Foreign Aid:

Efforts to Improve the Judicial System in El Salvador

NSIAD-90-81: Published: May 29, 1990. Publicly Released: May 29, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined U.S. and El Salvadoran efforts to improve the judicial system in El Salvador.

GAO found that: (1) the El Salvadoran judicial system was outdated and inconsistent with its current constitution; (2) many judges and others trying to make the system work were undereducated and undertrained; (3) judges were poorly paid, compared to salaries of attorneys in the private sector; (4) the number of public defenders was significantly less than required, which contributed to prisoners remaining in jail without trial for extended periods; (5) investigative and forensic capabilities had improved, but remained limited, forcing police to rely on confessions and eyewitness testimony for evidence; (6) efforts to sustain and build confidence in the judicial system may not materialize unless politically motivated threats, murders, and other crimes are addressed and punished by law; (7) the U.S.-supported Judicial Reform Project has had small success, despite the debilitated condition of the judicial system; (8) investigations included methods and procedures used by U.S. investigative organizations; (9) political interference with the El Salvadoran Commission on Investigation (COI) declined, but the lack of high-level government support was hurting its credibility and authority to conduct investigations; (10) COI lacked the resources to investigate all serious crimes; (11) politics and war have impeded passage of the El Salvadoran Revisory Commission's recommendations; and (12) the United States has been attempting to improve the court systems' human resources, management capabilities, and physical conditions.

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