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EL SALVADOR: Justice for massacre victims

February 2012

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An estimated 75 000 people died in the armed conflict in El Salvador between 1980 and 1992, which led to gross and extensive human rights violations.

Between 11 and 13 December 1981, at least 767 men, women and children were massacred by the Salvadoran armed forces in El Mozote and nearby villages. Even by the standards of what was happening bin the country at the time, this massacre is one of the worst atrocities of the bloody civil war. The youngest victim was a three-months-old girl¸the oldest a 105-year-old man.

Women and girls were subjected to sexual violence before they were killed. Men were interrogated, tortured and executed. Some of the children were stabbed or clubbed to death. The villages were demolished. The survivors and relatives of those killed stil do not know the truth about what happened to their loved ones or where they are buried.

The report of the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador, released in 1993, named many of those responsible for the massacre. However, impunity for those crimes against humanity persists in great part due to El Salvador’s General Amnesty Law. This law came into force only one week after the UN report was released and remains in place to this day despite public commitments from the government to take steps to repeal it.

At the beginning of December 2011, for the first time, the Salvadoran Government finally recognized the state’s responsibility for the El Mozote massacre and apologized for what it described as “the blindness of state violence”.

Following the recent reports on the massacre by the UN Committee Against Torture and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, international pressure on El Salvador on the thirtieth anniversary of the El Mozote killings could contribute to the fight for justice on this case.

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