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Choosing between justice and freedom

For one human rights lawyer in El Salvador, it feels increasingly like the justice system is designed “to convict.” Yet he continues to defend even the riskiest cases.


By Whitney Eulich

Several years ago I lost a pregnancy at about 13 weeks. I’ve thought about that day over the years for all the obvious, sad reasons. But also because of one big “what if”: I had initially planned to be in El Salvador on a reporting trip that week. Scores of women have been imprisoned following miscarriages in El Salvador, accused of murder under the country’s strict abortion laws. What would I have done if my trip dates hadn’t changed? Would I have been able to find a compassionate doctor?

Fleeing the country, which is likely what I would have done, isn’t a privilege most Salvadoran women have. Certainly, it hadn’t been on offer for the women defended by Dennis Muñoz, the human rights lawyer profiled in the cover story of the Oct. 23 print edition. Mr. Muñoz has dedicated his career to fighting for lost causes – the cases hardest and often riskiest to defend in El Salvador, whether due to draconian laws or the social or economic standing of his clients. El Salvador’s story of injustice goes far beyond reproductive rights – and Mr. Muñoz’s work underscores that. He told freelance reporter Nelson Rauda Zablah that it feels increasingly like the justice system is designed “to convict.”

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