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Victims resume justice with trial of El Mozote | Human Rights Issues


The expert testimony presented in El Salvador this week has revealed new developments in what many consider to be the best the brutal killings of 12 years of civil war in the country decades ago.

Defendants, experts and lawyers who say the five-day trial in El Mozote case have revealed the latest developments in the United States the 1981 massacre of about 1,000 civilians with US-trained Salvadoran soldiers, as well as the Salvadoran army.

“Since there are experts who provide technical evidence to replicate and verify the truth that victims have maintained over the years, it is a way of retaliating, clarifying the truth and sending word to the world,” said Eduardo Guerrero, a lawyer for the Costa Rica-Center. International Justice and Law (CEJIL), told Al Jazeera by telephone.

The meetings came at a time when US President Joe Biden’s supervisors are urging Central American governments to tighten their belts, end corruption and reduce sanctions.

It also sparked new demands for prosecution and apology from the US, which, in the 1980s, sent billions of dollars to the Salvadoran government as part of the anti-communist movement in the region, often ignoring human rights abuses.

A man reads the names at the 38th anniversary of the assassination of El Mozote in the village of El Mozote, December 7, 2019 [File: Jose Cabezas/Reuters]

The US government has not apologized for the human rights abuses in El Salvador, including the El Mozote massacre, although it has apologized for other atrocities committed during the Cold War in the region, such as the Guatemalan and Argentina genocide.

“If it had been a great relief to us as survivors, who lost so many members, [to receive an apology from the US government], ”Said Rosario Sanchez, a survivor of the El Mozote massacre who appeared in court in San Francisco Gotera, Morazan, this week.

“The US also has a responsibility because it does not have to pay such cruelty,” he told Al Jazeera by telephone.

‘The Way of Destruction’

The case of El Mozote reopened in 2016 after the country’s Supreme Court reversed the amnesty law in 1993 which prohibits the trial of war-related human rights abuses.

About 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in the conflict between the left and right of the US-backed army between 1980 and 1992. The UN Truth Commission characters about 85% of violence during the war against Salvador.

The assassination of El Mozote took place three days later in December 1981, as Salvadoran soldiers raped and killed civilians in several villages northeast of El Salvador in Morazan.

Seventeen Salvadoran military officers are currently charged with murder, including torture, rape and forced extinction. Defendants’ attorneys say the judge may decide that the case, still in the acquisition case, will continue until the end of the second term by the end of 2021.

At a hearing this week, U.S. and Central American academic Terry Karl testified that the Salvadoran army used a “destructive tactic” in El Mozote and described the cover-up by Salvador and U.S. officials.

Karl said U.S. military adviser Sergeant Major Allen Bruce Hazelwood was present at the Morazan department, where the assassination took place.

“If this were to be made public, aid from the US would be cut off because it was illegal,” Karl said in his testimony, which led to an investigation in El Salvador since 1981, extensive interviews with security forces with the Salvadoran government and military archeology.

He also said the US is aware that Salvador’s military is using napalm, a flammable compound banned by the United Nations from being used against civilians in 1981.

Salvadoran law

David Morales, a lawyer for the San Salvador human rights group Cristosal, told reporters in court that Karl’s case showed that such wars “could happen in the planning, law, supervision and secrecy of Salvadoran authorities. ”.

Clever Pino, a former Peruvian former and a forensic expert, also testified on April 29 and 30 that the new military document shows Operation Rescate, a military name that took place in December 1981, ordered by senior officials.

This was particularly revealing as the military refused to comply with a legal decision allowing the judge to re-examine the military – a serious problem in the case.

Law enforcement agencies work at a burial ground in Yancolo village searching for the remains of El Mozote [File: Jose Cabezas/Reuters]

“A clear refusal by the Salvadoran military Operation Rescate is an unscrupulous approach,” Pino said in his testimony, adding that the method “is used when the facts are clear or confusing and what is left is a denial.”

The Salvadoran government has not commented on the evidence this week through official means. The Office of the President or the Ministry of Defense did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment in a timely manner.

In the past, Salvadoran military forces have said that the war in El Mozote was between soldiers and soldiers, not armed men.

Revenge is justice

Following the assassination of El Mozote, the US ambassador to El Salvador also denied the killings and denied that US-trained troops had acted in any way. But the publication of documents released by the State department in 2018 signaled a change for the US ambassador.

Jean Manes, US ambassador to El Salvador from 2015 to 2019, wrote in the State Department over the El Mozote case that “Embassy continues to support the establishment of democratic institutions in El Salvador, including the courts, which should help promote accountability and transparency. of all forms of crime, both global and historical. ”

This week, a U.S. diplomat told reporters in the lawsuit that the US was “supporting the rule of law and independence in El Salvador”, not to mention the US reaction to the El Mozote incident. “We believe that efforts to ensure accountability for human rights abuses are essential to ensure that justice is done to those affected,” he said.

For his part, Biden said tackling corruption and bribery was a priority for his organization as he made $ 4bn support package for Central America addressing the underlying causes of migration the number of visitors the southern border of the US.

A woman prays at the commemoration of the El Mozote massacre, in the village of El Mozote, on December 7, 2019 [File: Jose Cabezas/Reuters]

“Prosecutors are still at a loss as to whether all of the allegations have been made or whether it is in the interest of the US government to deal with such a catastrophic event,” said Oscar Chacon, executive director of Alianza Americas. America, told Al Jazeera.

In the meantime, for those killed by El Mozote, the case provides an opportunity to ask for a response – and to hear their voices. In addition to the apology, Sanchez said he believed the US should help in repatriating the victims.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered a reinstatement in 2012, and the Salvadoran government at the time agreed on a list, but the victims’ lawyers claimed that the government had followed suit. about 15 percent of those promises.

Sanchez added that anyone involved in the killings should be brought to justice. “No matter what country they come from, if they were involved in what happened in El Salvador, we have a right to be tested.”


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