On Friday, March 22, Salvadoran torture survivor Carlos Mauricio will address the opening ceremony at Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) to commemorate four important anniversaries for El Salvador and the international human rights movement.
- On March 15, 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission issued its report on human rights abuses committed during the civil war in El Salvador (1980-1991). Unlike many other truth commissions, this international body identified the names of those found responsible when it established that there was “overwhelming evidence.”
- The Salvadoran government protected these individuals from prosecution and further investigation by quickly passing a second amnesty law on March 20, 1993. The 1992 amnesty law already protected anyone not named by the Truth Commission. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for these laws to be overturned, a position supported by several rulings by the Inter-American Human Rights Court.
- These events occurred just before another important milestone for El Salvador, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, an outspoken human rights defender, on March 24, 1980. The Truth Commission Report identified death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson as the individual who ordered Romero’s death. The 1993 amnesty law protected D’Aubuisson for the rest of his life.
- In recognition of the importance of Archbishop Romero’s role standing up for justice in El Salvador and as an inspiration for human rights defenders throughout the world, the United Nations declared that International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims would be held on anniversary of his death, starting on March 24, 2011.
The 1992 and 1993 amnesty laws have served to continue the impunity that has plagued El Salvador. Amnesty International issued a statement on the 20th anniversary of the Truth Commission Report, demonstrating the consequences of this impunity for those survivors who continue to seek truth and justice. The statement by Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) on the anniversary of the report contains an excellent analysis of the structural damage caused by the amnesty laws, with particular evidence on how they have led to police corruption, the militarization of public security, and extremely high levels of violent crime.
I hope that you will join us at the AGM in Tysons Corners to commemorate these important dates and to demand both truth and justice.