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Is justice finally coming to Salvadoran war criminals?

Is justice finally coming to Salvadoran war criminals?

Justice may finally catch up with the men who perpetrated two of the most infamous crimes of El Salvador’s civil war, the massacre at El Mozote in 1981 and the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America in 1989.


In a story produced under the sponsorship of 100Reporters and the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, Sarah Wittes-Koditschek writes:

El Salvador’s civil war raged between 1980 and 1991 and resulted in the death of 75,000 civilians. After decades of inaction in the name of moving forward, international legal efforts, from Spain to Costa Rica to El Salvador, may finally bring justice to victims of two of the most infamous crimes of the Salvadoran civil war: the Mozote massacre and the Jesuit murders.

In early September, El Salvador’s Attorney General announced plans to investigate the case of the 1981 Mozote massacre in which roughly 1,000 civilians were murdered. The move followed a 2012 ruling by, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in Costa Rica, that El Salvador’s 20-year-old amnesty law does not cover civil war crimes violating international law. The court said El Salvador should revisit the Mozote case.

The Salvadoran military officer responsible for the massacre, former Defense Minister General José Guillermo García, lived for two decades in Florida. García entered the United States in 1989 as a tourist and received political asylum. García was charged with immigration fraud in 2009. That charge was dropped, but he could be removed under a law aimed at removing immigrants accused of assisting, ordering or participating in extrajudicial killings or torture.

In 2012, an immigration judge in Florida found former General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, former defense minister in El Salvador, could be deported for participation in extrajudicial killings.

Creighton University, a Jesuit institution, maintains a web page devoted to the martyrs of Central America, and there you can see the Stations of the Cross from the chapel at the University of Central America.

I did some searching and discovered that it will cost you money to read the article I wrote for The Washington Post in September, 1993, about how Salavadorans had begun to memorialize their war dead, but you can read the column that Jonathan Schell wrote about that article (The Kingdom of God Belongs to People with Names) for free.

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Sara Miles

Jim, I remember that story...it was beautiful. And speaking of names and memory, Pro-Busqueda, the group founded by Jon Cortina, S.J., continues to work in Central America and United States to find and re-unite Salvadoran children who disappeared during the war, or were illegally adopted by soldiers, with their families.

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