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El Salvador reopens investigation into 1981 civil war massacre
El Salvador reopens investigation into 1981 civil war massacre

A court in El Salvador will reopen an investigation related to the Mozote Massacre of 1981 which occurred during the country’s Civil War, according to human rights lawyers on the case Saturday. Lawyers from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) [advocacy website, in Spanish] and other human rights groups requested [CEJIL press release, in Spanish] the investigation on behalf of victims last month. CEJIL and other lawyers urged [letter, in Spanish] the Attorney General to consider his position opposing the investigation, because the Supreme Court of El Salvador, in striking down the country’s amnesty law, recognized the country has a duty to investigate grave violations of international human rights. The court is requesting information [Diaro de Hoy report, in Spanish] from the military regarding the operations in December 1981, including the identities of military officials in command positions at the time, but has not made any arrests related to the massacre.

In July the Supreme Court of El Salvador struck down the amnesty law of 1993 [backgrounder, PDF], opening the way for prosecution [JURIST report] of those associated with various war crimes and crimes against humanity during the El Salvadoran civil war. This decision will allow El Salvador to follow suit with the US, which has made significant strides over the past decade in prosecuting those involved in the war. In 2011 the Obama administration charged [JURIST report] General Eugenio Vides Casanova, former defense minister of El Salvador, for human rights crimes committed during the civil war while he served as the country’s top military officer. Vides was successfully deported [JURIST report] from the US in 2015. In 2006 the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a $55 million verdict [JURIST report] against Vides and his co-defendant Jose Guillermo Garcia for allowing torture and other human rights violations during the war. In 2005 a US federal court reached a verdict against Nicolas Carranza, top commander of El Salvador’s security forces during the civil war, for $2 million in compensatory damages [JURIST report]. The case was brought by five Salvadoran citizens who alleged torture or had family killed by Carranza’s soldier during the war.