Bishops oppose 'absurd' amnesty law for El Salvador

Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador. Credit: Shutterstock.

.- A proposal to grant amnesty to those convicted of war crimes committed during the El Salvadoran civil war has drawn friece criticizm from the country’s Catholic bishops.

"It would be a spurious law,” said the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador, which represents the bishops of the country’s eight Catholic dioceses, in a statement released March 17.

The bishops compared the proposal to the 1993 Amnesty Law, brought in following a United Nations investigation into human rights abuses during the El Salvadoran Civil War.

That measure was declared unconstitutional by the country’s Supreme Court in 2016, which ordered the Salvadoran congress to draft a new version of the law by July of 2019.

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According to the bishops, the new bill would be a “totally unfair law” that would protect criminals instead of their victims.

Instead, the bishops called for “a law of true reconciliation,” that would promote a “transitional justice exercise that protects and provides reparation to victims.”

Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador said that the new law “does not make sense,” and is worse than the 1993 version.

“It is absurd to issue an amnesty law that seeks to cover all crimes, including crimes against humanity,” said Alas.

The 1993 Amnesty Bill notably would have prevented charges being brought against those who orchestrated the assassination of St. Oscar Romero.

Romero, who was the Archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980. The day before his murder, he had preached a homily that implored the country’s soldiers to stop committing human rights atrocities.

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It is believed that he was killed by Salvadoran National Police Detective Óscar Pérez Linares, and that his assassination was ordered by Roberto D'Aubuisson, a politician and death-squad leader. Álvaro Rafael Saravia, who was chief of security for D’Aubuisson and involved in the death squads, was found to be liable for Romero’s death, but has not yet been prosecuted.

After the 1993 law was repealed, a warrant was issued for Saravia, and the case was re-opened.

Saravia remains in hiding. Linares and D’Aubuisson are now both deceased.

During El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, an estimated 75,000 people were killed, and a further 10,000 people vanished. The conflict ended in 1992, following the singing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords.

Tags: Civil War, El Salvador, St. Oscar Romero

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