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IACHR Urges El Salvador to Continue Fighting Impunity for Serious Crimes of the Past

Twenty-five years after the signing of the peace accords in El Salvador, the debt of truth, justice, and full reparation for victims who suffered serious violations of their human rights during the armed conflict has yet to be paid. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the efforts made and the progress achieved in recent months; however, it is concerned about the impunity surrounding these cases.

This year marked a quarter century since the signing in Mexico City of the Chapultepec Accords, which put an end to the armed conflict in El Salvador. During the 11 years of the conflict, approximately 75,000 people were killed and 8,000 were victims of forced disappearance--including more than 1,000 children. By 2015, the Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos [Association for the Search for Missing Children] had registered 925 cases. The Law of General Amnesty for the Consolidation of Peace, adopted in March 1993, was for many years an insurmountable obstacle for tens of thousands of victims of grave human rights violations and their family members who were demanding justice. The Inter-American Commission and Court determined that the State of El Salvador was responsible for violating its international human rights obligations in several cases in which the Amnesty Law had been applied either directly or indirectly. These include, for example, the cases of Monsignor Romero (1980), Rochac Hernández et al. (1980), Contreras et al. (1981), the massacres of El Mozote and nearby places (1981), the disappearance of the Serrano Cruz sisters (1982), the Las Hojas massacre (1983), and the extrajudicial execution of six Jesuit priests and two women (1989), among other cases.

In July 2016, after the Amnesty Law had been in effect for 23 years and with pressure from victims and organizations that supported their cause, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court issued a final judgment declaring the law unconstitutional. The IACHR hails the efforts made by victims and the progress achieved since then. For example, on December 12, 2016, the Attorney General of El Salvador signed an agreement creating a group of prosecutors who will investigate crimes against humanity, with a view to enforcing the Supreme Court ruling. In addition, a judge of the Second Court of First Instance of Morazán reopened the investigations into the 1981 massacre in El Mozote and nearby places. The Salvadorian State recently established a commission to implement a social development program for the communities that were victims of this massacre, thereby taking an important step to comply with the judgment issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012. At the same ceremony, members of the Governing Board of the Single List of Victims of El Mozote were sworn in; they included government delegates and representatives of victims.

The IACHR also hails the work of the National Commission to Search for Children Who Disappeared during the Internal Armed Conflict, which was created in January 2010 by executive decree. The IACHR also welcomes the government of El Salvador's willingness to create a broader commission that includes the search for adults who disappeared during the armed conflict. The IACHR underscores the importance of implementing this initiative. The Inter-American Commission also welcomes statements made by the President of the Republic, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, on the need to ensure full reparation to victims of the armed conflict.

Nevertheless, the IACHR observes that crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations perpetrated during the armed conflict continue to go unpunished. The IACHR urges the State to continue to move forward with the investigation of these grave crimes, the identification of those responsible for them, the enforcement of punishment, and the determination of fair compensation. Given that impunity encourages such crimes to be repeated, progress made in obtaining justice will also make it possible to prevent future violations of human rights.

A principal, autonomous body of the OAS, the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

[Source: IACHR, Press Release 12/17, Washington, 09Feb17]

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