Human Rights Court finds El Salvador guilty of El Mozote massacre

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Yesterday afternoon (December 10), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, located in San José, Costa Rica, found the Salvadoran State guilty of violating the human rights to life, personal integrity, private life, private property and the rights of children in a case filed by family members of the victims of the El Mozote massacre.

The brutal 1981 murder of over 1,000 civilians, 450 of which were infants and children, in El Mozote and surrounding villages in Morazán occured during the country's Civil War and was committed by the Salvadoran military which was being heavily funded by the US government at the time. Click here to see a video about the massacre with testimony from survivor Rufina Amaya.

Earlier this year, President Mauricio Funes made history with the first official acknowledgement of the government’s role in the massacre and publically asked for forgiveness on behalf of the State.

The military officers who perpetrated the act, however, cannot be brought to justice in El Salvador because of a law approved in 1993 that grants amnesty for crimes committed during the country’s Civil War. Faced with the impossibility of justice in their own country, Salvadoran human rights defenders and families of victims of war crimes are forced to search for justice in international tribunals like the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Yesterday’s ruling requires the Salvadoran government to carry out a complete investigation, carry out a census of the victims, exhume, identify, and return remains of victims to their families, and “assure” that the country’s Amnesty Law is not an “obstacle” to the investigation. The tribunal ruled against additional measures requested by the victims' families, including economic reparations, a health program for the communities that were victims of the massacre, and an obligatory and permanent human rights education program for the Armed Forces.

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