Oslo Forum Papers: Mediating criminal violence – Lessons from the gang truce in El Salvador

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.


The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue has brought out a new report on mediating criminal violence in El Salvador. The report  – ‘Mediating Criminal Violence: Lessons from the gang truce in El Salvador’  – takes an in-depth look at the gang truce which was mediated between El-Salvador’s two main gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha-13 and the 18th Sreet gang in 2012. The truce is recognised to have dramatically reduced the country’s soaring homicide rate but also raised many questions about the risk and benefits of direct engagement with criminal actors.

The report’s author – Teresa Whitfield –  acknowledges at the outset of the report that the outcomes of the gang truce in El Salvador are still unfolding. That said, the report seeks to identify lessons from the mediation of the truce in El Salvador that might be transferable to other situations around the world facing criminal violence, outside of – and mixed in with – ideologically driven armed conflicts.

‘Mediating Criminal Violence’ is the first paper in a new series launched by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue: ‘The Oslo Forum Papers’. The Oslo Forum Papers are intended to draw upon and feed into the substance of the Oslo Forum, the leading international network of armed conflict mediation practitioners. According to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the new series seeks to advance thinking and debate on issues linked to armed conflict mediation and peacemaking.

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