Thursday, August 25, 2011

Court frees military officers accused in Jesuit murders

The Supreme Court of El Salvador, in a 10-2 vote, has decided to order 9 former military officers freed who were in detention following an order for their arrest from a Spanish court. An AP report describes today's ruling:
El Salvador's Supreme Court refused to order the detention of nine former military officers indicted in Spain for the 1989 slayings of six Jesuit priests during the Central American country's 1980-1992 civil war. 

The court ruled that no formal extradition request has been received from Spain. The ex-officers turned themselves in voluntarily in early August at a military base, but are not under detention.  The court has said it would consider an extradition request if one were received. But at present, all that is pending against the men in El Salvador is an Interpol request that they be located, something that has already been accomplished.

Although this decision does not preclude the possibility of a future extradition, the decision was greeted bitterly by Benjamin Cuellar, head of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Central America, who described the decision as "one more chapter in the farce" and that the justice system in El Salvador had not changed despite the passage of 20 years since the end of the civil war.

The 9 officers in El Salvador were a subset of the 20 officers indicted in Spain. In the US, one of the other indicted military officers was arrested this week for immigration fraud. Inocente Orlando Montano was colonel in the Salvadoran military and had been living in Massachusetts.

5 comments:

POLYCARPIO said...
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POLYCARPIO said...

The court's holding that the Interpol red notice called only for "locating" the suspects, and not holding them preemptively, reminded me a little bit of the U.S. Supreme Court's Equal Protection analysis in Bush v. Gore, which struck many as a tenable, but unlikely application of principle. At first blush, the Salvadoran court's position that an Interpol red notice is not an arrest warrant or a request for extradition is quite tenable. Many international law experts would agree with that view, and the interpretation varies from country to country. The problem is that this same Salvadoran court had previously--and, recently--held otherwise, when it relied on a red notice to arrest and extradite some Guatemalans facing drug charges. Perhaps more telling is the fact that the suspects themselves never maintained that they should not be held--to the contrary, they voluntarily turned themselves in, preemptively, preferring military custody to that of the civilian police. The other wrinkle is that a small faction of the court had to recuse themselves from the main ruling to rule on another part of the case--a habeas corpus petition filed by the military officers in an attempt to avoid being extradited. Those are the same progressive jurists (the Constitutional Chamber) who have been involved in an ongoing showdown with other branches of government that led to the passage of Decree 743, and in the smaller part of the case, that Chamber ruled AGAINST the officers, though the sting of that ruling was washed out by the larger ruling. Finally, the larger ruling itself foreshadows that there is more to come in the saga, when it bases its holding largely on a variable, inconstant premise: that there is no formal pending request for extradition. While it is somewhat of a burden to get a formal request, it is by no means impossible...

Lawrence M. Ladutke said...

How can you free people who have never actually been arrested?

Dave Kinnear said...

It seems as if Spain is trying to press its case: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-14672692.

POLYCARPIO said...

Not surprisingly, the Jesuit university where the deplorable massacre took place has issued a damning indictment of the court's ruling, saying it was politically (and, not legally) reasoned.

http://www.uca.edu.sv/noticias/nota.php?texto=586565894