Developments in Jesuit and El Mozote cases
The past several weeks have seen a few small developments in two of the most emblematic cases from El Salvador's civil war, the 1989 massacre of six Jesuits priests, their housekeeper and her daughter and the 1981 massacre of almost one thousand civillians including hundreds of children in the hamlet of El Mozote and surrounding areas. In both cases, the possiblity of justice in the face of impunity seems slow and far away.
In El Salvador, on April 6, 2017, a Salvadoran appeals court ratified the 30 year prison sentence for Colonel Alfredo Benavides for his role in the Jesuit murders. Benavides was originally found guilty in a trial in 1992, but was set free as a result of the 1993 Amnesty Law. When the Amnesty Law was nullified in 2016, however, Benavides' sentence was reinstated. This action by the court helps the Salvadoran legal system maintain the pretense that justice has already been done in the case and no more proceedings are necessary.
For the legal proceedings in Spain, there was yet another delay in the US attempt to send Inocente Orlando Montano to Spain to face trial, even while the remaining defendants remain safely in El Salvador which refuses to extradite them. Because of Montano's declining health and the US federal court's desire for more briefng, his case trying to block extradition from the US to Spain drags on. According to the blog of professor Duane Krohnke:
Additional proceedings on the merits have been further delayed due to the poor health of the 75-year old Montano resulting in the court’s April 28 order to have him transferred to the Federal Medical Center at Butner, North Carolina for “acute care.” This was based upon his attorneys’ report that he was suffering from “numerous ailments beyond those associated with a man of his age...."
In the reopened case of the El Mozote massacre, former Minister of Defense José Guillermo García, was scheduled to appear in court and provide testimony on Thursday, May 11. García, however, refused to testify. According to the Due Process of Law Foundation which is following the case, all the defendant officers will be asked to testify in coming weeks (and hopefully some will):
It is expected that in the coming weeks, the remaining six accused military officers will be notified of the charges against them and appear in court, and that all defendants will provide testimony. The judge must decide whether to issue arrest warrants, whether the acts qualify as international crimes in addition to the relevant national classifications, and the applicable procedural law, among other points.
The lawyers for the El Mozote victim's families from Tutela Legal Dra. María Julia Hernández expressed their desire that the Attorney General's office would take a more active role in the proceedings, since so far the Attorney General's office appears to have done just the minimum amount necessary. They also called for the case to be expanded to include the high military command at the time as the "intellectual authors" of the massacre.