El Salvador Derogues Amnesty Law for Civil War Crimes, Strong Debate Ensues

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Source: The Dawn News / July 26, 2016. El Salvador’s society is currently going through an intense debate due to the annulment of the Amnesty Law that had pardoned crimes committed during the country’s prolonged civil war.

The Amnesty Law had been signed in 1993, after the right-wing military and the left-wing Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN) guerrilla signed ceasefire agreements in 1992, putting an end to 12 years of armed confrontation.

The argument waged by those in favor of the derogation of the Amnesty Law is that this would allow to repair victims of the conflict and their families. The civil war left a toll of 75,000 dead and 7,000 missing. However, many have doubts about how the new situation will play out, and fear that judges, who are mostly right-wing, may use this opportunity to politically persecute only the former guerrillas’ side.

In an interview with TeleSur, the director of newspaper Resumen Latinoamericano, Carlos Aznárez, commented that, when the Amnesty Law was signed, it benefitted mostly the military side. “The pardon was mostly useful to the right-wing military, because they had carried out a genocide and killed a great number of civilians”. However, Aznárez fears that the annulment of the Amnesty Law may be in fact motivated by a desire to go after the FMLN party, which is since 2009 the ruling party in the country, and even go after President Salvador Sánchez Cerén himself. This scenario “could lead to a soft coup or technical coup”, like the ones that affect many other countries in Latin America.

After the armed conflict ended in 1992, and until 2009, the right led the country. During this period “the country entered a crisis in every aspect, there was a strong economical recession”, Aznárez explained. “When the FMLN government began in 2009, they initiated the creation of policies to protect the poorest ones, and to create inclusion. There were and still are important advances. Therefore, this decision is regressive”.

Other left-wing analysts celebrate the decision of the Supreme Court, because they regard it as an opportunity to finally trial the military for their numerous crimes against humanity.

Laura Embree-Lowry, program director of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, told teleSUR on Thursday from San Salvador that the decision marks a “huge historical moment for the country” and a “victory for the movement for truth and justice” that has long fought for the law to be overturned in order for both the material and intellectual authors of war-era rights abuses to be brought to justice.

Terry Karl, professor of political science at Stanford University and an expert witness in a number of cases on human rights atrocities in El Salvador, told teleSUR Thursday that the Supreme Court decision is “very courageous” and “enormously important for the healing and capacity for lowering the levels of violence” in post-conflict El Salvador.

She added that the decision helps break apart a “false narrative” and will help the nation to finally, at long last, heal. “To the extent that more truth is uncovered, the chances of reconciliation based on truth are greater,” she said.

El Salvador’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, based on over 22,0000 witness statements, found that the state committed 85 percent of abuses during the civil war, mostly in rural areas. Paramilitaries were found responsible for 10 percent of all acts of violence and the FMLN for 5 percent. The report also identified individuals it accused of serious violations of human rights, including torture.

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