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El Salvador Issues Arrest Warrant for Military Officers

Relatives of the victims and humanitarian organizations in El Salvador welcomed Monday a judge’s order to arrest three military officers for their alleged link to the murder of four Dutch journalists, committed 40 years ago.

“The judge’s decision is a very important step in combating impunity” for the crime perpetrated during the civil war (1980-1992), Miguel Montenegro, coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (CDHES), told AFP.

On Friday, a judge in the town of Dulce Nombre de María, northern El Salvador, ordered the arrest of three retired military officers to answer for the crime perpetrated on March 17, 1982.

They are General José Guillermo García, former Minister of Defense (1979-1983), Colonel Mario Adalberto Reyes Mena, former commander of the IV Infantry Brigade of Chalatenango, who resides in the United States, and the former director of the now outlawed Treasury Police, Colonel Francisco Antonio Morán.

Although they are already deceased, the recent arrest warrant also includes former Army Joint Chief of Staff General Rafael Flores Lima and Sergeant Mario Canizales.

“We have waited forty years for this moment (arrest of the military),” declared Gert Kuiper, brother of Jan Kuiper, one of the victims, in a virtual conference from the Netherlands.

The lawyer of the Salvadoran Association for Human Rights (ASDEHU), Pedro Cruz, who represents the relatives of the Dutch, emphasized that the judge’s resolution “closed the initial phase of the investigation” and that “the prosecution” of the crime has begun.

For the director of the Fundación Comunicándonos, Óscar Pérez, “the process will not be easy” because on Friday they learned “unofficially” of the arrest of General García and Colonel Morán, and this Monday they had not been presented before the court.

The authorities of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police have not informed about the possible arrests. 

At the end of the civil war, the Truth Commission created by the UN concluded in 1993 that “there is full evidence” that the journalists Koos Jacobus Andries Koster, Jan Corenlius Kuiper Joop, Hans Lodewijk ter Laag and Johannes Jan Willemsen were involved in the crime.

The journalists had come to El Salvador to make a documentary film about the contrast between a family in the capital San Salvador and a family living in a village in conflict.

The fact was not investigated and in 1993 the case was completely frozen by the Amnesty Law that pardoned war crimes.

In 2016, the Salvadoran justice system declared that law unconstitutional and therefore on March 13, 2018, different organizations filed a criminal complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office against the intellectual and material authors.

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