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Salvadoran Church Calls for New Murder Probe

December 15, 2006

SAN SALVADOR – The legal-aid office of the Catholic Archdiocese of San Salvador is seeking to reopen the case of a December, 1981 massacre in which an estimated 1,000 people, most of them children, were murdered by the military.

The office’s director, María Julia Hernández, said in a press conference that her organization filed the motion Nov. 23 with a court in the eastern province of Morazan.

The case centers on the Dec. 11-13, 1981, massacre in El Mozote and neighboring villages, one of the worst incidents of El Salvador’s 12-year (1980-1992) civil war.

Hernández said the case was first opened in October 1990, but was later shelved after an amnesty law took effect in 1993, covering crimes committed during the civil war.

Reports show the massacre was carried out during “a broad operation” that included artillery and aerial bombardment.

The operation targeted at least seven towns in the municipality of Meanguera, some 190 kilometers northeast of San Salvador.

An estimated 1,000 people were killed “directly by the chiefs and troops of the Atlacatl Rapid Reaction Infantry Battalion,” then commanded by Col. Domingo Monterrosa.

Monterrosa was killed in 1984 when his helicopter was shot down by guerrillas in a town near the massacre scene.

Under Salvadoran Supreme Court and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decisions, “there are exceptions to the amnesty in the case of serious violations of human rights,” like the El Mozote massacre, said attorney David Morales.

El Salvador’s civil war ended in 1992, with the signing of peace accords by the government and the then-rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, now the main politicalopposition party.

Some 75,000 people died in the civil war, 12,000 were disabled and 8,000 others disappeared, according to human rights groups.

 

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