Benjamín Cuéllar, director of the UCA Human Rights Institute until 2013, told the Guardian: “They sent the army’s most elite unit to kill six peaceful priests and two women, but it could have been anyone, that’s why the two condemned men were pardoned.”
But Cuéllar’s testimony helped convince a Spanish judge that the Salvadoran justice system has failed the victims, first by conducting a fraudulent trial and subsequently by refusing to prosecute the intellectual authors.
Cuellar still believes the case should and could be heard in El Salvador. “It would finally open the door to justice for crimes committed before, during and after the war, as it would transcend impunity,” he said
Technically, that would still be possible. The constitutional court is expected to rule imminently on the constitutionality of the amnesty law, and the case remains open at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights which could order El Salvador to reinvestigate the massacre.
But David Morales, the country’s human rights attorney general, is pessimistic. “I see little possibility of justice in El Salvador. The legal process has been manipulated and the most senior judges have violated the constitution, international treaties and national laws,” he said.At the conference I attended last week in New York City, the US and Salvadoran military representatives were in favor of investigating and prosecuting soldiers who committed human rights violations, including the murders of the Jesuits and two women, during the Salvadoran civil war. Such murders have no place in war. However, it was a politician (former President Armando Calderon Sol) and former guerrilla commander (Facundo Guardado) who thought that trials were terrible ideas. Carlos Dada, who also attended the conference, wrote about the exchange here.
I wasn't surprised with Calderon Sol's attack against those who have sought to bring members of the high command to justice in Spain. However, I was disappointed with Facundo's comments:
“El asesinato de los jesuitas y de monseñor Romero fueron violaciones de derechos humanos, pero ni las más horrendas ni las más crueles. Yo no creo en las guerras buenas. El asunto era eliminar al enemigo y a su entorno. Nuestra sociedad y el mundo tienen derecho a conocer la verdad pero que no sean vendetas. Yo me alejo de quienes dicen que la justicia pasa por la cárcel. En la cárcel deben estar quienes son una amenaza y (los militares acusados) no son una amenaza”.
"Nadie habla de la crudeza de la guerra. Yo, si me preguntan, lo hago. Pero no voy a ir a la cárcel. ¿A cuenta de qué?"I've interviewed Facundo a couple of times. He's a great interview. He even paid for my coffee and drove me around town a bit. However, his comments seemed a bit strange as much of the conference involved people discussing how terrible the murders of the Jesuits were and how their deaths caused the US and ARENA to increase their support for a negotiated solution to the war. Both actors were already moving in that direction. However, the killings undercut those in the US government and the Salvadoran oligarchy who did not support negotiations and were instead clinging to hopes of total victory.
(Can El Salvador continue to resist calls to investigate war time atrocities?)