Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Decisions on Clarifying Forced Disappearances in El Salvador

February 20, 2018

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes two decisions by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of El Salvador ordering the Ministry of National Defense and the Chief of Staff to carry out an internal investigation and produce information on military operations that involve cases of forced disappearance of children during the Salvadorian armed conflict.

According to publicly available information, on September 1 and December 6, 2017, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court handed down two decisions related to cases of forced disappearance of children perpetrated in 1982. The first case involves the disappearance of two boys and a girl in the so-called “Guinda de Mayo” or “Domínguez de Pacificación” military operation, in Chalatenango. The second case has to do with the disappearance of two girls during the “Mario Azenón Palma” military operation, or “Invasión Anillo.” Both operations were part of the same context examined in two judgments issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in the Case of the Serrano-Cruz Sisters and the Case of Contreras et al.

According to the information available, in both decisions the Constitutional Chamber ruled that investigations should be carried out into the victims’ whereabouts, and that the State has an obligation to ensure that the investigations are not hampered. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court also indicated that the Ministry of Defense and the Joint Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces had shown “inactive conduct” in terms of providing information on the respective operations, conduct that in this regard goes against relevant international standards.

“After the historic decision adopted in 2016, which determined that the Amnesty Law was unconstitutional, these decisions by the Supreme Court of El Salvador open the door to continued progress in the fight against impunity for crimes perpetrated during the armed conflict,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, who oversees the IACHR Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice. “This will help move toward clarifying what happened, and thus settling the State’s enormous debt to the victims and their family members regarding their right to know the truth about what happened and to determine the whereabouts of the victims of forced disappearance,” she added.

The IACHR trusts that the State of El Salvador will fully comply with both decisions, ensuring that the information requested is sent by the authorities who have been ordered to provide it, so as to clarify the facts, have more elements in place to learn the whereabouts of the disappeared children, and determine criminal responsibility in the respective cases.

The Salvadorian State should adopt measures that allow for the effective implementation of transitional justice mechanisms in the country, in order to guarantee the rights to memory, truth, justice, and reparation for the victims and for Salvadorian society as a whole,” said Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur for 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 to defend 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. 032/18