Solidarity Statement with the Threatened Plaintiffs in Flores Case
On December 3rd, 2015, advocates celebrated Judge Ángel García’s decision to add money laundering to the litany of corruption charges faced by former President Flores of El Salvador and send him back behind bars for the duration of the proceedings. The victory proved short-lived, however: on December 18th, the judges of San Salvador’s First Criminal Court, which will oversee the next stage of the case, revoked the money laundering charges and returned Flores to his home, where he as has spent the holidays with his family under luxurious house arrest. The civil society attorneys who have fought heroically to hold the prosecution accountable and bring Flores to justice have announced that they will fight the First Criminal Court’s decision with an appeal to El Salvador’s Supreme Court. Meanwhile, they themselves have been victims of disturbing threats and intimidation. CISPES recently issued the following statement in solidarity with these courageous human rights defenders in their relentless pursuit of truth in the face of powerful and dangerous adversaries:
Statement of Solidarity with Threatened Plaintiffs in the Flores Case
The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) expresses its deep concern regarding recent denouncements made by human rights defenders Bertha De León and Teresa Naves, lawyers with the Foundation for the Study of the Application of Law (FESPAD) and plaintiffs in the case against former President of El Salvador, Francisco Flores (1999-2004).
Flores faces charges of illicit enrichment, embezzlement, and disobedience; he also faced a charge of money laundering, until the First Criminal Court revoked it on December 18, 2015. Throughout the proceedings, from the preliminary hearings on November 15 and 16, 2015, through the controversial decision to revoke the money laundering charge and reinstate house arrest for the ex-president, De León and Naves have suffered various acts of intimidation and judicial harassment.
On multiple occasions, De León and Naves have been followed by unknown subjects in vehicles; on November 17 of last year, Naves received a threat via telephone; on several occasions, both the office of the Attorney General of the Republic and alleged representatives of the National Civilian Police have threatened FESPAD with investigations and criminal procedures, and on November 10, a FESPAD vehicle was damaged in an act of anonymous violence while De León and her colleague were giving a radio interview nearby. On December 17, De León revealed that her son had also received telephoned threats.
In the face of these serious events, CISPES calls on the government of El Salvador to comply with the recommendation made by the Human Rights Ombudsman, who on November 24 released an injunction in favor of the two lawyers, and urged the State to guarantee their protection.
For many years, El Salvador’s judicial system has functioned at the service of the country’s most powerful and elite sectors, generating a climate of impunity that has protected corruption cases from previous administrations. The protagonist role of the plaintiffs in forcing this emblematic case to trial, despite many setbacks throughout the process, demonstrates the key role of civil society in the much-needed transformation of the Salvadoran judicial system. CISPES declares its solidarity with these brave human rights lawyers and affirms its support for their tireless struggle for truth and justice.
4 January 2015