An article this week from the Chicago Tribune looks at El Salvador's amnesty law passed after the end of the civil war and its effect of preventing justice in the case of the six Jesuit priests slain in 1989:
El Salvador is still wrestling with how to achieve justice after a 12-year conflict between Marxist rebels and a military regime propped up by the Reagan administration.
While international human-rights groups say prosecution is the only logical avenue, both leading candidates in March's presidential election have taken the opposite approach, vowing to keep the amnesty law in place.
That angers [Jesuit Father Jose Maria] Tojeira, now rector at Central American University, which houses a shrine to the slain priests. "We call it an insult to the victims of El Salvador," he said. "The amnesty law attempts to say that nothing happened here, that the living are the ones who count and the dead don't matter. It is a lack of respect to human dignity."
The facts of the murder of the Jesuits have been re-affirmed by national and international investigators. El Salvador's truth commission determined that high-level military officers planned the attack on the priests, who were considered "subversives" because they favored peace talks and had contacts with FMLN rebels.
The lack of prosecution in El Salvador has led human rights attorneys to open a case in the Spanish court system.
Funes and Avila both talk about the need to avoid reopening old wounds when they describe why they oppose repealing the amnesty law. The delicate balance achieved following the peace accords could be disturbed if there was a quest for vengeance.
As quoted in the Tribune article, Benjamin Cuellar, head of the Human Rights Institute at the UCA, has a rejoinder:
Likewise, Cuellar doesn't oppose pardoning the perpetrators but says they must face a legal process and have their guilt publicly affirmed.
"We have to get rid of the cliche that says, 'we can't reopen old wounds,' " he said. "Yes, it is important to turn the page. But first you must read the page and learn the lessons."