Monday, May 30, 2011

Spanish court indicts 20 Salvadoran military officers for murder of Jesuits

The Spanish court which has been receiving evidence about the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter, issued an indictment today for 20 former officers in the Salvadoran military. The court in Spain is acting under a doctrine of "universal jurisdiction" in which some crimes against humanity are so serious that they can be prosecuted anywhere. The case against senior officals, including two ministers of defense, had never been brought in El Salvador because of the 1993 amnesty law.

CNN describes the ruling:

In an indictment issued Monday, Judge Eloy Velasco Nunez accused the officials -- including El Salvador's former defense minister -- of murder, terrorism and crimes against humanity. He said a trial in El Salvador was flawed and failed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"That judicial process was a defective and widely criticized process that ended with two forced convictions and acquittals even of confessed killers," Velasco wrote.

Two military officers were convicted of murder in 1991, but were pardoned in 1993 under an amnesty law approved by El Salvador's National Assembly.
You can read (in Spanish), the judge's ruling at this link.  While most of the information in the indictment is already public knowledge, the ruling shows the motivations of a military command structure determined to subvert peace negotiations.  The military command viewed Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuria, the rector of the University of Central America, and the other Jesuits as the intellectual authors of the FMLN tactics in pushing peace negotiations.  A peace agreement would likely dismantle the sources of the military's power in the country, and they were determined to prevent that from happening.

Although an indictment has been issued, don't expect to see the Salvadoran colonels and generals appearing in custody in Spain anytime soon explains the LA Times:
The indictment is largely symbolic since the officers are protected from prosecution in El Salvador. But rights activists hailed the ruling as important.

"It is a powerful and symbolic message against impunity and sends a clear message to the military that were involved in human rights abuses and crimes against humanity," said Abraham Abrego, deputy director of the Foundation for the Application and Study of Law, an independent human-rights organization.

"It restricts the possibility of these military officers fleeing to other countries, because if they try to escape, other countries that have judicial cooperation with Spain can arrest and send them to a tribunal in Spain,” Abrego said.

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