The government of El Salvador has not fared well when its actions have been challenged in front of the human rights tribunals of the Organization of American States. This was brought home once again in last month's decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Garcia-Prieto case.
An article by Raul Guttierez of IPS provides the background of the case:
On Jun. 10, 1994, García Prieto, his wife and their five-month-old son were intercepted by two masked men, one of whom shouted "We’ve come to kill you, son-of-a-bitch!" before hitting the businessman and shooting him at point-blank range, according to witness testimony.
Human rights organisations and the García Prieto family say the murder was linked to several killings carried out by death squads during that period against former commanders of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which had recently become a legal political party....
The plaintiffs in the case say the investigation into García Prieto’s murder was marred by irregularities, and served as a cover-up for those who ordered the killing.
Gloria de García Prieto has repeatedly claimed that the murder was the result of an inconclusive business deal, but that those who planned the killing took advantage of the prevailing atmosphere of instability to make it look like a political crime.
After the murder, the wealthy García Prieto family was in constant contact with police chiefs and prosecutors, but never got a satisfactory answer about the progress of the investigation.
Months later, they began to receive threatening telephone calls, and noticed they were being followed. Although two people are in prison for carrying out the murder, those who planned and ordered the killing have never been identified.
De García Prieto alleged some time ago that a former army general is one of those who ordered his son killed, but so far he has not been able to come up with any proof.
David Morales, who was working in the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Office (PDDH) at the time of the murder, said the Inter-American Court ruling is "positive and very important" in the fight for justice.
Morales, a lawyer who led the investigation of the case, told IPS that the PDDH had concluded that García Prieto may have been killed by a death squad made up of members of the old "security forces" purposely embedded in the National Civil Police (PNC) when it was created in 1993. "Several police chiefs tried to hinder the investigation," said Morales.
In the decision of the court released last month, the IACHR found that the government of El Salvador had violated the human rights of the Garcia-Prieto family in its failure to adequately investigate the crime, and its failure to respond to the threats and harassment the family faced as they tried to get justice. As a consequence, El Salvador has been ordered to pay reparations to the family, to provide counselling, to publish the judgment of the court, and to finally conduct a true investigation of the case.
Despite the judgment of the IACHR, there is little reason to believe much will change while there is an ARENA government. There is a long history of the Salvadoran government's foot-dragging in this case, the case of the Serrano sisters, the case of Oscar Romero, and others where the finger of blame may point to important figures.
You may want to read my earlier post on the Garcia-Prieto case here. For a detailed exploration of the problems of impunity and death squads during the mid-1990s when the Garcia-Prieto murder took place, see Larry Ladutke's excellent book, Freedom of Expression in El Salvador.