Posts Tagged ‘Impunity’

The Latest on Tutela Legal: Attorney General Intervenes, Archbishop Changing Discourse

October 28, 2013

"Historic memory is not private property."

“Historic memory is not private property.”

Just over three weeks have passed since Monsignor José Luis Alas Escobar, Archbishop of San Salvador issued a decree to close Tutela Legal, the Archdiocese’s renowned human rights legal aid office, and every week the situation becomes more complex. The Archbishop continues to change his discourse about the reasons for the closure. Victims’ access to the office’s archives, which include documentation of over 50,000 cases of human rights violations, including 80% of the cases in the 1993 Truth Commission report, remains questionable.

In the most shocking intervention since the initial bombshell of Tutela’s closure, on Friday October 18th, representatives of the Attorney General’s Office forcefully entered the Archdiocese declaring their intent to seize the archives. The media began to announce the presence of the representatives of the Attorney General’s Office in Tutela Legal around four in the afternoon, and members of human rights organizations gathered outside the Archdiocese to verify the proceedings.

David Morales, Human Rights Ombudsman immediately requested entrance for his representatives, but both the Attorney General and the Archdiocese denied their entry. A police unit, however, was allowed in. Members of human rights organizations asked Monsignor Urrutia why representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office were not allowed in and he simply lifted his hands, as if washing them of responsibility.  Representatives of FESPAD reported that around 8:30 in the evening, two trucks and a lab vehicle with the back end covered belonging to the Attorney General’s office and a car with its license plates covered exited the Archdiocese. Covering license plates was a tactic commonly used by death squads in the 1980s.

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Institutional Crisis: Road Paved to Fraud

October 23, 2013

Only one month remains until elections in Honduras, and the crisis in Honduran public institutions has only deepened. The Honduran people have faced a multitude of deep-rooted systemic injustices for decades, which have only been aggravated further by the coup. Impunity ranges from human rights violations in the 1980s, to dozens of murders in the context of the coup, to the current homicide rate, the highest in the world in 2012.  

Last month, Guillermo Lopez Luna, a Honduran magistrate spoke at a forum on impunity in Central America, sponsored by FESPAD, the IDHUCA, and the International Commission of Jurists. Lopez stated that Honduras faces “a complete collapse of the System of Justice,” with the Honduran police, judiciary, and the Public Prosecutor’s office characterized by corruption and inefficiency.

Additionally, the Honduran Congress has taken several actions to consolidate influence and control over the judicial system. As far back as 2003, the International Commission of Jurists noted the intervention of political parties in the Honduran Justice System. In the last year, the Honduran Congress has enacted at least three unconstitutional interventions in the judicial system:

  •  Removal of four Supreme Court Magistrates
  • Replacement of the Attorney General and Adjunct Attorney General for a longer term than outlined in the constitution

  • Election of Judiciary Council members limited to an organization of Judges aligned with the Honduran oligarchy

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Press Conference Decries Closure of Tutela Legal and Call to Action

October 5, 2013

ACTION ALERT: SHARE AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WILL CONTINUE TO COLLECT SIGNATURES FOR THE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY PRESS STATEMENT MENTIONED BELOW THROUGH MONDAY AT MIDNIGHT. We will publish the press release in a Salvadoran newspaper. Please contact Bethany Loberg, to sign on or send a contribution. We seek signatures from organizations and from religious, academic, and human rights leaders. We will be sending an action alert individuals can participate in on Monday or Tuesday next week.

Victims and Human Rights  Organizations gather outside the Archdiocese's offices

Victims and Human Rights Organizations gather outside the Archdiocese’s offices

This morning, representatives of a variety of human rights organizations, members of Christian Base Communities, and victims of human rights abuses held a press conference to denounce the actions of Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of El Salvador to close Tutela Legal, the Archdiocese’s human rights legal aid office on Monday. This blatant disregard for human rights has divided the Catholic Church and infuriated many groups that continue to fight for justice. The conference took place outside of the Archdiocese´s offices and included the reading of a press statement and a moving letter to the papal nuncio signed by nearly thirty civil society organizations, including CODEFAM, COMADRES, FESPAD, PROBUSQUEDA. CPDH Madeleine Lagadec, the National Health Forum, the San Antonio Abad Christian Base Community, and FUNDAHMER, amongst others. The conference also featured the reading of a press release expressing the solidarity of the international community.

Representatives of Salvadoran human rights organizations expressed their grave concerns regarding the abrupt closure of Tutela Legal. In addition to indignation at the way the employees of Tutela Legal were treated, they worry that this is a measure to ensure impunity for past human rights violations will persist. The press release expressed four explicit demands:

1. Guarantee the integrity and security of all Tutela Legal’s case files of human rights violations, permitting the victims access to their files.

2. Revoke the decision to close Tutela Legal.

3. Declare Tutela Legal’s archive of human rights violations historic and cultural heritage.

4. An invitation to the Archbishop to reflect on his decision to close Tutela Legal and publicly ask pardon for his actions, or otherwise be removed from his office or resign.

reading press statement

The international solidarity press release signed by over 30 organizations, including all the historic U.S.-El Salvador solidarity organizations as well as the Center for Justice and Accountability, School of the Americas Watch, Sojourners Magazine, Friends of Co-Madres, and the National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas, expressed outrage at the closure of Tutela Legal and concern that Tutela Legal’s archives be respected. The statement emphasizes solidarity with the first two key demands of Salvadoran civil society: a guarantee for the security of all of Tutela Legal’s records and access for the victims, and secondly, to reverse the decision to close the legal aid office, to reinstate the staff members fired unjustly, and above all to maintain the same spirit of work instilled by Archbishop Romero and  Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas, and Dr. Maria Julia Hernandez. Full press release in English here: FINAL International Solidarity Tutela Legal ENGLISH-1.

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El Salvador’s Disappeared Children: Marina’s Story

March 28, 2013

Marina Ortiz spent her childhood in a children’sMarina Ortiz shelter run by Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Salvador. Assuming her family had abandoned her, Marina grew up not knowing where she came from, who her family was, or even her own name.

Her life changed when Father Jon Cortina asked Pastor Miguel Tomas Castro, the pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, for support to start Pro-Busqueda, an organization to search for children disappeared during the war. When Pastor Castro told him there were several children in the shelter whose families were unknown, Father Cortina visited the shelter. They realized that Marina and several other children had likely been disappeared during the war. In 1995, Marina filed a report with Pro-Busqueda.

Only a few years later, in 1997, Marina’s family contacted Pro-Busqueda looking for a little girl that fit her description. Following a search and DNA testing, Marina met her biological family for the first time.

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Monument Declared Cultural Property

March 25, 2013

Continue to join Salvadorans in standing for truth, justice, and reparations during the Promemoria Historica tour, featuring Marina Ortiz and Patricia Garcia of Pro-Historical Memory Commission and Bethany Loberg of SHARE El Salvador. They will be traveling to 14 U.S. cities from April 7-May 9, 2013.

The new blue and white emblem recognizes the monument as a cultural site protected by the International Treaty for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

The new blue and white emblem recognizes the monument as a cultural site protected by the International Treaty for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

When you arrive in Cuscatlán Park you cannot ignore the black granite wall edging the back of the property, solid and glittering with thousands of neat engravings. Upon closer inspection, you see the engravings are actually thousands of names, carefully inscribed, and faithfully remembered by the ones they left behind. These names on the Monument to Truth and Memory declare those who the government forcefully disappeared and killed during the Civil War.

On Friday, March 15th, Cunegunda Peña, Ana Cisneros, Dolores Hernandez, and dozens of other mothers, sisters, brothers, and grandsons searching for their disappeared family members gathered with solemn excitement for the official recognition of the Monument to Truth and Memory as Culturally Property of El Salvador. They joined members of the Pro-Historical Memory Commission and representatives of the Salvadoran Government, UNESCO, and the Inter-Institutional International Humanitarian Law Committee, who coordinated the declaration and placement of a large blue and white checkered emblem on the monument.

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Court Orders Government to Investigate El Mozote Massacre

December 14, 2012

The Salvadoran military systematically assassinated over 800 men, women, and children in the massacre

On Monday, December 10th, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a long awaited ruling on the El Mozote massacre case. The Court condemned the government as responsible for the massacre, for this violation of life. As part of the ruling, the Court ordered the Salvadoran government to investigate those responsible for the El Mozote massacre, citing that the 1993 amnesty law does not cover war crimes that occurred during the civil war.

Throughout the war, the government repeatedly committed acts of extreme cruelty and violence, and the El Mozote massacre was undoubtedly one of the most brutal. On December 11th, 1981, Salvadoran armed forces entered El Mozote and the surrounding villages. They then rounded up, separated, and systematically killed nearly 1,000 men, women, and children. Only one survived. Over half of the victims were children. The massacre is just one war atrocity among many for which the Salvadoran government is responsible as the state implemented its policy of terror against its people; it remains burned into the collective Salvadoran memory as the most horrific violation against human life.

Up until recently, national Salvadoran courts refused to investigate the killings, using the 1993 amnesty law to avoid responsibility for the long list of human rights they so cruelly violated in December 1981. Because of this impunity, human rights organizations like Tutela Legal took the case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and then to the Inter-American Court in 2011. However, Monday’s ruling is encouraging in the fight for truth, justice, and reparations for the crimes committed. Among other things, the Inter-American Court ordered the Salvadoran government to enact the following remedial measures:

i) continue compiling a Register of Victims and Relatives of Victims of the massacre  
ii) perform investigations of the events,  
iii) ensure that the Amnesty Law does not represent an obstacle to investigations,  
iv) investigate the conduct of officials who obstructed the investigation

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Delegates to Remember Martyred Jesuits

November 21, 2012

“A fight against impunity implies a long term struggle. If one remains firm in one’s position, a well-rooted seed will take hold and the consciousness of new generations, new professionals, will change as well.” — Jesuit Father José María Tojiera

For twenty three years, individuals, non-government organizations, and international groups have been fighting for justice for six Jesuit priests assassinated at the Jose Simeón Cañas University of Central America (UCA).As the Jesuit University in El Salvador and as one of the centers of liberation theology, the UCA played an active role in speaking out for human rights during the Civil War. For this reason, six Jesuits in residence, including the rector of the University, were murdered along with their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989.  

During the Honoring Women Religious Delegation we will visit the museum at the UCA, built to pay homage to those eight martyrs and other Christian martyrs of the Civil War in El Salvador. We will also see the Rose Garden, where the Jesuits were found, now a memorial garden, and the Chapel, where they are buried.

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Day of the Dead: Commemorating El Salvador’s Martyrs

November 2, 2012

Cunegundia Peña carries her son’s photo in the procession to the memorial wall

Nov. 1st is All Saints Day in the Catholic Tradition and Nov. 2ndis Día de los Fieles Difuntos, or Day of the Dead in El Salvador. In honor of these traditions and as part of their work for truth, justice, and reparations, the Pro-historic Memory Coalition organized an ecumenical service to commemorate the martyrs of El Salvador.

Madre Guadalupe Mejía of the Committee of the Family Members of the Disappeared (CODEFAM) and SHARE Board member, opened the commemoration with a stirring reminder of the still unfulfilled right to truth and justice and call to continue forward with the struggle.

“We gather to remember our martyrs. We want to know the truth about our loved ones, what happened to them so we can give them a Christian burial. We must create justice because otherwise this will continue happening. And the reparations, both moral and material, which we have a right to as family members of victims. We have to say to the government, here we are waiting. Mauricio Funes’ government has in its hands the reparations policy we presented to them in  November 2009 and we still have not advanced. Wherever we are we have to remind them that they have a debt and we are waiting.

“Madre” Guadalupe Mejia addresses the crowd.

“We also invite other family members to join us in one united front to continue in this struggle. We cannot stay with our arms crossed. We must remember our family members. Their death was not in vain. Let us remember who were the disappeared? They were children, youth and adults and they took their lives away just because they fought for a better country with no hunger, with justice, with true peace. We have to continue forward with pride until we achieve reparations, justice and truth. This is what we want.”


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Celebrating 2011!

December 15, 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, we look back on all of the amazing achievements that your solidarity has made possible.  Thanks to you, and the support of hundreds of others, SHARE and our counterparts in El Salvador were able to: 
  • Make the high school graduation of 23 young leaders possible! In a country where only 15% of the rural population reaches high school, this is a major achievement for young people and their families. 
  • Support communities like San Simon and El Corozal  in preparing for and adapting to climate change, including the creation of risk-prevention and disaster mitigation maps and plans, which helped prevent loss of life in the October 2011 deluge.
  • Provide over 50 micro-loans for women’s economic initiatives, including a pig project with the Mujeres Ganaderas. Watch a video about their work here! Read More »

Civil Society Demands Justice on the 30th Anniversary of the Mozote Massacre

December 14, 2011

The Monsenor Romero Coalition and the signatory organizations and persons call on the national and international community to remember that December 10th we celebrate the 63rd Anniversary of the Universal Declaraion of Human Rights and that on the 11, 12 and 13th of December of this year it will be 30 years since the Mozote Massacre.  These two commemorations invite us to continue with efforts to denounce impunity and demand that the Salvadoran government provide the truth, justice and reparations for the crime against humanity committed in El Mozote and surrounding areas. For this reason:

1.  We declare to never forget this cruel, inhumane and aberrant extermination. Read More »

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