Protect Romero's Legacy and Denounce the Closure of Tutela Legal!
On Thursday, November 14th, CISPES joined the Share Foundation, US-El Salvador Sister Cities and other solidarity organizations at a press conference with Magdalena Mendoza of COMADRES and Abram Abrego of the Foundation for the Study of Applied Law (FESPAD) and the Pro-Historic Memory Movement. In addition to a statement signed by over 60 international organizations denouncing the abrupt and arbitrary closure of the San Salvador Archdiocese's human rights office, the solidarity organizations shared with Salvadoran media this petition signed by 1,000 US citizens. After the press conference, a commission hand-delivered the petition and statement to the Archdiocese of San Salvador. Click here for photos of the event. The speakers at the press conference also took the opportunity to denounce the horrific act of violence committed against the Pro-Búsqueda human rights association that very morning. They emphasized the clear connection with the closure of Tutela Legal as an ongoing effort to destroy evidence of war crimes housed in the archives of these institutions as the Supreme Court weighs the possible overturning of the 1993 Amnesty Law that has until now protected the perpetrators of such atrocities from prosecution. For more information on the attack, click here.
THANKS TO ALL WHO SIGNED FOR MAKING THIS ACTION A SUCCESS! On September 30, Archbishop Escobar of San Salvador abruptly shut down the Archdiocese's historic human rights office Tutela Legal - founded by martyred Archbishop Óscar Romero - and fired all staff. The employees and the thousands of Salvadoran war crimes survivors whose cases they represent were not consulted prior to the closure. Today the archives - containing over 50,000 cases of human rights violations, the majority committed by Salvadoran armed forces trained at the US School of the Americas during El Salvador’s civil war — are in jeopardy. To date, Archbishop Escobar has denied the survivors, former employees and even the country's Human Rights Ombudsman access to the archives. Coming on the heels of a Supreme Court decision to review the controversial 1993 Amnesty Law that has prevented the prosecution of thousands of human rights cases from the war, many fear the closure to be an effort to withhold this vast documentation and perpetuate impunity for war crimes should the Amnesty Law be overturned. This week the Supreme Court - whose rulings have strongly favored the right-wing ARENA party, founded by the mastermind of the Salvadoran death squads - suspended an order initiated by the Funes Administration to transfer custody of the archives to the state. More details below. Survivors, the families of victims, and human rights defenders in El Salvador are asking the international community to join them in denouncing the Archbishop and this attempt to kidnap historical memory. Click to Sign and Share this Petition Calling on the Archbishop to Listen to the Survivors and Protect the Archives Today! The petition demands that the Archbishop: 1. Guarantee the integrity, safe-keeping, and security of all records of human rights violations received by Tutela Legal, and, above all, allow victims access to their cases. 2. Open a process of dialogue and consultation with the victims and include representatives of the victims on the commission. Click here to sign the petition and encourage your friends, family, churches & synagogue communities to sign as well. Special thanks to the SHARE Foundation for drafting the petition. Background Last month, over 30 international organizations signed a letter to the Archbishop, published in Salvadoran newspapers, denouncing the closure of Tutela Legal and calling for the protection of the archives. Hundreds have mobilized in protests at the gates of the National Cathedral and outside the Archdiocese itself. Tutela Legal’s archives house 80% of the cases cited in the 1993 United Nations Truth Commission report, which attributed 85% of the 75,000 documented civilian murders to the right-wing, US-backed government and its paramilitary appendages, 5% to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) guerilla forces and 10% unknown. As the 2014 presidential elections near, the right wing is desperate to maintain its historic impunity in the face of the growing strength of the FMLN party. The archives are at risk. In a deeply troubling turn of events, on October 20 the Attorney General raided the Archdiocese, declaring his intention to inventory and seize the archives as part of investigations into over 30 major massacres committed during the war—investigations previously unannounced and unheard of in the long history of complicity of the Attorney General's Office in the systematic impunity that has long reigned in El Salvador. The Human Rights Ombudsman came to the scene and asked to oversee the Attorney General’s actions, but was refused and denied entry. Following a major media storm and popular outcry, the Attorney General withdrew from the Archdiocese, but the documents remain sealed off from all media or other government entity inspection. Survivors are calling for the Human Rights Ombudsman to take control of the archives until their safekeeping and integrity can be assured. In response to calls from survivors and their allies, last month the Funes administration initiated a procedure to declare the archives "historic patrimony", a measure intended to ensure the archives’ security in the face of the Church’s dubious actions. But on November 1, the Supreme Court accepted a lawsuit filed by the Archdiocese against the procedure. The court ordered that the government's initiative be suspended and that the Archdiocese maintain custody of the archives pending the case’s resolution. Join us in demanding justice today!