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  HOME | Central America

New Trial Sought for Massacre of 6 Jesuits in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR – Authorities at the Jesuit Central American University (UCA) in El Salvador asked a court on Monday to reopen the criminal case against the intellectual authors of the massacre of six priests and two helpers, including former President Alfredo Cristiani, perpetrated by the army in 1989.

“We have asked the court to reopen the massacre case with regard to the intellectual authors,” UCA director Andreu Oliva told a press conference, after presenting a written appeal before the Judiciary.

The Jesuits seek annulment of the ruling handed down in December 2000 dismissing the massacre case against Cristiani and six members of the army command, while also demanding that the Judiciary revoke a law granting amnesty for the crimes of the 1980-1992 civil war.

The attorney for the Human Rights Institute of UCA (IDHUCA), Arnau Baulenas, noted that the massacre was a “crime against humanity,” whose punishment is “unassailable” and cannot be granted amnesty, as established in July 2016 by the Constitutional Court in a sentence that repealed the 1993 Amnesty Law.

“It is for that reason, and has been ruled in other trials of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict, that we seek a reopening of the trial in order to satisfy the basic rights of the victims to justice and to the truth,” Baulenas said.

The former UCA rector and current director of IDHUCA, Jose Maria Tojeira, added that this petition for a new trial does not include the “material authors,” who were submitted to a “farce of a trial” in 1992, in which two soldiers were sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“We will not proceed against those who materially took part in the murders,” given that there was still “an element of truth contained in the original verdict” and “they were prisoners for a year and a half,” Tojeira said.

Besides Cristiani, the Jesuits accuse retired Generals Humberto Larios, Juan Rafael Bustillo, Francisco Elena Fuentes, Rafael Zepeda, the late Rene Emilio Ponce and Col. Inocente Montano.

All belonged to the 1966 Military School graduating class, which directed the armed forces during much of the war and used a “scorched earth” counterinsurgency strategy, and all are also wanted by the Spanish Justice system.

On the night of Nov. 16, 1989, a unit of the army’s elite Atlacatl Battalion slaughtered the Spanish priests Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Amando Lopez and Juan Ramon Moreno, and the Salvadoran Jesuit Joaquin Lopez. Also slain were their cook Elba Ramos and her 16-year-old daughter.

For that massacre, only Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benvides remains behind bars, one of the two sentenced to 30 years in prison in a 1992 trial, a sentence the UCA has asked to have commuted.


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