civil war, human rights, News Highlights, violence

Salvadoran Congress Approves New Law That Benefits War Criminals

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Salvadoran Congress Approves New Law That Benefits War Criminals

On the night of February 26, with 44 votes in Parliament, the right-wing parties ARENA, PCN and PDC, which have been allied for decades, joined once again to approve the so-called Special Law on Transitional Justice, Reparation and National Reconciliation, or Amnesty Law 2.0. This is more or less a replica of the original Amnesty Law that was passed by the same parties in 1993. With that Amnesty Law in place, the worst crimes committed during the civil war remained in impunity and it wasn’t until 2016, when the Legislative Assembly declared that law as unconstitutional that the opportunity to prosecute war crimes arose, like El Mozote, where the Salvadoran army massacred more than 1,000 civilians, mostly women and children. In addition to the government’s many war crimes, crimes committed by death squads and other paramilitary groups linked to the Salvadoran State were also open for prosecution after the 2016 annulment.

According to various human rights organizations and those that support victims of the armed conflict, with the approval of this new law, impunity is again being favored. Under said law, war criminals could benefit from reductions or outright cancellations of penalties, if the defendants apologize for their crimes and collaborate with the justice system. It also states that a judge can abolish a prison sentence for reasons of age, health or the like, although it does not clearly specify the age or health conditions to which it refers.

Regarding this law, Amnesty International had this to say: “The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador did not pass a law, it approved a pact of impunity that seeks to ensure that those who have committed serious human rights violations during the armed conflict are not brought before justice and sanctioned for the atrocities they committed.” In similar terms, David Morales, a former Human Rights ombudsman and current member of CRISTOSAL, said: “The vote of the 44 deputies who today legitimized the massacres and atrocities of war is also a violation of human rights. Now they will be subject to internal constitutional control and international supervision, their infamous act is now part of our historical memory.”

For its part, the FMLN refrained from voting, which was described by the newspaper El Faro as a surprise, considering that on this issue the leftist party has recently “moved away from its historical discourse and has oscillated between different positions.” In fact, two members of the FMLN party who decided to speak to El Faro on the condition of anonymity, claimed that at this time the party is divided between those who support the text of the law and those who condemn it, which led them to ultimately abstain from voting.

Another criticism of the Special Law on Transitional Justice, Reparation and National Reconciliation is that it was formulated, negotiated and approved behind the backs of organizations that have been working for decades to achieve justice for the civil war victims. According to the Bureau Against Impunity in El Salvador, this is most likely due to the favoring of the perpetrators who seek loopholes to avoid prison sentences or penalties that will affect their financial assets, even if it is proven in fair trials that they have murdered, tortured or disappeared thousands of people.

Fortunately, President Bukele has already announced that said law will be vetoed and therefore cannot become the law of the republic. He tweeted: “The Presidency of the Republic will not sanction any law that does not contain the fundamental elements to be fair and constitutional: 1. Truth 2. Reparation 3. Justice. The bill that the @AsaAssemblySV intends to approve does not meet any of these three elements.”

If the veto occurs, the bill would return to the Legislative Assembly, which will have the option of overturning the President’s veto, a move requiring a 2/3 vote but given the correlation of force in Parliament, this seems unattainable. Moving forward, the deputies will have to formulate a new law, which we hope will be oriented to protect the victims and not the perpetrators.

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El Congreso Salvadoreño Aprueba una Nueva Ley que Beneficia a los Criminales de Guerra

En la noche del 26 de febrero, con 44 votos en el Parlamento, los partidos de derecha ARENA, PCN y PDC, que se han aliado durante décadas, se unieron una vez más para aprobar la llamada Ley Especial de Justicia Transicional, Reparación y Reconciliación Nacional o Ley de Amnistía 2.0. Esta es más o menos una réplica de la Ley de Amnistía original que fue aprobada por las mismas partes en 1993. Con la Ley de Amnistía anterior, los peores crímenes cometidos durante la guerra civil permanecieron en la impunidad y no fue hasta 2016, cuando el Legislativo La Asamblea declaró esa ley como inconstitucional que surgió la oportunidad de enjuiciar crímenes de guerra, como El Mozote, donde el ejército salvadoreño masacró a más de 1,000 civiles, en su mayoría mujeres y niños. Además de los muchos crímenes de guerra del gobierno, los crímenes cometidos por escuadrones de la muerte y otros grupos paramilitares vinculados al Estado salvadoreño también estaban abiertos a juicio después de la anulación de 2016.

No obstante, con la aprobación de la Ley Especial de Justicia Transicional, Reparación y Reconciliación Nacional, según diferentes organizaciones de derechos humanos y de víctimas del conflicto armado, se favorece nuevamente la impunidad, pues según dicha ley, los criminales de guerra podrían beneficiarse con reducciones y anulación de penas, si los acusados piden perdón por sus crímenes y colaboran con la justicia. También establece que un juez puede abolir una pena de prisión por motivos de edad, salud o similares, aunque no especifica claramente la edad ni las condiciones de salud a las que se refiere.

La reconocida organización Amnistía Internacional, al respecto de esta ley expresó: “La Asamblea Legislativa de El Salvador no aprobó una ley, aprobó un pacto de impunidad que busca que quienes cometieron graves violaciones a los derechos humanos durante el conflicto armado no sean llevados ante la justicia y sancionados por las atrocidades cometidas”. En similares términos se expresó el ex procurador de Derechos Humanos y actualmente integrante de la organización Cristosal, David Morales, quien dijo: “El voto de los 44 diputados que legitimaron hoy las masacres y atrocidades de la guerra, es también una violación de los Derechos Humanos. Ahora serán sometidos al control interno constitucional y a la supervisión internacional, su acto infame ahora es parte de nuestra memoria histórica.” Por su parte el FMLN se abstuvo de votar, lo cual fue calificado por el periódico El Faro como una sorpresa, considerando que en este tema el partido de izquierda se ha alejado de su discurso histórico y ha oscilado entre distintas posturas, de hecho este medio de comunicación publicó que dos diputados del FMLN que decidieron hablar bajo anonimato aseguraron que a último momento se dividió el partido entre quienes apoyaban el texto de la ley  y quienes lo condenaban, y finalmente optaron por abstenerse.

Otro de los cuestionamientos a la Ley es que se formuló, negoció y aprobó a espaldas de las organizaciones que por décadas han reinvindicado los derechos de las víctimas, según la Mesa contra la Impunidad en El Salvador, instancia conformada por más de 20 prestigiosas organizaciones de la sociedad civil, esto se debe probablemente al interés de  favorecer a victimarios, buscando fórmulas para evitar penas de prisión o afectación de sus patrimonios, aún si se demuestra en juicios justos que asesinaron, torturaron o desparecieron a miles de personas.

 Afortunadamente el Presidente ya anunció que dicha ley será vetada y por tanto no podrá convertirse en ley de la república. “La Presidencia de la República no sancionará ninguna ley que no contenga 3 elementos fundamentales para que sea justa y constitucional: 1. Verdad 2. Reparación 3. Justicia. El proyecto de ley que pretende aprobar la @AsambleaSV no cumple ninguno de estos 3 elementos”, escribió el mandatario en su cuenta de Twitter.

Si ocurre el veto, el proyecto de ley regresaría a la Asamblea Legislativa, instancia que tendrá la opción de superar el veto del Presidente, para la cual requiere los votos de 2 terceras partes de los diputados y dada la correlación de fuerza en el Parlamento, esto parece inalcanzable, de manera que los diputados tendrán que formular una nueva ley, esperando que sea orientada a proteger a las víctimas y no a los victimarios.

 

Historical Memory

The Historical Memory Project of community Amando Lopez

VOICES is proud to collaborate with the ADESCO of community Amando Lopez in their endeavor to facilitate a historical memory process. This past weekend, we began enthusiastic with our first (of three) collective memory workshop that was attended by young and old.
The end goal is to publish a written book and digital library for future generations to revisit and learn from.

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Corruption, El Salvador Government, human rights

Justice for El Mozote!

1423580392900_nyc17325A press conference was held this morning, August 13th, in San Salvador by representatives of Tutela Legal Maria Julia Hernandez to give an update on the case of  El Mozote, the massacre that occurred on December 11, 1981 in northern Morazán.

Over 40 witnesses have come forward since the overturn of El Salvador’s Amnesty Law in 2016 to contribute harrowing testimonies of the barbarity executed by Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Monterrosa Barrios (deceased) and the Atlacatl Battalion (disbanded).

According to the findings, Monterrosa had the full cooperation and authorization from the Salvadoran state at the time of the massacre and attempted to cover up and deny the act, which was thwarted due to the forensic anthropological team from Argentina that conducted exhumations. Based on their invaluable work, it has come to light that over 1,000 innocent civilians were indeed tormented and being killed.
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“It is no longer possible to deny that a massacre occurred.” stated one of the attorneys from Tutela Legal.

The legal team also expressed the painful truth that til this day, survivors of the massacre have been left blind, sterile, full of shrapnel and continue to suffer from post traumatic stress.

The 18 military commanders that carried out this inhumane act are being tried in a court of law, some posthumously, in a judicial process that has reached “an advanced stage,” and attorneys are confident that justice will “finally be served.”


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The mission of Tutela Legal is the “observation, protection, study, promotion, dissemination, information and intervention in the defense of threatened or violated human rights, with special attention to groups in vulnerable situations.”

The Board

The Board Speaks

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Voices has two full-time staff in country which means we regularly rely on the strength and direction of our Board of Directors to ensure we’re doing what’s right and doing it right. Our current Board of Directors is full of amazing folks, many whom have been with Voices since the 1980’s, and others who have watched it grow.  What’s clear is that these histories have created strong connections and bonds with our communities and partners making our jobs on the ground easier and more impactful.  This June, our Board and field staff met in Maryland’s beautiful lakeside to reconnect, to share, to learn, to inspire and be inspired, and recommit to the work at hand.

Below is a collection of short interviews taken at the close of this year’s meeting. 

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Advocacy, annual report, education, Environment, Food Security, News Highlights, Voices Developments, Womens issues, Youth Development

Celebrating 30 years of Solidarity with the People of El Salvador – 2016 Annual Report

2016 was a dynamic year for Voices. We said goodbye to old friends and opened the door to new ones. We began an extensive education revitalization project in Bajo Lempa, started supporting women’s empowerment in Morazán and even joined in on environmental justice protests in the capital San Salvador.

This year is even more special because we turn 30! Since our inception in the refugee camps until now, we have never deserted our communities and are committed to being a critical source of support for them now, and in the future.

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Read our report to find out what our partners have been up to, the large scales issues they are facing and how Voices has been working hard in collaboration with leaders to find solutions to issues and pathways to accomplishing goals.