The International Tribunal for Restorative Justices opened a public forum for people who had suffered human rights abuses during El Salvador’s civil war. The three-day event was hosted at the Central American University as part of its Truth Festival, a week-long program in commemoration of the anniversary of Monseñor Romero’s assassination.
The testimonies heard by the Tribunal were powerful and disturbing. They narrated stories of incredible human suffering -death threats, tortures, disappearances, assassinations, scorched earth campaigns, massacres- all committed directly by or with the complicity of the Salvadoran Armed Forces.
Julio Rivera offered his testimony and told of how on March 11, 1980, at the age of 7, he witnessed the killing of his mother and three remaining siblings, because his mother had advocated for political prisoners. Only days later -in hiding with his father- he witnessed the massacre at the Sumpul River committed by Salvadoran military in collaboration with local paramilitary groups and the Honduran military. Thirteen members of his extended family were killed in the massacre.
There has been very little political will on the part of the Salvadoran government to address these atrocities. For many years, the Salvadoran government flatly denied their existence, or blamed them on the guerillas. In 1993, El Salvador passed an amnesty law, creating a significant barrier to even gathering information on the atrocities committed. Successive presidents, including president-elect Funes, have refused to repeal the amnesty law, saying it would re-open old wounds.
Rivera replies that that wounds have never closed. He declared that the wounds will heal only when the truth has been heard and acknowledged, and there is a true process of justice and reconciliation.