SUMMARY OF THE FACTS
El Salvador’s history has been shaped by numerous internal conflicts. Clashes occurred at the end of the 70s between the regular army, paramilitary far right groups, and armed groups from the far left. In an attempt to fight the rebel groups, the government set up death squads. In October 1979, a Revolutionary Government Junta came into power following a coup, and sought to conduct centrist policies to which the armed far right groups, the ‘ARENA’ (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista), and the far left groups, the ‘FMLN’ (Frente Martí Liberación Nacional) were opposed. Over the course of twelve years, trained by the United States, the Salvadoran army opposed the FMLN guerrillas. This led to the death of over 70,000 people and disappearances of an unknown number of people, as well as great financial loss.
Throughout the conflict, the regular army of El Salvador was responsible for acts of torture, enforced disappearances and the murder of civilians, most of whom were trade unionists, members of the clergy, farmers, teachers, students, journalists, human rights activists, and all those working for the greater good of the poor, or those suspected of collaborating with the guerrilla forces. Death squads terrorized the people by publishing lists of future victims, or by sending them invitations to their own funerals. In 1980, more people were killed in El Salvador than in all other Latin American countries combined.
COMMISSION OF TRUTH
The conflict ended in 1992 with the signing of the Chapultepec peace treaty negotiated by the UN. Thanks to the treaty, a civil police force was created and the FMLN became a political party. The treaty also put in place a Commission of Truth whose objective was to investigate the acts of violence committed since 1980, and to recommend methods that encourage national reconciliation. Over 22,000 complaints of serious human rights violations committed in El Salvador between January 1980 and July 1991 were recorded by this commission, who then published a report in 1993. The report outlined the responsibilities of various members of the Salvadoran army, the death squads and the FMLN.
However, 5 days after the Commission of Truth’s report was published, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly adopted an amnesty law that covered all crimes committed during the civil war. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights had already stated that it considered the amnesty laws of numerous Latin American countries to be incompatible with the American Convention in regards to human rights, that these laws have no legal effect, and that they should not represent a hindrance to investigations and the opening of prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of human rights violations, and the sentencing of those found guilty. In December 2012 the Court affirmed this view in the El Mozote massacre case and explicitly declared the Salvadoran amnesty law incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights.