Salvadoran judge reopens case of El Mozote massacre
Almost thirty-five years after the El Mozote massacre, a local judge in El Salvador has reopened criminal proceedings, including proceedings against the military high command at the time of the atrocity. The decision of Judge Jorge Guzman Urquilla starts a process in El Salvador which might bring justice for one of the worst single massacres of civilians in the history of the western hemisphere.
From the AP:
A judge in El Salvador has ordered prosecutors to reopen a probe into one of the most notorious massacres in recent history: the army's slaying of hundreds of people in the village of El Mozote.
Human rights advocate Ovidio Mauricio told The Associated Press on Saturday that Judge Jorge Guzman Urquilla had accepted the request filed by his organization and two other groups. The decision was based on a July ruling by the country's Supreme Court that overturned a law granting amnesty for war crimes during El Salvador's 1979-1992 civil war....
The Supreme Court ruling overturning the amnesty has been welcomed by national and international human rights groups, but it has upset both former military men and the current government, which grew out of the rebel Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. Both sides fear their allies could face prosecution and say the decision could lead to social conflicts.
The move to reopen the El Mozote probe was led by Mauricio's Dr. Maria Julia Hernandez Legal Defense agency, the Center for Justice and International Law and the Association to Promote Human Rights of El Mozote.The now re-opened criminal proceeding was originally closed by a Salvadoran court in September 1993. The judge who had been responsible for the El Mozote case terminated it as a consequence of the Amnesty Law which had been passed in March 1993. That law protected anyone from prosecution for crimes committed during the civil war. El Salvador's Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the 1993 Amnesty Law was unconstitutional, paving the way for this week's ruling,
Judge Guzman Urquilla also pointed to the December 2012 judgment of the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights against the government of El Salvador. That judgment ordered the government to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the massacre and to provide reparations to the victims.
Eleven former military officers have been cited by the court as defendants:
1) General José Guillermo García, Minister of Defence and Public Security from 1979-1983.
2) General Rafael Flores Lima, chief of the joint high command of the armed forces from January 1981 to January 1983.
3) Colonel Jaime Flores Grijalva, commander of the Third Infantry Brigade in December 1981.
4) Colonel Alejandro Cisneros, Commander of the Center of Instruction of Commandos of San Francisco Gotera in December 1981.
5) General Juan Rafael Bustillo, commander of the Air Force of El Salvador, from 19 October 1979 to 31 December 1989.
6) Major Natividad de Jesús Cáceres Cabrera, officer of Atlacatl Rapid Reaction Battalion in December 1981.
7) Captain Juan Ernesto Méndez Rodríguez, officer of Atlacatl Rapid Reaction Battalion in December 1981.
8) Captain José Antonio Rodríguez Molina, officer of Atlacatl Rapid Reaction Battalion in December 1981.
9) Captain Walter Oswaldo Salazar, officer of Atlacatl Rapid Reaction Battalion in December 1981.
10) Captain José Alfredo Jiménez, officer of Atlacatl Rapid Reaction Battalion in December 1981.
11) Lieutenant Colonel Luis Alberto Landaverde, functioned as Commander of the Artillery Brigade “Teniente Coronel Óscar Osorio” from October 19, 1979 to June 30, 1983.In addition, Judge Guzman Urquilla indicated that the proceeding would address the responsibility of Colonel Domingo Monterrosa Barrios, commander of the Atlacatl Rapid Reaction Battalion in December 1981 and his second-in-command Major Armando Azmitia Melara. The Salvadoran armed forces continue to celebrate Domingo Monterrosa as a war hero. Both men were killed in 1984 when a bomb exploded in a helicopter in which they were flying.
To move the case forward, the judge has ordered the government of Salvador Sánchez Cerén to provide information regarding the chain of command in the armed forces at the time of the El Mozote massacre and to open the books of the armed forces regarding the military operation.
A partial list of the victims, with their names and ages is here. Their memory continues to cry for justice.