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El Salvador government agrees to open investigation into archbishop death

[JURIST] El Salvador government officials agreed on Friday to a state investigation into the death of Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero [BBC backgrounder], shot and killed in 1980. The announcement of the investigation [El Pais report, in Spanish] comes nearly a decade after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [official website] first recommended an inquiry into the murder. El Salvador has put off an investigation for years claiming that its amnesty laws enacted in 1993 prevent any investigation [JURIST report] into illegal acts committed during the 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 more than 70,000 people dead. In 2004, a federal court in the US 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. Other Latin American countries have recently overturned similar amnesty laws including Uruguay and Argentina [JURIST reports].

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