Press Release

IACHR Hails El Salvador for Creating the National Commission on the Search for Disappeared Persons

September 29, 2017

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) hails the State of El Salvador for establishing the National Commission on the Search for Disappeared Persons (CONEBUSQUEDA), an autonomous agency responsible for searching for those who disappeared during the country’s armed conflict, which took place from 1980 to 1992.

According to information the State of El Salvador presented to the IACHR during its 164th session, held in Mexico, the National Commission on the Search for Disappeared Persons was created on August 21, 2017, by means of Presidential Decree No. 33. The information received indicates that the government and civil society organizations reached consensus on a legal proposal concerning the design and operation of the institutional search mechanism. The executive branch formally launched the National Search Commission on September 27 at the Casa Presidencial, the offices of the president.

The IACHR for decades has followed the situation of impunity surrounding the gross human rights violations that took place during the years of conflict in El Salvador. The IACHR welcomed the determination by the Supreme Court in July 2016 that the Amnesty Law was unconstitutional, and has praised the progress achieved since then. In February 2017, the IACHR welcomed the State’s willingness to create a commission to search for those who disappeared during the armed conflict, one that would broaden the search efforts undertaken since 2010 by the National Commission to Search for Children Who Disappeared during the Internal Armed Conflict, and underscored the importance of implementing that initiative. The IACHR commends the joint efforts with civil society to create this mechanism and trusts that the State will provide the necessary human and financial resources so that the new National Search Commission can do its work efficiently.

“The creation of the National Commission on the Search for Disappeared Persons in El Salvador is excellent news, especially because the State worked together with civil society to reach consensus on the mechanism’s design and operation,” said Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, the IACHR Rapporteur for El Salvador.

For his part, Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi, who heads the IACHR Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice, added, “Based on the mandate and functions of the Inter-American Commission, we offer any technical support we can provide so that the search for those who disappeared can move forward, responding to the just demands of their family members and society as a whole.”

The Inter-American Commission also calls on the State of El Salvador to take measures so that the members of the new National Search Commission are selected and appointed through a transparent process, in accordance with objective criteria established in advance to guide the assessment and evaluation of candidates and the appointment of the most suitable and capable people, to ensure the independence and effectiveness of the new body.

The Commission urges the Salvadorian State to continue to move forward in investigating the gross human rights violations perpetrated during the armed conflict, identifying those responsible, applying penalties, and determining just reparations for the victims. In that context, the IACHR urges the State of El Salvador to provide more and sufficient resources to the Unit to Investigate Gross Human Rights Violations, created on December 7, 2016, via Agreement 129.

The Commission, within the scope of its functions and its mandate, makes itself available to the State to collaborate with the Search Commission and with any efforts that may be carried out to ensure the effective exercise of the rights to truth and justice in El Salvador.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and defense of human rights in the region, and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 150/17