to respect for human rights.Art. 1, 2006 Law on Terrorism.In addition, in no circumstance are the crimes set forth in the law to be considered "political". 

The 2006 Law specifically criminalizes as acts of terrorism, among others acts against internationally protected persons or senior State officials:

Whoever executes an act against the life, personal integrity, liberty or security of an internationally protected person, the Presidents of the three organs of State or those who take their place and that of other public officials or public authorities; or against their relatives living in the home, when the acts have been committed by reason of the functions of the position or activities that these people carry out, will be punished with imprisonment for between forty and sixty years.

If the action is aimed at destroying or damaging the property of the persons referred to in the subsection above, the perpetrator will be punished with imprisonment from ten to fifteen years.Art. 5, 2006 Law on Terrorism. 


Membership of a terrorist group

The 2006 law defined terrorist groups as those with a certain stable or persistent structure as well as a hierarchy and discipline and which use violent or inhumane methods with the express goal of instilling terror, insecurity, or alarm among the population of one or several countries.Art. 4(m), 2006 Law on Terrorism.

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties

El Salvador is a State Party to all of the main United Nations treaties on terrorism.


Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention State Party


El Salvador is also a State Party to the main regional treaty on terrorism.


Adherence to Regional Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
2002 Inter-American Convention against Terrorism State Party

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

According to the 2006 Law, justifying acts of terrorism is punishable with prison for between four and eight years.Art. 8, 2006 Law on Terrorism.

In 2007, Human Rights Watch warned of the danger of the law being used to target protests.

The new legislation adopted in 2022 increased sentences for terrorist offences and threatened fundamental human rights.

The new legislation establishes lengthy sentences that could result in disproportionate penalties, Human Rights Watch said. Those convicted of leading a “terrorist” gang now face 40 to 45 years in prison, instead of up to 14 years, as previously set by law. Being a member of a gang will now be punishable by 20 to 30 years in prison, instead of 3 to 5 years.

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

El Salvador's national police force (Policía Nacional Civil de El Salvador, PNC) and its army are both engaged in counterterrorism operations.

El Salvador is one of the world's most violent countries. On one day in March 2022, 62 people were murdered in El Salvador, the highest toll in a single day in decades.


Ley de El Salvador contra el terrorismo (2006) (original version as amended)

Analysis of 2006 Law (Spanish text)

El Salvador Decree 341 (2022) on revision of the law on terrorism (original text)

2022 Decree to reform the criminal code (original version)

2022 Decree to reform the code of criminal procedure (original version)

2022 decree to amend the law on juvenile justice