The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is continuing to
observe carefully developments in the human rights situation in El
Salvador. In that regard,
the Commission reiterates that it has followed with special interest the
peace process and the objectives attained after signature of the Peace
Agreements concluded between the Salvadoran Government and the Farabundo
Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN).
This report contains an overall assessment of the most recent
developments in El Salvador, following up on the Commission's February
1994 Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador.
The 1994 Special Report summarized the human rights situation in
El Salvador during the eighties, taking into account the sections in
Chapter IV of the Commission's Annual Reports.
Regarding the human rights situation in that decade, the
Commission has stated:
Year after year the Commission called attention to the problems
with the judiciary and its lack of resources -- in the most liberal
sense of the word -- even the occasional opposition to strengthening
that branch of government, and a strikingly uneven standard of living,
where so much of the population lacks the basic services needed to
satisfy their most elementary needs.
The recommendations to improve these areas were made in the hope
and the belief that action on those recommendations would do much to
improve the observance of the fundamental rights and guarantees embodied
in the American Convention on Human Rights, which El Salvador ratified
and of which it is, therefore, a State Party.
Similarly, the 1994 Special Report noted the importance of the
peace process and its relevance to human rights.
In that regard, the Commission recalled in its report that
between 1979 and 1992 it has "repeatedly called for a peaceful and
negotiated settlement of the internal strife."
In the context of the Peace Agreements, the Commission stressed
their importance and impact in the human rights area, in the following
These agreements basically concern four major issues vital to
effective enjoyment of and respect for human rights:
the armed forces; the judiciary; the electoral system, and the
STRUCTURE OF THIS REPORT
The areas to be analyzed in this report are those mentioned by
the Commission's 1994 Special Report on El Salvador.
Although progress has been made, those areas continue to show
delays and problems in implementation.
The Commission points out that, pursuant to its mandate, it must
stress those areas of human rights in which there has not been as much
progress as would be desirable, or in which new situations have emerged
threatening basic rights, and where the Government's response does not
meet the requirements established in the American Convention on Human
The analysis in this report concentrates on new occurrences of
violence, problems in the administration of justice, and compliance with
the Peace Agreements. These are basic issues to which due attention must be paid to
avoid endangering the rights of Salvadoran citizens and the peace
process being consolidated.
In particular, mention is made of the resurgence in 1993 and in
the first half of 1994 of illegal armed groups with similar
characteristics to those of the so-called peace squads.
In July 1994, the Salvadoran Government and ONUSAL published the
Report of the Joint Group for Investigating Politically Motivated
Illegal Armed Groups.
The present Commission's report on El Salvador also refers to the
status of justice administration of the country, particularly in the
penitentiaries, where grave incidents have occurred in recent months.
To obtain the valuable contribution of the Salvadoran Government
for the preparation of this report, the Commission sent a request on
October 25, 1994 for up-to-date information on progress and problems in
the human rights situation in El Salvador.
In its reply, the Salvadoran Government informed the Commission
about newly adopted laws in areas important for the observance of human
rights in the country.
Among the laws mentioned by the Government are Decree Nº 9 of
May 26, 1994 ("Interim Law to Streamline the Issuance of Titles for
Rural Property Included in the Land Transfer Program"), and Decree
Nº 126 of September 8, 1994 ("Interim Law on Measures and
Guarantees for the Application of the Land Transfer Program and Security
of Farm Property").
Mention should also be made, in connection with the policy of
strengthening the judiciary, that the Salvadoran Government enacted
Decision No. 1 of July 29, 1993 ("Regulations for the Law of the
National Council of the Judiciary"), Decree 573 of December 15,
1993 ("Emergency Law to Resolve the Problem of Untried
Prisoners"), and Legislative Decrees No. 133, 134, 135, and 136 of
September 14, 1994 ("Procedural Family Law," "Amendments
to the Judicial Organic Law," "Amendments to the Minor
Offenders Law" -- entending its effective date until March 1995 --,
and "Creation of Family Courts," respectively.
Regarding the National Civilian Police, the Salvadoran Government
enacted Decree Nº 742 of December 8, 1993 ("Establishment of the
Criminal Investigations Division of the National Civilian Police, the
Criminal Investigations Commission") and Decree Nº 32 of April 22,
1994 ("Disciplinary Regulations of the National Civilian
The Commission wishes to stress that the number of individual
petitions submitted to it alleging human rights violations by the
Salvadoran Government has declined appreciably.
That may be due to a number of factors, such as the end of the
armed conflict and readjustment of Salvadoran institutions, which have
generated a much more propitious climate for the observance of human
rights in that country. Also,
the presence of ONUSAL in El Salvador and the work that its Human Rights
Division has been carrying out, including the receipt of complaints, has
resulted in victims filing their petitions with that organization.
In fact, the UN Human Rights Division has noted that complaints
have been declining in 1994, while those submitted to the Office of the
Attorney Delegate for the Defense of Human Rights have begun to
increase, owing to the gradual dismantling of the Mission, which is
scheduled to be terminated on April 30, 1995.
The Commission notes this trend with satisfaction, because it is
the domestic authorities that have the duty of protecting and promoting
human rights in El Salvador, and when the internal remedies are
exhausted, the Commission has a role to play, which in any case would be
subsidiary to the State's primary responsibility.
The Commission observed with satisfaction the conduct of the
first presidential, legislative and municipal elections that took place
in El Salvador after the signing of the 1992 Peace Agreements.
In the election campaign, the Farabundo Martí Front for National
Liberation (FMLN) participated for the first time as a political party.
In fair and free elections, according to international observers,
Dr. Armando Calderón Sol was elected President of the Republic.
Moreover, it is to be noted, as the Commission has repeatedly
stated, that the duties and authorities assigned to it by the American
Convention cannot be modified or suspended by the presence of a
temporary international agency such as ONUSAL, or by the formation of
such entities as the Truth Commission for El Salvador or the Joint
Group. As was stated in the
1994 Special Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
the Commission may refer, among other things, to the information
obtained by ONUSAL to assess and evaluate the present situation in El
Salvador, should that be necessary.
In this regard, the Commission has stated:
Monitoring and analyzing events since the Agreements were signed,
not just in light of the political commitments made by the country but
also its obligations under treaties, has basically been the
responsibility of the United Nations verification bodies. The
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights refers to those bodies the
purely factual aspects of the performance of the commitments undertaken
by the negotiating parties. With these basic terms of reference, the
IACHR will make its evaluations and the pertinent recommendations, in
exercise of its authority under Article 41 of the Convention.
Similarly, the Commission also feels that the reports drawn up by
the Truth Commission and by the Joint Group can be used as authorized
sources of information.
III. RIGHT TO LIFE
AND TO HUMANE TREATMENT
The Commission has on several occasions voiced its deep concern
at the situation of the right to life in El Salvador, and a previous
report pointed out that "the areas in which nonobservance of human
rights has been most severe are those referring particularly to the
right to life."
The situation in El Salvador regarding guarantees for the right
to life and humane treatment has appreciably improved since signature of
the Peace Agreements, particularly with regard to torture and forced
The Commission notes with great satisfaction it has been informed
that since October 1992 no forced disappearances have occurred in El
Salvador. Similarly, the
number of complaints received by ONUSAL for violations of the right to
life have been continually declining since September 1991.
However, the general climate of security for citizens began to
deteriorate in 1993. The number of common crimes increased by 300% between January
and September 1993.
Also, there was a resurgence of arbitrary executions by the
illegal groups known as death squads.
According to information provided to the Commission, the
situation regarding violations of the right to life and to humane
treatment, by illegal armed groups structured as organized crime groups
or as political crime groups, began to improve in the first half of
1994. However, the
situation of public safety from common criminals did not change.
Report of the Joint Group
The presidential elections in El Salvador were on the whole
conducted in a tense but peaceful atmosphere.
The tense atmosphere was due to the background of violence by
illegal armed groups against persons who took part in the armed
Based on these occurrences of violence, ONUSAL and the Salvadoran
Government set up the Joint Group
in late 1993, with the mandate to conduct an investigation on this
matter and make recommendations thereon.
Its report was published in July 1994.
The Report establishes the "possible reactivation" of
politically motivated illegal armed groups, which have primarily
attacked political leaders of the FMLN and ARENA.
The Joint Group considered it necessary to address the subject of
groups having the characteristics of death squads
as well as groups that, although they cannot be placed in the same
category as death squads, have a "structure and operating modality
that could easily be directed toward criminal activities with political
In the Joint Group's view, the politically motivated illegal
armed groups can be characterized by their method of operation (modus
operandi), the profile of their victims and the impunity of their
crimes. Some crimes have
appeared to be "disguised" as common crimes, hiding their real
motive by stealing objects of value from the victims.
The Commission notes that the reports mentioned suggest that,
unlike what happened during the armed conflict, the "illegal armed
groups" identified no longer continue to have an active and
symbiotic relationship with the Government, but their operations are
tolerated by some agents of the State as "private political
violence," a situation described as follows:
[This is] a phenomenon that produces certain acts of politically
motivated violence, but neither criminal organizations nor agents of the
government take part in them. These
are rather situations in which certain criminal acts are due to 'evening
the score.' As such
cases are properly investigated and punished, and taking into account
the spirit of national reconciliation that is seen in various sectors of
the society, it is hoped that this phenomenon will gradually disappear.
Press reports gathered by the Commission have identified some
death squads, known as follows: "Maximiliano
Hernández Martínez Anticommunist Brigade," "Anticommunist
Political Front," "Freedom or Slavery Patriotic
Association," "Salvadoran Proletariat Brigade,"
"Salvadoran Anticommunist Brigade," "White Warriors
Union," "Death Squad - EM," "Organization for
Liberation from Communism," "Anticommunist Front for the
Liberation of Central America (FALCA)," "White Hand," and
The Joint Group Report confidentially gave the names of some
persons regarding whom evidence was obtained indicating their
participation in such illegal groups, which should be investigated to
establish possible responsibility.
On this subject, the Report said:
. . . According to the Joint Group's terms of reference, in
submitting this report confidentially, the entire conduct of its
investigations, including the names of persons identified in the
documents obtained, are being made available to the President of the
Republic, the Vice Minister for Public Security and the Attorney General
of the Republic for them to continue and extend their investigations.
At the same time, this information is being turned over to the
office of the Attorney Delegate for the Defense of Human Rights and the
United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador for supervision and
verification of it.
The findings of the investigations that the Salvadoran Government
is to conduct through the judiciary are of great concern and are awaited
expectantly. This is a
critical step in the present juncture, since, in addition to the obvious
judicial impact on the persons alleged to be responsible, this is
perhaps the most important matter in which the Salvadoran Government
must show its renewed determination in the human rights area.
In general, the judicial investigations should be directed at
dismantling the structures of organized crime, which still continue in
El Salvador, and which are a latent threat for consolidation of the
It should be mentioned that after the Joint Group was set up,
complaints about violence perpetrated by illegal armed groups declined
sharply. In fact, from July
1 to September 30, 1994, according to information received by the
Commission, no politically motivated violations of the right to life
were reported; there is no evidence that this type of politically
motivated violations have been perpetrated in 1994 after the above
mentioned period of time. This
clearly shows that investigation of such acts as those reported have an
immediate deterrent effect, which helped considerably to generate a
climate of peace. However,
El Salvador's permanent institutional organizations must carry out the
work of investigating and punishing these crimes, because when such work
is done by ad hoc agencies, they achieve only short term objectives in
the peace process.
Some Violent Acts
Members of ARENA and FMLN have been murdered in a trend that
began in late 1993 and continued in 1994, although, according to
information furnished to the Commission, there is no evidence in many of
these cases that they were politically motivated.
The numbers of them may not be alarming compared to previous
periods, but the trend in the context of a peace process is worrisome.
The murder of ARENA members, such as Marvin García on November
22, 1993, and the murders of former combatants of the FMLN in 1993, such
as Oscar Grimaldi on August 19, 1993 or Francisco Velis on October 25,
1993, are possible examples of the political violence that has occurred
after signature of the Peace Agreements. Recently, on November 10, 1994, David Marino, former member
of the FMLN was murdered. Two
of his companions, Pablo Parada and Carlos Cortés, were wounded in the
Other events adversely affected the observance of the right to
life. In late November
1994, serious incidents occurred during a transport workers strike in
San Miguel. During street
disorders, law enforcement officers intervened, and three persons were
killed. It is highly
important for the Government to give proper attention to such situations
because they are symptoms of latent conflicts for which the Government's
response, through the National Civilian Police, should be appropriate
and measured to protect the life and personal safety of its citizens and
to punish those who commit atrocities.
The Commission trusts that penal investigations of this type of
crime will not allow such acts to be perpetrated with impunity and that
those responsible will be punished in accordance with the law.
TRANSFER OF LAND AND THE RIGHT TO OWN PROPERTY
Regarding the right to own property, it should be mentioned that
the guarantee of human rights includes "progressive achievement of
full observance of the rights deriving from economic, and social
norms." In that
regard, the program for transfer of land to those demobilized in the
framework of the reintegration of former combatants of the armed forces
and the FMLN is an essential element in effective implementation of the
obligations deriving from Article 2 (Domestic Legal Effects) and Article
26 of the American Convention in the framework of consolidating the
Also, transfer of land, and effective technical and financial aid
constitute a step toward structural implementation of the guarantee of
the right to own land, in the broadest sense, and at the same time, is
the point of departure for application of Article 21 of the American
However, transfer of land to former combatants is the program
that has suffered the most delays under the Peace Agreements, which had
scheduled completion of the process by April 1995.
From April to August 1994, the transfer program was virtually
paralyzed. Currently, it
has not even succeeded in meeting the targets set for late 1993.
Although on August 18, 1994, the Government presented a plan to
speed up land transfer, serious incidents have occurred in carrying that
out. The delay in this
effort has caused unrest among potential beneficiaries, and violent
protests by groups not included as beneficiaries in the Peace
The Commission noted, for example, the takeover of the
Legislative Assembly by demobilized armed forces members on September
26, 1994, who demanded, among other things, that former members of the
be included in the land transfer process.
Other former combatants in the process of reintegration into
civilian life held protest demonstrations on December 15, 1994, because
of the delays mentioned. These
incidents are a sample of what should be prevented by effective and
prompt implementation of the Peace Agreements in this area.
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Regarding the development of the judicial system in El Salvador
and within the framework of the Peace Agreements, it should be pointed
out that justice administration should be one of the cornerstones of
strengthening the peace and of Salvadoran reconciliation.
The basic purpose of this important task should be to do away
with the impunity of criminal acts and to regain public confidence.
The Commission has noted with concern statistics from a rural and
urban survey conducted in the second two weeks of August, 1994.
These figures show how public confidence in the authorities'
ability to control common crime is still very low.
A clear-cut example is that 72.6% of robbery victims have not
reported the crime to the authorities.
In only 24% of the cases reported to the authorities were the
complaints clarified or arrests made.
In the remaining 72.5%, no investigation was made.
From February 1993 to August 1994, public perception of crime
levels has not changed appreciably.
The Commission has also received statistics from ONUSAL to the
same effect. In particular,
it calls attention to the fact that a desirable level of confidence by
Salvadorans in their system of justice has not yet been achieved.
Twenty-five percent of complainants, for example, prefer not to
take their cases to court because of lack of confidence or because of
Of cases that have been taken to court, pretrial proceedings have
been held in only 47%. In fact, from July 1992 to July 1994, no person has been
convicted or sentenced in any of the 75 most serious cases reported to
The Salvadoran Government must increase its efforts to strengthen
the administration of justice because the present evidence is
unsatisfactory in the face of the enormous challenge in re-establishing
the credibility of the judiciary.
The Commission stresses the important renewal of the Supreme
Court, the first step of which was the appointment of new justices to
the bench. The new
membership of the Court has received widespread acceptance in various
sectors of Salvadoran society, which is a positive sign of the recovery
of credibility and confidence in the administration of justice.
The Supreme Court and the National Council of the Judiciary must
play a key role in promoting reforms to the judicial system.
Reforms should include internal purging of the judiciary and
proper operation of the Attorney General's office and the Institute of
It is especially necessary to consider, among the reforms
required in the judiciary, a reduction in the period allowed for
detention, after the detainee has been brought before judicial
authorities, which currently is 72 hours. The American Convention says in article 7.5, that "Any
person detained shall be brought promptly before a judge or other
officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power."
(our underlining). This rule basically indicates that the detainee should be
brought before judicial authorities immediately.
Any period established for detention is only the maximum time
period for cases in which for exceptional reasons, this cannot be done
The need should also be stressed for repealing the old 1886
Police Law and reassigning to the judicial authorities jurisdiction to
hear the offenses covered in that law.
It is also especially urgent to approve new penal codes and codes
of penal procedure as well as a new penitentiary law and judicial career
law. As these efforts
continue to be delayed, solutions for the various problems identified in
the administration of justice will lack a basic legal foundation.
The Commission will continue monitoring those efforts in the
judiciary closely in the hope that in the short run the overall
situation will substantially improve.
Situation of the Penitentiary System
In addition, the Commission is concerned at the fact that in
recent months serious problems and incidents have occurred in the
Salvadoran penitentiary system, which, according to reports received,
have resulted in the injury or death of dozens of prisoners in riots and
These incidents are due, among other things, to crowding, failure
to classify inmates by security level, and lack of basic services.
One of the most proximate causes of these defects is inefficiency
and slowness in administration of justice.
This situation in the penitentiaries also affects various
prisoners' rights. The
crowding and lack of minimum services affects the rights of prisoners to
be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person
(Article 5.2). For
unconvicted prisoners (80% of inmates in El Salvador), the American
Convention stipulates that they should be given separate treatment
appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons and should be
segregated from convicted inmates (Article 5.4).
Another basic right of prisoners that is affected by the present
situation in the penitentiaries is the right to life (Article 4),
because of the tragic results of the riots in the prisons.
The situation of the prison system is one of the symptoms of the
crisis in the administration of justice itself, and is one of the most
important indicators of progress that might be made in strengthening
justice in El Salvador.
It should be borne in mind that the legal system governing
Salvadoran penitentiaries is now being reformed.
In June 1994, the Salvadoran President submitted to the
Legislative Assembly a penitentiary bill.
It was not enacted in 1994, which is a source of deep concern for
the Commission, so it urges the appropriate authorities to take steps to
have the law enacted in the near future.
Obviously, passage of the penitentiary law is one of the steps
urgently needed to overcome the crisis.
However, administration of justice must be reformed as a whole to
seek long term solutions.
Some cases the Commission has learned about, illustrate the
worrisome situations that have been occurring in the Salvadoran
penitentiary system since late 1993, such as the following:
October 29-30, 1993: Prison
of San Francisco Gotera (Department of Morazán).
Prisoners' riot, with three dead and several wounded.
November 19, 1993: Prison
of San Francisco Gotera. Another
riot, with 27 inmates killed and 37 seriously wounded.
According to information provided to the Commission, serious
incidents have continued to occur in prisons in 1994, some of which are
January 17, 1994: Prison
of San Sensutepeque and Cabañas. Riots
because of poor conditions. One
week after, new incidents occurred, with two inmates wounded.
February 24, 1994: Santa
Ana Prison. Riot, with seven inmates dead and a dozen wounded.
March 12, 1994: Atiquiziya
Prison. Prisoners riot because of poor conditions of detention.
May 21, 1994: "La Esperanza" Prison of San Luis Mariona.
Riot with 1 inmate dead. (presently
the prison has a capacity for 800 inmates, but has population of 2400
June 2, 1994: Tonacatepeque Prison.
Riot resulting in the destruction of 30% of the prison building.
August 19, 1994: "La Esperanza" Prison of San Luis
Mariona. Riot with 12
inmates and one guard dead and 23 wounded persons.
August 21, 1994: La Union Prison.
Riot with 3 dead and 18 wounded.
August 25, 1994: San Vicente Prison.
Riot resulting in the destruction of 50%
of the prison building and 15 wounded.
Regarding these incidents, the Commission trusts that appropriate
investigations will be concluded to clarify the facts and establish
responsibility for the incidents. In
particular, it is essential, according to complaints by several
Salvadoran organizations, to determine whether omission or negligence by
Government officials has contributed to the riots by not taking
precautions against them.
Office of the Attorney Delegate for the Defense of Human Rights
The Office of the Attorney Delegate for the Defense of Human
Rights is particularly important in consolidating the Salvadoran peace
process and in promoting and protecting human rights.
There is a natural connection between the work of this office and
that of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, although there
are clear formal differences, since the Commission is an international
organization with duties subsidiary to those of domestic authorities.
Since 1994, the Office of the Attorney Delegate has been
gradually increasing its human rights work.
Complaints that previously were filed with the ONUSAL Human
Rights Division, have begun to be addressed to the Office of the
Attorney Delegate, which is natural and desirable in view of the
withdrawal of that international body, as mentioned above.
The Commission considers that functional and financial
strengthening of the Office of the Attorney Delegate should be a
priority target of the Salvadoran Government, because, according to
information received, it still does not have, two years after its
establishment, sufficient qualified logistic support staff to carry out
properly the work assigned to it.
The National Civilian Police-PNC
The establishment of the National Civilian Police (PNC) and its
gradual deployment throughout El Salvador, as well as the dismantling of
the former National Police, is another of the important human rights
issues covered in the Peace Agreements.
In January 1994, the Government had announced the suspension of
the demobilization of the National Police, arguing the increase in
common crime previously mentioned in this report.
However, during the year, the deployment of the PNC continued,
along with demobilization of the National Police, which was completed in
January 12, 1995. The
Commission considers that proper attention should be paid to purging the
ranks of the PNC.
The Commission has learned with concern about abuses by members
of the National Civilian Police. Their
conduct has been more a matter of lack of expertise in the use of force
than of premeditated politically motivated violence.
The Salvadoran Government must take whatever steps it regards as
appropriate to prevent, investigate and punish these actions by
individual members of that force, in addition to compensating the
victims, where appropriate. In
this connection, it is important to mention the recent appointment of
the PNC Inspector General, since that official ought to serve as a
prevention and internal control mechanism that will help
strengthen the police force.
The PNC is bound to play a fundamental role in consolidating the
Salvadoran peace process and in strengthening security for the public,
which is now seriously affected by the high rates of common crime, in
addition to it being an absolutely essential auxiliary instrument of
justice in eliminating the impunity of criminal acts and guaranteeing
human rights. However, up
to August 1994, the Commission received information showing that the
PNC's efficiency in investigating and resolving robbery cases has not
improved over that of the National Police.
GENERAL AMNESTY LAW FOR THE CONSOLIDATION OF PEACE
It is highly important to repeat the Commission's calls for the
Salvadoran Government to fully comply with its obligations contracted
under the American Convention on Human Rights, of which it is a party.
This involves complying with the Commission's recommendations
contained in reports on individual cases, and the recommendations in the
general reports and special reports.
Pursuant to the powers given it by the American Convention on
Human Rights and in accordance with the case law of the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights ,
the Commission considers it extremely important to stress and reiterate
that the General Amnesty Law for the Consolidation of Peace of March 20,
1993, violates the American Convention, in the same terms as mentioned
in the Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador in 1994:
. . . based on these considerations, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights believes that regardless of any necessity
that the peace negotiations might pose and irrespective of purely
political considerations, the very sweeping General Amnesty Law passed
by El Salvador's Legislative Assembly constitutes a violation of the
international obligations it undertook when it ratified the American
Convention on Human Rights, because the law makes possible a 'reciprocal
amnesty' without first acknowledging responsibility (despite the
recommendations of the Truth Commission); because it applies to crimes
against humanity, and because it eliminates any possibility of obtaining
adequate pecuniary compensation, primarily for victims.
Therefore, the Commission recommends that the Salvadoran
Government take the necessary steps to repeal the Amnesty Law mentioned,
in accordance with the points made herein, in order to investigate and
punish those responsible for violating the basic rights of persons and
to compensate the victims.
VII. FINAL COMMENTS,
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The Commission recognizes the progress in human rights El
Salvador has made since signing the Peace Agreements.
Institutional reforms have now been started in areas important
for human rights (administration of justice, penal legislation, National
Civilian Police, military forces and transfer of land, among other).
The Commission considers these reforms to be very positive and
trusts that they will be completed satisfactorily in the near future.
It is the Commission's view that consolidation of the peace
process still requires ongoing monitoring by the international
community, particularly in view of the fact that ONUSAL's mandate in El
Salvador is to end on April 30, 1995.
The fragility of the process is still evident, so it is
essential, in assisting the Government in its efforts, to maintain and
multiply the efforts of the international community in the country.
Similarly, the democratic process and the protection of human
rights require broad participation by the civil society in peaceful
debate and support of the Government institutions that are now being
renewed. The Commission
urges all community leaders in the country to perform their duty as
principal actors in this process, as persons entitled to fundamental
rights and as those responsible for consolidating the peace and respect
for human rights in El Salvador.
The Commission also considers that compliance with the
recommendations on human rights made by various international
governmental agencies that have acted in the framework of the Peace
Agreements would represent a major step in consolidating and improving
democracy in El Salvador.
Moreover, the Commission calls upon the Salvadoran Government to
renew its commitment to respect and guarantee human rights in that
country, by strengthening its relations with the inter-American system
for protecting and promoting human rights.
In that regard, the Commission receives with satisfaction the
deposit of the OAS instrument of ratification from El Salvador of the
Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture on December 5,
1994, and urges it to ratify those human rights treaties of the
inter-American system that are still pending, which would assist in
attaining the goal indicated.
In addition, acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights is a highly important step, and since it is very
concrete, it would be a real demonstration of the Salvadoran
Government's current commitment to human rights.
In other words, this is a step that, unlike others, does not
require resources to be available for implementing it, but requires only
real and present political will and confidence in the process of
democratic consolidation in El Salvador.
Likewise, it is highly important for the Salvadoran Government to
give its acquiescence for the Commission to make an on-site visit to
that country. The
Commission has expressed its interest many times in making such a visit,
and repeats its willingness to directly verify and learn about
developments in the Salvadoran situation regarding the observance,
promotion and defense of human rights.
Regarding the Truth Commission, the IACHR said in its 1994
Special Report on El Salvador that "inasmuch as the work of the
Truth Commission and its specific recommendations are directly
related to the international commitments undertaken by El Salvador
in the human rights area by virtue of its ratification of such
instruments as the American Convention on Human Rights, the IACHR
can only urge again that the Truth Commission's recommendations be
implemented, and call upon the Salvadoran authorities to promptly
take the specific measures dealing fundamentally with the
administration of justice, administrative punishment for the persons
found responsible, and compensation for victims."
The Joint Group was composed of two representatives of
the Salvadoran Government, the Office of the Attorney Delegate for
Defense of Human Rights and the Director of the ONUSAL Division of
The Joint Group Report used the definition of
"death squadrons" that the Truth Commission used in
drafting its report. It
calls them "organizations of groups of persons usually dressed
in civilian clothes, heavily armed, who act clandestinely and hide
their affiliation or identity. . ., linked to government structures
by active participation or by tolerance" and that ceased to be
a marginal phenomenon and became an instrument of terror and
systematic elimination of political opponents."
(Report of the Truth Commission on El Salvador, p. 139).
Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Latin America
FBIS-LAT-94-217, November 9, 1994.
Referring to surveys conducted by the University Institute of
Public Opinion of the Central American University.
In Advisory Opinion OC-14/94 of December 9, 1994, the Court
has reiterated what it said in its Advisory Opinion OC-13/93, in
pointing out that the Commission actually has the authority to
establish whether a law violates the American Convention without
having to make such a declaration in the framework of an individual
case that the Commission is processing, so as to comply with its
duties of promoting and protecting human rights: "The Commission may recommend to the State the repeal or
amendment of a law violating the Convention, and for that purpose,
it is sufficient that such a law comes to the Commission's notice by
any means, whether or not the law is applied in a specific case. This opinion and recommendation may be conveyed by the
Commission directly to the State (Art. 41.b) or in the report
referred to in Articles 49 and 50 of the Convention."