Inocente Orlando Montano Morales

18.10.2016 ( Last modified: 29.11.2017 )
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Facts

Inocente Orlando Montano Morales was born on 4 July 1943 in San Vincente, El Salvador. In 1989 Orlando Montano held the rank of Colonel in the Salvadoran army and served as Vice Minister of Defense and Public Safety.

From 1980 to 1992, El Salvador was divided by an internal armed conflict between the rebel Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the Government, led by the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

In this context, on 16 November 1989, six Jesuit priests, a cook and her 16 years old daughter were killed at the Pastoral centre of José Simeón Cañas Central American University in San Salvador (UCA). The victims were Fathers Ignacio Ellacuría, Rector of the University; Ignacio Martín-Baró, Vice-Rector; Segundo Montes, Director of the Human Rights Institute; Armando López, Joaquín López y López and Juan Ramón Moreno, all teachers at UCA; and Elba Ramos and her daughter, Celina Ramos.

These murders were investigated by a Truth Commission, established during the Chapultepec Peace Accords in 1992. The truth commission found that there were substantial evidence that on the 15 November 1989, then Colonel René Emilio Ponce, in collusion with General Juan Rafael Bustillo, then Colonel Juan Orlando Zepeda, Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano and Colonel Francisco Elena Fuentes, gave Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides the order to kill Father Ignacio Ellacuría and to leave no witnesses.

On 16 November 1989, a group of soldier from the Atlacatl Battalion entered the Pastoral Centre of the UCA. The soldiers initially tried to force their way into the building, until the priests opened the doors to them, allowing them to enter. The priests were forced to lie face down in the back garden, while the soldiers searched the residence.

The lieutenant Guerra allegedly gave the order to kill the priests. Private Grimaldi allegedly shot and killed Fathers Ellacuria, Martín-Baró and Montes, while Deputy Sergeant Antonio Ramiro Avalos Vargas allegedly killed Fathers López and Moreno.

Subsequently, Father Joaquín López y López was allegedly killed by Pérez Vasquez, while Deputy Sergeant Tomás Zarpate Castillo shot Julia Elba Ramos and her daughter Celina Mariceth Ramos. Private José Alberto Sierra Ascencio returned and shot them both again to make sure they were dead.

Finally, according to the Truth Commission, the soldiers fired a machine gun at the façade of the residence, as well as rockets and grenades. They allegedly left a cardboard indicating “FMLN executed those who informed on it. Victory or death, FMLN.”

Legal Procedure

Procedure in the USA:

On 23 August 2011, US authorities arrested Orlando Montano under charges of federal immigration fraud. He was indicted on 10 February 2012 for false declarations to the US authorities regarding the date of his entry to the territory and his military training in El Salvador. On September 2012, he pled guilty, acknowledging he had given false statements. His trial took place in August 2013 and he was sentenced to 21 months in prison on 27 August 2013.

Procedure in Spain

On 13 November 2008, the Spanish Association for Human Rights (APDHE) and the Centre for Justice and Accountability (CJA) filed a complaint before the Spanish National Court against former Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani Burkard and 14 former military officers and soldiers for their alleged roles in the killings of the 6 Jesuit Priests, their housekeeper and her daughter and the cover-up of these crimes.

On January 13, 2009, Judge Eloy Velasco, the judge of the Sixth Chamber of the Spanish National Court, formally charged 14 former officers with murder, crimes against humanity and state terrorism for their role in the massacre. Those indicted included including Colonel Ponce, former head of the Armed Forces at the time of the murders, General Rafael Humberto Larios, former Minister of Defence, Colonel Juan Orlando Zepeda, former Vice Minister of Defence, and Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano, former Vice Minister for Public Safety.

On 31 March 2011 Spain issued an international arrest warrant against Orlando Montano and 19 other former Salvadoran military officials for their involvement in the murders of 16 November 1989. Due to a revision to the Spanish laws in 2014, the charges on the 2011 arrest warrant were limited to terrorism and murder, on the ground that five of the murdered Jesuit priests were Spanish citizens.

On 30 May 2011, the Spanish National Court issued an indictment which added six new defendants to the original fourteen. The court also issued international arrest warrants for all the accused.

On 4 November 2011, the Spanish authorities issued a request for extradition urging the US authorities to allow the extradition of Orlando Montano from the USA to Spain to face trial for the murder of the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter.

On 5 January 2016, a judge from the Eastern District of North Carolina granted the extradition request for Orlando Montano to Spain. On 1 April 2016, his lawyers filed a petition for a writ seeking habeas corpus to reverse the extradition order.

On 21 August 2017, the US Eastern district court of North Carolina dismissed his petition for habeas corpus finding no irregularity in the extradition proceedings and no basis upon which the petitioner’s request for release could be granted.

On 15 November 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed Orlando Montano’s last request to halt his extradition to Spain.

On 29 November 2017, he was extradited to Spain and placed under police custody.

Context

In January 1932, a peasant revolt against the regime was crushed and 30’000 civil, mainly indigenous people, were massacred by the military. After this event, the Salvadoran military dominated the government, and the conflict between the left and the right wings became a feature of the country.

On October 15, 1979, moderate officers overturned the dictator Carlos Humberto Romero and formed the Revolutionary Government Junta (JRG). In January 1980, right-wing violence broke out, including bombings against government newspapers, kidnappings and murder.

On 24 March 1980, Archbishop Romero who denounced the death squad slaughters and preached for justice was assassinated. On the day of his funerals, where 250’000 persons gathered in the cathedral in San Salvador, snipers attacked the crowd, and killed 42, and wounded 200. This massacre triggered the civil war which will last for 12 years.

In December 1980, four American churchwomen were raped and murdered, allegedly by military and paramilitary forces. Despite these outrageous human rights violation, the US President Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, reasserted his support to the Salvadoran military government

Throughout the 1980s, the El Salvador’s civil war opposed the US-backed Salvadoran military forces and paramilitary forces against the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, created in September 1980 by the five major leftist revolutionary organizations. Systematic human rights violations were committed, such as torture, mutilation, forced disappearance, extrajudicial killing and rape.

The atrocity of the Jesuit Massacre in Novembre 1989 led to the creation of a special investigative task force by the US Congressman Joseph Moakley. Its findings revealed that the high command officers of the Salvadoran army had been responsible for the murders of the Jesuits.

The report also presented an international process to end the conflict and to reduce the US support to the rightwing Salvadoran government– which had reached approximately US$ 4 billion, including money, weapons and training in assistance to El Salvador’s military during the conflict.

It is estimated that 75’000 people died during the civil war, which ended with the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Agreements on 16 January 1992. An UN-backed Truth Commission was established to investigate the abuses committed since 1980. The Commission presented its final report on 15 March 1993, documenting thousands of killings, disappearances and torture. The experts named individuals allegedly responsible for human rights violations and attributed the overwhelming majority of the human rights abuses to the Salvadoran armed forces and the paramilitaries. The Commission set out a series of recommendations, calling for investigations to be carried out and for those responsible for human rights violations to be brought to justice.

On March 20, 1993, five days after the release of this report and recommendations, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly adopted a blanket amnesty law, preventing prosecutions of wartime atrocities. In 1999, the Inter-American Commission considered that El Salvador’s amnesty law violated international law by foreclosing further investigation in the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests and two women.

On 14 July 2016, the Constitutional Court judged that the 1993 amnesty law is unconstitutional and violates El Salvador’s international obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions. It also ruled that the statute of limitations does not apply to crimes against humanity. The ruling states that the government has an obligation to “investigate, identify and sanction the material and intellectual authors of human rights crimes and grave war crimes” and to provide reparations to victims.

The annulation of this blanket amnesty will hopefully lead to the investigation and prosecution of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the 12 years long civil war.

Fact Sheet
Name: Inocente Orlando Montano Morales
Nationality: Salvadoran
Charges: Murder; terrorism
Status: Extradited
Judgement Place: United States; Spain
Particulars: Extradited to Spain on 29 November 2017 and placed under pre-trial detention.