Washington D.C, December 13, 2012 – The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Office of the Archdiocese of San Salvador (Tutela Legal), legal representatives of the victims in the case “The Massacres at El Mozote and Neighboring Locations” welcome this week´s ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The judgment condemns El Salvador for the crimes committed and establishes that the country´s Amnesty law cannot be invoked in cases concerning human rights violations perpetrated during the armed conflict. The ruling was issued on Monday December 10, coinciding with International Human Rights Day and the 31st anniversary of the massacre.
As asserted by Viviana Krsticevic, CEJIL´s Executive Director: “This historic sentence represents a real milestone. It is the first time that the highest Tribunal in the Americas has ruled that El Salvador´s Amnesty law is incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights. As such, we hope that in the coming months El Salvador will move forward with criminal processes to bring justice to the victims of one of the most tragic episodes in our region’s history. Hope must be returned to Salvadoran society.”
“El Mozote” is the largest massacre to have been committed in Latin America. The massacre killed in the range of 1000 people from at least six villages and led to hundreds of forced displacements. The families of victims and those who survived have fought for justice for many years. The judgment of the Inter-American Court is an opportunity for their voices to finally be heard.
“For decades, the suffering of the survivors was met with indifference and impunity. The Court’s sentence should be viewed with caution, but provides hope for justice and truth in El Mozote,” commented Tutela Legal in El Salvador.
In January 2012, the Salvadoran State accepted its responsibility for the events of the massacre, committing itself to adopt all necessary measures to ensure reparations for the damage caused. CEJIL calls on El Salvador to fulfill this commitment with all due haste, adopting all measures necessary to reopen the relevant investigations and ensure that the Amnesty Law ceases to prevent the investigation and prosecution in this case, and others of a similar nature.
Gisela de León, Senior Lawyer for CEJIL, stressed that “the judgment of the Inter-American Court is not open to appeal, and the Salvadoran State is obliged to comply with the terms of the judgment, within the timeframes established by the Court.”
The massacre at El Mozote and neighboring locations was perpetrated by members of Battalion Atlacatl and other units of the Salvadoran Armed forces between December 9 and 13, 1981, in the context of a military operation entitled “Operation Rescue”. The Salvadoran Army tortured many of the victims and murdered hundreds of the inhabitants of the various communities in the municipality of Meanguera, located in the department of Morazán. Amongst these communities were Arambala, El Mozote, La Joya, Ranchería, Toriles, Cerro Pando and Jocote Amarillo. The events also led to the displacement of hundreds of people.
Tutela Legal carried out efforts to promote the investigation of the crimes domestically. However, the case was archived in September 1993 after the passing of the General Amnesty law for the Consolidation of peace. This law exempted from responsibility those who perpetrated crimes during the armed conflict, including those relating to gross human rights violations. To date, these crimes remain in total impunity.
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