US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] extradited [press release] 75-year-old Inocente Orlando Montano, a former El Salvador colonel, to Spain to face charges for his alleged involvement in the 1989 murder of eight individuals [CJA backgrounder] that included six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s 16-year-old daughter during the country’s decade-long civil war strife.
The murders occurred in the early morning hours of November 16, 1989, at the Universidad Centroamericana at the behest of the El Salvador military. At the time, Montano had risen to a position of colonel after 30 years of service in the military. Five of the Jesuit priests were Spanish nationals while all remaining individuals including the sixth priest were citizens of El Salvador.
Following Montano’s indictment in Spain, together with those of 19 other former El Salvador military officials, a Spanish magistrate judge issued an arrest warrant for the individuals in 2011.
This extradition followed ICE’s own extensive criminal investigation, which resulted in Montano’s conviction for immigration fraud and perjury [JURIST report]. Essentially, Montano was convicted for making false statements to immigration authorities to obtain Temporary Protected Status (TPS) [USCIS backgrounder] in the US. Montano’s federal trial in the US documented more than 1,150 human rights violations, that include 65 extrajudicial killings, 51 disappearances, and 520 cases of torture, under his purview as military colonel.
Pursuant to the US-Spain extradition treaty [PDF], the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a complaint in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina [official website] in 2015 seeking Montano’s extradition to Spain.
ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan [official profile] stated of the extradition:
This extradition, and the investigation and prosecution that preceded it, marks the culmination of longstanding and significant collaboration among HSI Boston, ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, the US Attorney’s Offices in Boston and Raleigh, and DOJ’s Office of International Affairs. … We are grateful for the support of our law enforcement partners, DOJ, and our Department of State colleagues to ensure that Montano will face justice in Spain for his crimes and will not find safe haven in the United States.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan of the DOJ’s Criminal Division [official website] chimed in adding: “Criminals and those lawfully charged with criminal offenses overseas should not be able to find safe haven in the United States … Today’s extradition demonstrates our firm commitment to honoring our obligations under extradition treaties. As a result, an alleged human-rights violator will now face justice in Spain.”