El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has been receiving flak from human rights groups and people in general for sharing photos of gang members who were stripped and pushed into tight formation as punishment for widespread violence amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

The grim images were shared on the official Twitter account of Bukele's press office on Sunday after he ordered a 24-hour lockdown of prisons while police investigated numerous homicides, reports said.

The photos, taken at Izalco jail, showed an eye-opening contrast to social distancing measures being carried out across the globe, as the imprisoned gang members could be seen straddling one another in long rows, with most wearing only shorts and only some wearing protective face masks. Police could be seen standing over the prisoners, wearing masks and riot gear.

Several homicides were reported in a single day

Journalists imprisoned
Representational Image

Bukele shared the images after 22 homicides were reported in a single day, the highest total since he took office last year. The President appears to believe orders for the violence came from imprisoned gang leaders. Besides, sharing the photos, Bukele issued orders for police to place gang members in sealed, steel, box-like cells and gave permission for authorities to use lethal force against gang members on the streets.

He also ordered members of rival gangs be placed into shared cells in the hope of preventing members of the same gangs from communicating. According to reports in the media, speaking to his security cabinet, the President said: "We are going to make sure the gang members who committed these killings regret having made this decision for the rest of their lives.

"From now on, all the gang cells in our country will remain sealed. They will no longer be able to see outside the cell. This will prevent them from using signs to communicate with the hallway. They will be inside, in the dark, with their friends from the other gangs."