Sánchez Cerén calls for repealing Amnesty Law on anniversary of Peace Accords

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Yesterday, El Salvador commemorated the 21st anniversary of the signing of Peace Accords that concluded the country’s 12-year Civil War and outlined a series of political and economic reforms, putting an end to the military dictatorship and incorporating the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) into the country’s political-electoral system.

At an FMLN activity held at the Cristo de la Paz monument in San Salvador, Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, an original signatory of the Accords, highlighted many of the important democratic advances that they achieved: the removal of the Armed Forces from public security tasks and creation of a civilian police force, a democratic opening for progressive forces in the country that had previously faced violent repression, and the destruction of the military dictatorship.

Sánchez Cerén acknowledged, however, that persisting economic and social inequality stands in the way of true peace in El Salvador, claiming that the neoliberal economic policies implemented by the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party were “the first blow to the Peace Accords.”

In a recent webcast discussion with Salvadorans in the US, Vilma Vásquez, a long-time leader in the Salvadoran labor and women’s movements, emphasized many of the social programs of the current government as signs of the significant and continuing progress heralded by the Peace Accords. But Vásquez said that many serious issues, particularly economic inequality and impunity for war crimes, are still pending.

This impunity is enforced by the 1993 Amnesty Law, which prohibits prosecution of crimes committed during the war. “The massacres, the illegal detentions and torture, the forced disappearances - all of these are still raw wounds, and the only way to begin healing is for people to know the truth and for the criminals to be brought to justice,” said Vásquez.

While the Amnesty Law holds in El Salvador, human rights defenders and families of victims of crimes against humanity committed during the Civil War – 85% of which the UN Truth Commission attributed to the military dictatorship – have appealed to international courts for justice. Just last month, the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Salvadoran State guilty of the 1980 El Mozote massacre, and in 2011, a Spanish Court indicted 20 former military officers to investigate their involvement in the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. One of the indicted officers also currently faces charges of immigration fraud and perjury in the US after fleeing El Salvador to escape prosecution. Recently, the judge presiding over the case announced he would consider accusations of war crimes in the sentencing.

In recent statements, Vice President and 2014 FMLN Presidential candidate Sánchez Cerén condemned the Amnesty Law as an impediment to justice, and called upon the Supreme Court to accept cases that have been presented to repeal it. This sentiment was reinforced by Vilma Vásquez: “The Amnesty Law must be repealed if we are ever going to achieve reconciliation as a society,” she said firmly.

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