Press Release

IACHR Calls on the State of El Salvador to Ensure the Rights of the Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict

January 10, 2020

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the State of El Salvador to ensure that any initiative regarding a National Reconciliation Law is in accordance with the Inter-American standards on the rights to justice, truth, comprehensive reparation, as well as guarantees of non-repetition of serious human rights violations.

The President of the Legislative Assembly has publicly stated his intention to approve the new National Reconciliation Law in the coming weeks, before the third deadline established by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador, which expires on February 28, 2020. To that purpose, a draft of the National Reconciliation Act in El Salvador would have been prepared by the legislative body. On January 6, 2020, the Ombudsperson declared that the current draft established a time limit for victims to report human rights violations suffered during the armed conflict and that these provisions would bring legal certainty to the law.

In this regard, the IACHR is concerned that the content of the current draft may limit investigations and sanctions for serious violations committed during the internal armed conflict. The Commission recalls that war crimes and crimes against humanity are internationally wrongful acts that are not subject to any statute of limitations, regardless of the date on which they were committed. In this regard, the IACHR has pointed out the State's duty to remove any de jure and de facto obstacles that prevent the investigation and prosecution of acts of this nature and, if appropriate, the punishment of those responsible, as well as the search for the truth. The Commission has also pointed out the obligation of all powers, organs and authorities of the State party to the Convention to exercise conventionality control in order to ensure that the human rights of persons under its jurisdiction are respected and guaranteed.

Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, Rapporteur on Memory, Truth and Justice stated: "It is urgent to establish a process that ensures the adequacy of the draft of the National Reconciliation Law to El Salvador's international obligations regarding crimes committed during the armed conflict". "The State cannot approve provisions of domestic law that prevent it from investigating and criminally punishing those responsible for serious human rights violations," she stressed.

On her part, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur for El Salvador, stated: "Respect for the rights of victims is a central element in the construction of a law such as this and must be guaranteed. "We hope that the State of El Salvador will fulfil its duty to ensure justice for the serious human rights violations committed in its recent past", she said.

During its recent on-site visit to the country, from 2 to 4 December 2019, the Commission held a dialogue with representatives of the Salvadoran Legislative Body and offered technical cooperation to the Legislative Assembly in the process of forming the National Reconciliation Law. On December 16, the President of the Legislative Assembly accepted the offer of technical cooperation by means of a letter addressed to the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR. While the IACHR appreciates the willingness of the Legislative Assembly to receive technical cooperation, the IACHR regrets that this has not yet been concretized so that it can be carried out in a timely and effective manner. The IACHR reiterates its willingness to collaborate with the State in order to guarantee the victims of the internal armed conflict the right to effective justice, truth, comprehensive reparation, and guarantees of non-repetition. The IACHR calls for relevant measures to be taken so that technical cooperation for the drafting of the National Reconciliation Bill is carried out in a timely and effective manner.

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. 002/20