[JURIST] El Salvador defended its 1993 amnesty law in a hearing [recorded video] Wednesday before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] dealing with the country's failure to investigate the 1980 murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero [BBC backgrounder]. Representatives of the Salvadoran government maintained that the amnesty law has prevented compliance with a 2000 IACHR report [text] recommending that the state investigate the archbishop's death, of which the IACHR declared El Salvador responsible. The government defended the law, saying that it allowed the country to make a peaceful transition to democracy after its 1980-1992 civil war [PBS backgrounder].
Romero was assassinated by a death squad while saying mass in San Salvador. An outspoken critic of the military junta, his death is viewed as one of the catalysts of the war, which left over 70,000 people dead. In 2004, a federal court in the United States held Alvaro Saravia liable [CJA case backgrounder] for Romero's murder and ordered him to pay $10 million in damages to the archbishop's family. While other suits have been brought [JURIST report] against former Salvadoran state agents in US courts, human rights groups contend that the amnesty laws [ISP report] have undermined the rule of law and led to impunity in El Salvador. El Pais has more.