Hundreds of Salvadorans demanded justice this Saturday to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the El Mozote massacre, the largest in Latin America, where around one thousand people were killed at the hands of the army during the civil war (1980-1992).
“Now, 42 years (after the massacre) justice still has not been achieved, but we believe that if we unite we can achieve the justice we so desire,” affirmed the leader of the El Mozote Human Rights Promoter Association, Leonel Tobar.
The killing occurred between December 9 and 13, 1981, when units of the Salvadoran Army, led by the US-trained Atlacatl counterinsurgency battalion, launched the so-called “Rescue Operation” against the population of the northeastern part of the department of Morazán.
The government of El Salvador established in 2017 that at least 988 people, including 558 children, were murdered in El Mozote and surrounding communities. Another 712 people who survived the attack abandoned the area. The conflict in El Salvador left over 75,000 dead, at least 7,000 missing and thousands displaced.
Phrases such as “In the face of years of impunity, we want justice now” and “42 years later we ask for justice, truth and assurances of non-repetition” could be read on banners at the beginning of the commemorative events in El Mozote, about 200 km northeast of San Salvador.
“We have seen how many victims have died without fulfilling their longing for justice,” lamented María José Araya, a lawyer with the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) program for Central America and Mexico, which has accompanied the case for decades.
“In El Mozote, death has come before justice, but we firmly believe that hope does not surrender to oblivion,” she stated.
Although Araya recognized that there has been “little progress” this has not been enough because “to this day no person has been prosecuted or sanctioned for the serious crimes committed and the criminal process has not advanced beyond the investigation phase”.
The case is in the instruction (investigation) phase in a court in San Francisco Gotera, west of the country, since June 9, 2017. Araya assured that the Mozote massacre is “the largest known mass murder” by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), which condemned the Salvadoran state on October 28, 2012.
“Today we reaffirm our struggle for collective memory and justice in El Salvador with the purpose of not giving in to oblivion and impunity, neither now nor ever,” Araya declared.