Saturday, February 25, 2012

Defense minister responsible for torture can be deported

A defense minister during El Salvador's civil war, who has lived in retirement in south Florida for years, can be deported, a judge ruled this week. The AP reports:

In a groundbreaking decision, a federal immigration judge has ruled that the former defense minister of El Salvador can be deported from the U.S. for his role in killings and human rights abuses during the 1980s.

The ruling by the Orlando-based judge, James K. Grim, marks the first time a 2004 law aimed at stopping human rights abusers from taking refuge in the U.S. has been successfully used against a nation’s top military official, according to the San Francisco-based Center for Justice & Accountability.

The judge found that the former defense minister, Gen. Eugenio Vides Casanova, can be deported for the torture of Salvadoran citizens, the 1980 killings of four American churchwomen and the 1981 killings of two Americans and a Salvadoran land reformer.
The general's role in human rights abuses was first brought to court in the US in an action seeking to have him and retired general Jose Guillermo García held responsible for the murder of the four US churchwomen. A South Florida jury did not find them liable. But another set of plaintiffs, including torture victim Juan Romagoza Arce, obtained a $54 million judgment against the same two generals in 2002.

The current deportation proceedings are far different from the treatment Vides Casanova received in the 1980s, when the stalwart US ally received the Legion of Merit medal from president Ronald Reagan and later retired in Florida.

The crimes of the Salvadoran civil war are playing out in other US immigration courts as well. Inocente Orlando Montano, wanted by a Spanish court for his participation in the 1989 murder of the Jesuits, has been charged with immigration fraud in a federal court in Boston for lying about his military service when he entered the US.   Meanwhile General Guillermo Garcia, who was also successfully sued in the Arce case, faces deportation for immigration fraud unrelated to his military role.


Dave Kinnear said...

I read the article and it does not state to where he can be deported. Would he be sent back to El Salvador? I thought that El Salvador is not prosecuting crimes from the civil war. Can anyone tell me what would be the point of deporting Vides? Thanks.

Mike said...

While he can be deported to El Salvador (not certain that he will), you are right that there are no charges pending against him there. He'll be a free man (