Experts to testify about command responsibility in El Mozote massacre
Starting Monday, April 26, important testimony will be offered in the court hearing the El Mozote massacre case. The court in San Francisco Gotera will hear from two expert witnesses about the responsibility of military commanders in the Salvadoran armed forces for the 1981 massacre which killed almost 1000 children, elderly, women and others.
For the first time, the testimony will be broadcast live over the internet from San Francisco Gotera. The hearings are scheduled all week and to run from 8:30-4:00 El Salvador time. You will be able to find the feed at the Facebook page for El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court. In addition, El Salvador Perspectives will also have the live feed on our Facebook page along with my real time comments.
The testimony this week is important for pinning responsibility on individual members of the high military command and their specific responsibility. For example, former minister of defense Guillermo García and chief of the armed forces command staff Rafael Flores Lima, have asserted that responsibility should be placed on the civilian junta which was running the country at the time. Retired general Juan Rafael Bustillo has testified that as head of the air force, he had nothing to do with a military operation on the ground in El Mozote. Testimony of the two experts will focus on who was in charge and bears responsibility for the atrocity.
Testifying first will be Stanford University professor Terry Lynn Karl. She is the Gildred Professor in Latin American Studies, Emerita at Stanford University. Her academic profile can be found here.
Professor Karl is certainly the best known expert regarding the participation of the Salvadoran military command in human rights abuses during the country's 12 year civil war.
She has provided testimony:
- In the Oscar Romero assassination trial against Captain Alvaro Saravia, one of the participants in the murder plot.
- In the case Romagoza Arce v. Garcia against former high Salvadoran military officers for torture and human rights violation.
- In removal proceedings from the US brought against former Salvadoran military leaders Guillermo Garcia, Vides Cassanova, and Inocente Montano.
- In the trial in a US federal district court in Memphis of former Salvadoran vice-Minister of Defense, Colonel Nicolas Carranza for torture and atrocities.
- In the Madrid trial of Inocente Montano in 2020 for the massacre of 6 Jesuit priests, a housekeeper and her daughter.
Previously Prof. Karl assisted the US Congress during the Salvadoran civil war and also served as an advisor to the chief representative of the secretary general of the United nations in the UN negotiated piece agreements in El Salvador.
Also testifying this week is will be Clever Pino Benamú, a retired Peruvian military officer who will testify regarding the command structure of the military. Pino Benamú was a colonel in Peruvian military intelligence before his retirement. In Central America, he previously served as an expert witness in Guatemala in the case which imposed responsibility for the murder of war crimes investigator Myrna Mack.
The march towards justice for the El Mozote massacre continues this week. It is a march which is summarized well by El Faro in Trudging towards Justice: The El Mozote Massacre’s Decades Long Trials.