Pardons sought for El Salvador’s 17

The decision by El Salvador to pardon a woman convicted of aggravated homicide after suffering a miscarriage must mark a turning point for the authorities to review the sentences against all women jailed for pregnancy-related complications, a group of United Nations human rights experts said.

Last week, the Central American nation announced that it had pardoned Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana, who suffered a miscarriage at 18 after reportedly being raped. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison in February 2008.

“The decision to pardon Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana, following a judicial review which concluded that due process had been violated, reverses an appallingly unfair sentence and we wholeheartedly welcome it,” the experts said in a statement.

“But there are many more women imprisoned on similar charges, some of them awaiting decisions on a pardon. We further urge the authorities to repeal legislation which criminalizes abortion in all circumstances,” they added.

There are currently 17 women imprisoned in El Salvador on similar abortion charges. Nine are currently seeking pardons. One woman was released after completing her sentence. The other six cases have already come before the supreme court which decided not to pardon them. The Parliamentary Assembly is due to consider the case of nine of the women in the coming month and the experts urged the competent authorities to pardon them.

Since 1997, El Salvador has had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, with abortion criminalized even when the woman’s life or health is at risk or in cases of rape or incest.

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