The march towards justice for El Mozote

A few of the hundreds of small children who were victims at El Mozote

Three different events from the past month concern the march towards justice in the case of the December 1981 massacre of children, the elderly and others at El Mozote and surrounding communities.

First. the ongoing trial against former Salvadoran military commanders continued in August with the testimony of expert witnesses from the world-renowned Argentine forensic anthropology team.  Experts Silvana Turner, Mercedes Doretti and Patricia Bernardi  provided scientific analysis of the cold facts of the massacre at El Mozote. 

In the years following the conclusion of El Salvador's civil war, this team excavated several sites where the victims of the 1981 massacre had been found.   Their testimony provided a portrait fo the scale of the horror -- piles of small bodies, examinations of bones of small children who perished, bullets manufactured in the US and fired from M-16 rifles, and more forensic proof as the evidence piled up to confirm the massacre committed by Salvadoran armed forces.

Their conclusion, expressed by Mercedes Doretti:
No hay pruebas que apoyen el argumento de que las víctimas, casi todos niños pequeños, habían participado en combate o habrían sido atrapados en el fuego cruzado entre fuerzas combatientes. Por el contrario, las pruebas apoyan decididamente la conclusión de que fueron víctimas intencionales de una ejecución masiva extrajudicial 
There is no evidence that supports the argument that the victims, almost all small children, had participated in combat or had been trapped in crossfire between forces in combat.   On the contrary, the evidence decidedly supports the conclusion that they were intentional victims of a massive extra-judicial execution.
The march towards justice in this small courtroom continues. 

Second, the InterAmerican Court for Human Rights traveled to El Mozote to learn about the status of compliance with its October 2012 judgment against the government of El Salvador for the massacre of children and others at El Mozote.   According to the IACHR, the mandate of this visit included the following:
On the 29th the Court will receive information from the San Francisco Gotera Court of First Instance no. 2 as regards the obligation to investigate, prosecute and punished those responsible for the violations declared in the above-mentioned judgment.  
On the 30th a delegation of the Court will relocate to the El Mozote community and another nearby community (Arambala) with the goal of receiving direct information and verifying the execution in regards to the four measures of reparation that are pending compliance:
  • continue with the full commissioning of the ‘Unique Registry of Victims of serious human rights violations during the El Mozote massacre’ and adopt the necessary means to ensure its temporal permanency and budgetary allocation for its effective operations;
  • implementing a development program in favor of the community of the village of El Mozote, the La Joya region, the villages of Ranchería, Los Toriles, and Jocote Amarillo, and the Cerro Pando quarter;
  • guarantee adequate conditions so that the displaced victims can permanently return to their communities of origin, if they so wish, as well as implement a housing program in the zones affected by the massacres of the case;
  • implement a permanent program of assistance and comprehensive treatment of physical, mental, and psychosocial health;
As the Court continues to issue rulings on compliance with its judgment, the march towards justice continues.

Yet the third event provides a reminder of the obstacles faced in arriving at justice.  The BBC reports that Marta Amaya has been granted asylum in the US.   Who is Marta Amaya?   She is the daughter of the late Rufina Amaya.    Rufina was the sole survivor of the army's murderous rampage in the canton of El Mozote.   Rufina was the witness who told the world what had happened and about the hundreds of victims including her small children and husband.   Marta was born to Rufina in the years after the massacre when Rufina was living as a refugee outside of the country. 

After her mother's death in 2007, Marta was responsible for continuing her mother's work and managing her legacy.   But shortly after the current legal proceedings were reopened against former military commanders in 2016, Marta experienced a series of suspicious events including a burglary which stole only her computer on which she managed Rufina's affairs.  These events culminated with a death threat delivered by a man who sat by her on a bus, saying that they knew she was the daughter of Rufina. He told Marta that she must quit her job and leave everything or she they would kill her.

Marta Amaya, daughter of Rufina, witness to a massacre of children and elderly, knew what "they" were capable of and fled the country.   A US immigration judge believed her testimony and granted her asylum.

Justice is not yet secured in El Salvador.