Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Amnesty and the ex-Ambassador

The 1993 amnesty law, passed after the conclusion of El Salvador's 12 year civil war, has meant that many crimes committed by death squads, government troops, and guerilla forces have gone uninvestigated and unjudged by El Salvador's government. Human rights' activists continue to call for that law to be repealed, as a recent article on the IPS news service reminds us:

Many voices [are] calling for the repeal of a 1993 amnesty law seen by activists and United Nations experts as the biggest hurdle to achieving respect for human rights, as the country's homicide rate soars and forced disappearances are occurring once again.

Salvadoran Human Rights Ombudswoman Beatrice de Carrillo reported a further rise in the murder rate -- already one of the highest in the world -- and a resurgence of forced disappearances in recent months.

She also complained that the amnesty law has created a climate of impunity and is blocking investigations into the whereabouts of the remains of thousands of Salvadorans who were "disappeared" during the 1980-1992 armed conflict.

In February and March, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and human rights groups called for the amnesty law to be overturned. (more)

Another voice calling for the repeal belongs to former US Ambassador Robert White who was recently in El Salvador. In multiple interviews given on March 23, Ambassador White repeatedly spoke of Roberto D'aubuisson as the intellectual author of the assassination of Oscar Romero, adding that the Reagan and George Bush Senior administrations had hidden grave human rights abuses committed by military and civilian groups in El Salvador.

A transcript (in Spanish) of the remarks of former US Ambassador Robert White, questioned by El Salvador's leading television interviewer, Mauricio Funes, can be found at Raices. You an also read the blog entry of Amber, going to school in El Salvador, when Robert White visited her class. More comments of White appear in Diario CoLatino.



The bogeyman used to maintain the amnesty law is that Salvadorans don't want to open up the wounds of war. That's true: Salvadorans had a terrible war, endured some bitter times, it was fratricidal, and no one wants to go back to it. But, there's a falsity in the premise also, because it presumes that ALL war wounds have healed, when in fact many are festering. The grave defect in the amnesty law was that El Salvador didn't follow the South African model, which was Truth & Reconciliation. There was amnesty after Apartheid, but there were also investigations, so that the truth would be known, and people would not be left mourning dead who others would insist never happened, or condemning murderers others would insist are the meritorious sons of the nation. It was a grave defect, a tragic flaw that keeps the reconciliation from being complete.

There are two instances in which the amnesty law must be categorically cast aside. The first is a specific instance: and that involves crimes against humanity. Under international law, there can be no prescription of such crimes because they offend the law of nations, and no single country can presume to exonerate itself of responsibility. A few crimes during the Salvadoran conflict rise to that level of ignominy, and if El Salvador won't prosecute those crimes, then the government itself must be prosecuted in the Hague. The other instance is a general one: if the Amnesty Law itself was a partisan ruse to buy cover for the party in government, then the whole enterprise is a fraud and it cannot be countenanced. It cannot stand. Contrary to the impression some give it, the amnesty law was not part of the "reconciliation" package worked out under the peace accords -- at least not as currently constituted. This amnesty law was passed by presidential decree hours before the Truth Commission report. If ARENA passed this law because he got a sneak peak at the contents of the report and saw its officials implicated on every page of it, then something's very rotten in Denmark.

El-Visitador said...

Ixquic has an interesting article today on "the left's unpaid bills."

Because of the intimate involvement of today's leadership of the FMLN in the extortions, kidnappings, and murders of civilians and civil service employees, I don't see the FMLN doing away with the amnesty law anytime soon. Have you seen them clamoring for it? Did not think so.

Ixquic reminds us that the marxist guerrillas:
- Murdered each other (Dalton comes to mind, but he's one among hundreds)
- Allowed psychopaths such as Mayo Sibrián to torture and murder over 300 allies and enemies for a decade (as documented by historian R. Menjivar).
- Murdered democratically elected civilian Mayors as a policy (and be reminded that with rare exceptions, in E.S. Mayors usually don't even have police or armed powers, as do Mayors in the U.S.)

The government responded brutally and illegally to the communist war of agression against El Salvador, but many people conveniently forget that the war began on Friday, February 19th, 1971, when the guerillas murdered civilian Ernesto Regalado Dueñas after eight days of torture. Let's see if those who ignited the spiral of violence are ever brought to justice.


When I said that there are two instances in which the amnesty law must be categorically cast aside, obviously neither one would be contingent on "which side" committed the underlying acts.

Protons said...

Lets remind EV, that Shaffick Handal, before he died, propossed the end of the amnesty law, the left in El Salvador, does not worry about the justice, since 90% of the crimes were comited by the salvadorean army forces against civilians.

Wich party opossed to that proposal?

The ARENA and PCN parties.

HODAD26 said...

excelente polycarpio
however, the war began the day the spanish arrived on the shores of the western hemi and started their hypocritical Catholic dogma against the indigenous people
ES's stsrted way before 1971, get a grip Pal,
with the cafe,banana sugar growers slave tactics for mono culture crops for the rich folks of developed countries.
1971, lol
how about Martinez matanza?

El-Visitador said...

"how about Martinez matanza?"

We discussed it here a couple of months ago. You may want to revisit some of the points made:

1. The communists started it. According to peasant eyewitnesses on video, the Communists attacked, looted, and slaughtered 20 innocent civilians (parents, children, entire families) on the first night alone in one place alone.

2. The communists were sponsored by Stalin's Socorro Rojo Internacional. You want to go ahead and argue on behalf of Stalin's murderous thugs, be my guest.

Martinez was an usurper. The guy was an illegal dictator who had overthrown the government just a month before. Democrat U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized Martinez's government only two years later. By 1971, Martinez had died in exile.

Besides, by what kind of sick and twisted logic do you start kidnapping, torturing, and killing innocent civilians in 1971 as reprisal for the actions of an exiled and dead tyrant?


When I said that there are two instances in which the amnesty law must be categorically cast aside, obviously neither one would be contingent on any particular start date for war, or who "started" the conflict.

Protons said...

I agree Polycarpio. To a degree, I consider the amnesty law against international law. Since some of the crimes commited are crimes of lesa humanity, people should openly start to think in the alternatives to open such cases in the Hague and USA tribunal, or in Spain - to open those posibilities from outside the country, since there a intstitucional gubernamental lock to any of those proposals.

Anonymous said...

The Amnestly Law came out specifically to save leaders of the Army that were responsible for El Mozote. That was the main REASON.
Cristiani is an ASS