Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Human rights inquiry into El Mozote massacre

The New York Times reports today that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a part of the Organization of American States will reopen an inquiry into the massacre at El Mozote, El Salvador in 1981.

Recent efforts by lawyers in El Salvador to reopen the case, which was shelved in 2000, had repeatedly failed, even after a court ruling that year stripped protection under the national amnesty law from suspects in the most egregious human rights violations. "They say that we should put this behind us," said Rufina Amaya, the only resident of El Mozote known to have survived. "But we cannot forget what happened."

The evidence in the case comes from the work of an Argentine team of forensic anthropologists that completed its work in 2003. "What we found proved to be highly consistent with witness testimony of the incident," said Mercedes Doretti, a member of the forensic team.

She said 811 people were killed at El Mozote and surrounding hamlets. Most of the 271 bodies that the group exhumed were shot multiple times at close range, and 195 of them were children younger than 12, she said.

The massacre, carried out by soldiers of the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion, is one of the most notorious atrocities of the civil war in El Salvador. That no one has ever been held responsible for this crime against humanity is part of the continuing problems of impunity and lack of reconciliation in the country. For more information about the massacre, read the UN Truth Commission report or Mark Danner's book The Massacre at El Mozote.

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