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US immigration judge rules former El Salvador general may be deported

A federal immigration judge in Florida decided Thursday that former El Salvador General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova can be deported for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed while in El Salvador. Judge James Grim found [NYTimes report] that Vides assisted in both the killing of four American women in 1980 and the torture of two Salvadorans during El Salvador's 12-year civil war [PBS backgrounder]. Although this was not an official order for Vides' deportation, it is a confirmation that the government has the ability to deport him based on charges brought against him by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit [official website] of the US Department of Homeland Security [official website].

The Obama administration charged Vides [JURIST report] in April with human rights crimes and sought to deport him. He had been living in Florida since the conclusion of his term as defense minister in 1988. In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a $55 million verdict [JURIST report] against him and another former Salvadoran general, Jose Guillermo Garcia, in a civil suit for torture and human rights violations. The verdict had previously been thrown out for failure to file within the 10-year statute of limitations but was reinstated because of "extraordinary circumstances." In 2000, however, the US lost in a jury trial [NYTimes report] when attempting to prosecute Vides and Garcia for the killing of the four American women in 1980. After that case, one juror explained that they did not believe the generals were directly responsible for the killings or that they could have done anything to stop them.

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