National Reconciliation (or Amnesty or Impunity) Law stalls

The push to approve a National Reconciliation Law in El Salvador's legislature before June 1 stalled on Thursday during the course of a full session of the National Assembly.

On Thursday, the chorus of voices against the proposed bill had become ever stronger as international human rights groups, foreign governments, and international bodies added their opposition to the opposition of Salvadoran human rights organizations supporting the victims.   The list of opponents included the European Union, EU member states Spain and the Netherlands, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the list went on.

The public position of the United States was:
The U.S. believes that any national reconciliation law in El Salvador should include a transparent & inclusive process necessary to ensure accountability & protect the rights of victims to seek justice. Transparency, accountability, & justice are all vital for true reconciliation
Protests took place outside the National Assembly and demonstrators also headed to the Presidential residence to urge outgoing president Salvador Sanchez Ceren not to sign any legislation if it was passed.

Still, going into Thursday it seemed likely that the new National Reconciliation Law along with its reduction of sentences for war criminals to a term of community service, would be introduced and pass.

The largest block of votes in the National Assembly belongs to the conservative ARENA party with 37 deputies. During the course of Thursday, several ARENA deputies, somewhat surprisingly, announced that they would not support the proposed law.   According to reporting from El Faro, ARENA leadership agreed that deputies could vote their conscience rather than vote as a block, and El Faro counted at least 14 who were opposed.  ARENA Deputy Arturo Simeon Magaña tweeted:

Without more words, I have let it be known within my party group that I will not give my vote for approval of the "Amnesty Law"

With the ARENA votes splitting perhaps in half, the only party still planning to vote as a united block was the FMLN.  And the FMLN, with its 23 votes wants to approve the law.  43 votes, a simple majority, are needed to pass.

There are dissident FMLN voices outside of the legislature, however, perhaps most prominently Hugo Martinez who had been the party's unsuccessful nominee for president in the February elections.

President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, has been completely silent on the debate over this law and has not said whether he would veto the law if it reaches his desk in the next week before he leaves office.

By the end of the day Thursday, a final version of a proposed law had not been introduced onto the floor of the National Assembly, and it was announced that the Political Commission would be meeting to decide the next steps in the process.

On Friday, the Political Commission met and decided on a process that will be followed on Monday.   Four blocks of groups have been invited to provide input:   human rights organizations representing the victims,  military groups, churches, and scholars.   The Political Commission has prepared a document comparing the current draft of the Commission with a proposed law advocated by the victims groups and sponsored by deputy Juan J. Martel of Democratic Change.

Meanwhile, the FMLN has been trying to spin it support of the bill with images such as this one:

It appears there will be another attempt to pass the law next week.   Any vote will be very close.


Greg said…
International pressure must be sustained and indeed increased to ensure this evil travesty doesn't see the light of day vote wise.

And the People / Victims / Families must do the same internally.

Let the chips fall where they may but let Justice find new roots in El Salvador.