El Mozote: Seeking Justice in Spite of the Amnesty Law
December 11th, 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the El Mozote massacre – one of the largest, most brutal massacres in Latin America. As part of the military’s scorched earth campaign to remove any possible source of supplies for the guerrilla by killing entire rural villages, members of the armed forces entered El Mozote and the surrounding villages in December of 1981, rounding up, separating, and systematically killing men, women, and children. Through investigations including exhumations and testimonies, Tutela Legal, the San Salvador Archdiocese’s human rights office has identified 819 individuals killed in the massacre – over half under the age of twelve.
Thanks to Rufina Amaya’s tireless efforts to tell her story, as the sole survivor of the massacre, international news coverage, several rounds of exhumations of human remains, and the work of human rights organizations like Tutela Legal, the massacre can no longer be denied. El Mozote has become a well-known symbol of the brutality of the armed forces during the war.
The Salvadoran government, however, has not taken actions to investigate or bring to trial the intellectual and material authors of these brutal murders. To the contrary, since the peace accords, the army and government have paid homage to Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, a key leader in the massacre, on numerous occasions. As Gisela León of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) stated in a recent interview, “The massacre of El Mozote represents the absolute impunity that all cases from the conflict are in.” Efforts at truth-telling and investigation, necessary elements in reaching reconciliation, have come solely from civil society.