Impunity watch

The possibility of justice for the victims of crimes against humanity during El Salvador's civil war, such as the massacre of children and others at El Mozote, is under attack this week.

In El Salvador's National Assembly, the Ad Hoc Commission, which was set up to decide what to do after the 1993 amnesty law was struck down, concluded its work.   The Commission handed over its work to the National Assembly, and legislative leaders announced that they would work to draft and pass legislation before June 1 so that outgoing president Salvador Sanchez Ceren can sign it.

A copy of the commission's proposal has now become public.  The draft legislation does several things: 

  • In the first five months after passage, the Attorney General's office must come up with a list of crimes against humanity to be prosecuted with input from victims groups and civil society.   Once that list is finalized, no other crimes can be included.
  • Any crimes being prosecuted must be prosecuted in the courts in San Salvador.   This would appear to divest jurisdiction from the court in San Francisco Gotera in Morazan department which is the only court making substantive progress as it handles the El Mozote massacre case.
  • No defendants can be taken into pre-trial custody during the pendency of a case.
  • Defendants, before or after they are convicted, can have their sentences limited to periods of community service of 3-10 years in length if they either acknowledge their role in the events or they collaborate in developing the truth of what occurred.   If a defendant is older than 65, the court can reduce the sentence further taking into account the defendants' age.
  • Other parts of the law deal with creating a registry of victims, reparations, and historic memory.

The major human rights organizations in El Salvador issued a letter Tuesday rejecting the entire process being followed in the National Assembly.   The human rights defenders assert that the deputies in the National Assembly never heard from advocates for victims, but only from the protagonists in the conflict, and that the Assembly was not acting to fulfill the requirements of El Salvador's Constitutional Chamber when the court overturned the prior amnesty law.   The groups will hold a press conference Thursday morning outside of the National Assembly to describe their opposition to the development of this draft law.

Meanwhile, in the El Mozote case itself, the defendants are seeking to further delay the progress of the suit.   The defendants this week filed appeals from an earlier ruling of the trial court which expanded the crimes for which they must answer and which required them to remain in the country and report regularly to the court.   Lawyers for the victims decried the appeals as a transparent delay tactic.


Greg said…
Great update.

It is hard to imagine Nazi war criminals doing community service for their crimes against humanity.

Clearly the Guilty, whether GOV/Military or FMLN, and in power, are feeling the heat and doing all they can to make a mockery of international law and the struggle of their own country to heal and move forward.

El Salvador is well on its way to becoming a failed state if its GOV and people buy into this criminal form of legislation.