Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sánchez Cerén would seek repeal of amnesty law

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the FMLN's candidate for president of El Salvador in 2014 is stating that he will seek repeal of the 1993 amnesty law which has, so far, protected war criminals from the country's bloody civil war.   Sánchez Cerén is the current vice president, and an ex-guerrilla commander from the time of the civil war.   In remarks published in the online periodical ContraPunto, the left wing candidate stated that, if elected, he would act to repeal the law which has prevented the prosecution  of those who committed crimes and atrocities during the 70's and 80's.

The vice president stated:

"I think the population should assume it is necessary to repeal the amnesty law for there to be justice.  ... It is necessary because our population is divided. The wounds are open and doing this act of justice in order to end impunity would give new boost to democracy."
This position of Sánchez Cerén represents yet another flip-flop on this issue by the FMLN.   In 2007 the FMLN introduced legislation to repeal the law in the National Assembly.   Then in 2008, the party of the left and its presidential candidate Mauricio Funes announced that they would not push to nullify the amnesty law.  

The 1993 Amnesty Law was passed immediately after the UN Truth Commission issued a lengthy report detailing many of the human rights violations during the war years and finding the 90% of the civilian deaths in the war had been at the hands of governmental forces.   As Bethany Loberg has written:
Nevertheless, when the Truth Commission report came out, the Salvadoran legislative assembly waited only five days to pass the General Amnesty Law for the Consolidation of Peace, which provided “broad, absolute, and unconditional” amnesty to everyone who participated in political and common crimes in any form during the war, including those previously exempted under the reconciliation law. The amnesty law went so far as to explicitly preclude any further investigation into these cases. The amnesty law was a clear attempt to keep anyone involved in the murder of Archbishop Romero, the El Mozote Massacre, the murder of the Jesuits, and other crimes against humanity from facing investigations, charges or further publicity.
Statements like that of  Sánchez Cerén are easy to make during a presidential campaign.   It will be much more difficult to get the votes in the National Assembly, even if the FMLN maintains the presidency.

The Inter-American Court for Human Rights recently ordered El Salvador to annul the amnesty law as part of the court's judgment condemning El Salvador's response to the El Mozote massacre..

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