El Salvador’s Supreme Court has declared as unconstitutional an amnesty law that protected war criminals. Dozens of soldiers and guerrilla members could be prosecuted for committing crimes against humanity during the 12-year civil war that came to an end in 1992.
The Salvadoran Civil War, which initiated in 1980, accounted for more than 75,000 deaths, caused by members of leftists guerrillas and the military-led government. An amnesty law issued in 1993 helped end the conflict but also detained regulators from judging war criminals. Salvadorans were not allowed to request investigations or compensation for war crimes and human rights violations conducted during the armed conflict, said Amnesty International.
Judges determined on Thursday that some articles of the amnesty law were not following constitutional rights. The court said the law was “contrary to the access to justice.” Previous governments had avoided evaluations of the amnesty law. Attorneys have suggested that there would be dozens of cases of people convicted of committing war crimes.
The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), a non-profit human rights organization headquartered in San Francisco, has been searching for Salvadorans responsible for war crimes, who are outside the country, since 1998.
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) July 14, 2016
A positive outlook for El Salvador
Carolyn Patty Blum, a legal adviser at CJA, told U.S. News that she hopes to see a considerable change in the country. She added that the court’s ruling could mark an inspirational turning point and concluded that historic crimes should be investigated in depth.
Amnesty International: “this is a historic day for human rights in El Salvador”
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said the court’s ruling has changed the panorama of human rights in El Salvador. Defense Minister David Munguia Payes described the court’s decision as a political mistake, as reported by The New York Times. He said that declaring the amnesty law as unconstitutional could trigger a “witch hunt” in the smallest country in Central America.
“By turning its back on a law that has done nothing but let criminals get away with serious human rights violations for decades, the country is finally dealing with its tragic past. Victims should not be made to wait for justice, truth and reparation for a second longer,” said Guevara-Rosas in a statement.
Mr. Payes added that annulling the amnesty law could cause a kickback involving “the pacification process that the country has achieved after the peace agreements,” as reported by CNN. A United Nations Truth Commission determined in 1993 that military forces were responsible for 85 percent of 22,000 war complaints it had registered. Some deaths caused special controversy during the armed conflict.
— WARSCAPES (@WARSCAPES) July 14, 2016
Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot in 1980 by a right-wing death squad while offering Mass, said the NY Times. The Salvadoran Army massacred an estimated 800 people in El Mozote on December 1981. Some Salvadorans see the court’s decision as a hope to bring justice to the country, while others propose that conflict must be avoided.
Source: The New York Times