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  HOME | Central America

El Salvador Court Reopens Case against Suspect in Archbishop’s 1980 Murder

SAN SALVADOR – A court in El Salvador has reopened criminal proceedings against an army captain suspected of carrying out the 1980 assassination of a prominent Catholic archbishop, a judicial official said Thursday.

The court based in this capital annulled a March 1993 decision to dismiss the case against Capt. Alvaro Rafael Saravia, the lone person accused in the killing of San Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero.

The judicial source said the court acted on the basis of a decision by the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber, which in a historic 2016 ruling annulled a 1993 Amnesty Law that had impeded investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity during El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war.

Judge Rigoberto Chicas also instructed the Attorney General’s Office to determine if the proceedings against the defendant already charged in the case should continue or whether other charges should be brought against other individuals.

The 63-year-old Romero was fatally shot March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass at a hospital chapel in the Salvadoran capital.

Though the killer has never been identified, the late Maj. Roberto D’Aubuisson, the main organizer and leader of the death squads that terrorized El Salvador in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is believed to have ordered the archbishop’s assassination.

The slaying of Romero, who became famous for denouncing human rights abuses from the pulpit, marked the start of a 12-year civil war in El Salvador that cost some 85,000 lives before ending in a negotiated peace.

Romero was beatified on May 23, 2015, in a Mass in San Salvador that was attended by at least 250,000 people.

 

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