Death Squads (El Salvador)

Country: El Salvador
Details of Formation: After the 1979 coup, the paramilitary death squads of the previous military regime, including the various security services - The National Guard, Treasury Police and National Police - remained intact under the control of high level officials in the Civilian-military Junta's army and continued to target leftist sympathisers and civilians during the civil war.
Details of Termination: Following the 1992 peace deal a civilian police force replaced the paramilitary security services linked to death squads, which were then disbanded. A 1994 UN report notes death squad activities after 1992 but they became increasingly decentralised and focused on organised crime. The 2009 election and the end of ARENAS’ control of the presidency, mark a definite end-point for any government support of death squads. Newly formed death squads do not appear to be connected to the government.
Purpose: Government death squads were mainly used for the suppression and elimination of political opponents.
Organisation: While there is no information on the internal organization of the death squads, it has been speculated that their network is composed of small groups that may or may not be connected. They were closely tied to the government and it has been stated that officials gave orders, e.g. to have particular individuals assassinated, and that death squads were controlled by the executive’s office of intelligence, took orders from the army and were linked to the security service. It has been the topic of debate just how direct and strong the links to top officials are, but most sources assume direct links. One report suggests a large overlap between the armed forces and death squads. According to news sources, death squads were also linked to the political party Arena.
Weapons and Training: Members appear to have been active in the state military and the army prior to their activities in the death squads, therefore their training was provided by the state itself. It is not clear what types of weapons were used, but deaths squads were reported to have been heavily armed.
Size: --
Reason for Membership: --
Treatment of Civilians: Death squads committed a significant amount of violence against civilians (particularly political opponents), such as killings, assassinations, sexual violence, abductions, disappearances, executions and torture. According to reports, the government consciously ignored and tolerated these acts, although it was aware of the death squads’ actions. It has been stated that state authorities encouraged violence by death squads.
Other Information: The Commission on the Truth, set up to investigate the death squads after the peace deal in 1992, identified two groups of death squads during the war ...Possible names used by the death squads include the Secret Anti-Communist Army, the General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Anti-Communist Brigade the Salvadoran National Command. Other sources note interconnectedness of death squads - so conservatively included as one group. Whether the death squads were created by the government is coded as unclear seeing that while some groups were created within the government and were composed by security forces, other groups were made up by civilians and were less directly linked to the government. These groups were also, however, supported and sponsored by the government.
References: Amnesty International. 1996. „El Salvador: The spectre of death squads." AI Index: AMR 29/15/96. December.

Amnesty International. 2002. AI Index: AMR 29/003/2002. October 2002.

Amnesty International. 2002. “El Salvador: Peace can only be achieved with justice” AI Index: AMR 29/001/2001.

Wikipedia. “Death Squad.”