The voices of the victims of El Mozote

A witness is questioned during the El Mozte trial

In a small courtroom in the town of San Francisco Gotera, largely unnoticed by the world, a major human rights trial is taking place.    The trial seeks to establish the responsibility of high ranking officers of the Salvadoran military for the 1981 massacre at El Mozote.   In El Mozote and the surrounding small communities, as many as one thousand civilians -- children, the elderly, women and men -- were brutally killed by the Salvadoran military between December 9 and 11, 1981.  It is a crime the judge has already declared a "crime against humanity."

It is possible to follow along with the testimony in English translations.   So far, family members of those who died at El Mozote, and who witnessed some of those days of terror have been testifying.

Journalist Nelson Rauda Zablah has been covering the El Mozote trial for El Faro and live tweeting the testimony.   His summary of some of the first witnesses is published in an article titled The Day “The Offended” of El Mozote Silenced the Military.   It has been translated into English at Unfinished Sentences.   Here is the opening:
The first group of witnesses in the trial for the El Mozote massacre has finished. Of 17 original witnesses, 10 have now reaffirmed statements they made before a judge in San Francisco Gotera during the early 1990s. Despite the horror of their stories, lawyers for the accused military officials continue to paint the victims as guerrillas. But the power of their testimonies says, “hush, hush, listen.”
Read the rest of the article here.

Also providing extensive coverage of the trial in English is the human rights organization Cristosal.    Cristosal has English translations of testimony as well as English translations of several articles about the trial and its importance.

The testimony continued Thursday with two more victim witnesses  appearing, but also seated in the courtroom for the first time to hear witness testimony was one of the accused: Rafael Bustillo, former Air Force general.   Bustillo was summoned to court to hear the accusations against him.   He appeared in court clutching a copy of the UN Truth Commission report from 1993.  Although the report accuses Bustillo of participation in the orders to kill the Jesuits in 1989, Bustillo apparently believes the fact that he is not mentioned by name in connection with El Mozote somehow exonerates him.

At this point, the next days of trial have not yet been scheduled.   Expected to testify are forensic anthropologists from Argentina as well as ballistics experts from the US, as well as any witnesses the defendants might call.