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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rights group urges El Salvador to repeal amnesty law
Carrie Schimizzi at 12:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged government officials in El Salvador to repeal [press release] a 1993 amnesty law that prevents any investigation [JURIST report] into killings committed during the country's 12-year civil war [PBS backgrounder], including the killing of respected Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive]. AI also urged officials to cooperate with any investigation into the prosecution of those who committed criminal acts during the conflict. No offenders have been brought to justice for any crimes committed during the war. AI deputy director Kerrie Howard recommended the law be immediately repealed:

It is unacceptable that those responsible for thousands of disappearances, killings and torture have not been held to account for their crimes. The Amnesty law must be urgently repealed and full investigations, initiated.

Wednesday marks the thirtieth anniversary of Romero's death.

In November, El Salvador government officials agreed to a state investigation [JURIST report] into the death of Romero, nearly a decade after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [official website] first recommended an inquiry into the murder. Romero was assassinated by a death squad while saying mass in San Salvador. An outspoken critic of the military junta, his death is viewed as one of the catalysts of the war, which left more than 70,000 people dead. In 2004, a US federal court held Alvaro Saravia liable [CJA case backgrounder] for Romero's murder and ordered him to pay $10 million in damages to the archbishop's family. While other suits have been brought [JURIST report] against former Salvadoran state agents in US courts, human rights groups contend that the amnesty laws [ISP report] have undermined the rule of law and led to impunity in El Salvador. Other Latin American countries have recently overturned similar amnesty laws including Uruguay and Argentina [JURIST reports].

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