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El Salvador: Court Orders Probe of 1981 El Mozote Massacre

Memorial to the victims of El Mozote (Photo: Efrojas)

Memorial to the victims of El Mozote (Photo: Efrojas)

The Inter-American Court for Human Rights has ordered the government of El Salvador to investigate the 1981 massacre of more than 900 villagers at El Mozote by a US-trained unit of the Salvadoran military.

El Mozote was the single worst massacre of El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war, during which US-backed right-wing government forces attempted to crush a popular uprising and 75,000 Salvadorans perished. Between December 11-13, 1981, elite troops from the US-created, funded, trained and armed Atlcatl Battalion tortured, raped and murdered more than 900 villagers at El Mozote, most of them women, children and the elderly, before burning the place to the ground.

The Reagan administration then tried to cover up evidence of the massacre. Besides the fact that the Atlcatl Battalion was a US creation, 10 of the 12 military officers implicated in the slaughter were graduates of the US Army School of the Americas, also known as the ‘School of Assassins’ and ‘School of Coups’ because it produced so many of both.

Although Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes apologized for El Mozote earlier this year, a 20-year-old amnesty law enacted to promote peace and reconciliation between the former warring parties has prevented anyone involved in the massacre from being brought to justice. The Inter-American Court for Human Rights has now ruled that the amnesty law does not cover El Mozote.

The court has ordered the government of El Salvador to do the following:

– Compile a list of victims and their relatives.

– Exhume and identify skeletal remains and return them to relatives where possible.

– Investigate the massacre.

– Do not allow the amnesty law to impeded the investigation.

– Pay $17 million in compensation to victims and their families.

The Inter-American Court for Human Rights, based in San Jose, Costa Rica, was established in 1979 by the Organization of American States (OAS) to promote and uphold basic rights and freedoms in the Americas.

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