In effect, the report concludes that Colonel Antonio Rivas Mejía, Chief
of the Investigation Commission, the agency that was initially in charge of the
investigation, "knew the facts of the case and concealed the truth"
and "recommended to Colonel Benavides that he take steps to destroy
As well, Col. Nelson Iván López y López, of the Investigation
Commission, also concealed the truth of the events.
With respect to this officer, it is important to note that he was
assigned to the Investigation Commission by Colonel René Emilio Ponce, to whom
the Truth Commission attributes the decision, together with other officers, to
arrange the extra-judicial executions and to order Colonel Benavides to carry
With respect to the Special Honor Commission, one of its members, the
lawyer Rodolfo Antonio Parker Soto, " altered statements in order to
conceal the involvement of high-ranking officers in the assassinations.”
With respect to the material authors of the crime, the report states:
“The only persons found guilty of murder were Colonel Guillermo Alfredo
Benavides Moreno and Lieutenant Yusshy René Mendoza Vallecillos”, who were
officers of the Military Academy. In other words, none of the members of the
Atlacatl Battalion, whose involvement was expressly recognized by the Truth
Commission, were convicted of the murder, despite the fact that Lt. Espinoza,
Lt. Guevara Cerritos and the other four members of the battalion confessed their
crimes in their extra-judicial statements.
The Truth Commission's report states in this respect that there is
substantial evidence to show that Col. René Emilio Ponce gave Col. Benavides
"the order to kill Father Ellacuría and to leave no witnesses" and
that "to this end he was to use a unit of the Atlacatl Battalion".
The report then states, among other things, that there is full evidence
that subsequently all of these officers, and others who were aware of the
events, took steps to conceal them. The
report adds that there is substantial proof that Col. Oscar Alberto León
Linares, Commander of the Atlacatl Battalion, knew of the murders and concealed
The circumstances as documented show that senior officials in charge of
the investigation set themselves the objective of preventing a complete,
impartial and effective investigation, and of covering up the involvement of
specific perpetrators. In fact, given that the officials mentioned in the preceding
paragraphs knew the truth and concealed it, there is no doubt that the
investigation was designed to conceal the full truth in order to prevent the
prosecution and punishment of all the authors of the extra-judicial executions.
Other evidence reinforcing the conclusions of the Truth Commission
Former prosecutors Henry Campos and Sidney Blanco
For greater certainty, the IACHR has also considered the public
statements made by Henry Campos and Sidney Blanco, former prosecutors assigned
to the investigation of the case. Those
former State officials declared in a televised interview that there was no
desire on the part of official agencies to conduct a real investigation.
In that interview, they announced that they were resigning their
positions, because the Public Prosecutor had consistently placed obstacles in
their efforts to undertake a serious and full investigation of the
In this respect, the former prosecutors declared that the Public
Prosecutor had prohibited them from attending the questioning of certain
witnesses and from cross-examining them. The
Public Prosecutor also prevented them from taking routine steps to shed light on
The former prosecutors declared that the first Public Prosecutor in
charge of the case showed no interest in it and took no part in the proceedings.
The new Public Prosecutor, for his part, placed severe restrictions on
the prosecutors working on the case to prevent them from fulfilling their duty,
and this led them to resign. The
former officials related that they suffered considerable pressure to abandon
their pursuit of the case.
Former prosecutor Blanco stated moreover that "any person who takes
the trouble to examine the record will arrive at the very logical conclusion
that in this case, Col. Benavides could not have acted alone, and that he must
have had the support of other, high-ranking officers in order to take such an
important decision." The former officials explained that the involvement of
senior military officers in the murders is clear from the decision to carry out
the initial house search, and from the failure of the Armed Forces to respond
immediately when shooting erupted.
Corroboratory reports on the investigation and prosecution of the murder
of the Jesuits
It should be noted that several academic, professional and
non-governmental entities submitted reports on the investigations and on the
trials relating to this case. Those
reports offer conclusions consistent with those of the Truth Commission.
One such report was prepared by the International Human Rights Law
Institute of De Paul University, Chicago, which was invited by the president of
the Supreme Court of El Salvador to send an observer to the Jesuit murders
The report notes that the State did not conduct a serious investigation
into the possible involvement of high-ranking military officers.
On the contrary, it finds that the military conducted a series of
cover-up operations intended to conceal the identity of those responsible.
As well, the report finds that the investigation conducted by the
Investigation Commission and the Honor Commission lacked all credibility.
In particular, it declares that neither of these entities has been able
to justify the manner of identifying the nine officers who were tried.
The judicial summary, to which are added the extra-judicial reports of
the Investigation Commission, the body that was originally responsible for the
investigation, provides sufficient evidence to show that that Commission failed
to carry out a full and timely investigation, and that essential evidence
disappeared, or was even destroyed. This
allowed the military to organize a far-reaching cover-up operation.
A graphic example is the destruction of the log books of the Military
Academy, since when Judge Zamora asked for them, it was found that they had been
incinerated in December 1989.
With respect to the incineration of the entry and exit records, Lt.
Yusshy René Mendoza declared before the Fourth Criminal Court of San Salvador
that he had burned the log books of the Military Academy, dating back to the
beginning of 1989, under orders from his superiors.
The officer responsible for these records, Juan René Arana Aguilar,
declared on June 4, 1990, that at some point during the first two weeks of
December, Major Carlos Camilo Hernández had ordered him to produce all the
records since 1989, because they were to be burned.
Arana said that Lt. Mendoza had come to retrieve the records but that,
although he knew that the records had been burned, he did not know who had done
The Investigation Commission, in its report of March 29, 1990 to the
Fourth Criminal Court (Nº 017OUE/990) merely stated that the Director of the
"Captain General Barrios" Military Academy had ordered an
investigation into the whereabouts of the "records of news, entries and
exits of chiefs and officers and other personnel" kept in the guardhouse
during November 1989, and that it had been established that:
Those books were burned: Mr. Juan René
Arana Aguilar, who at that time was acting in charge of the general registry of
the institution, on a date that he does not recall, but that was between
December 1 and 16, 1989, testified that he received a verbal order from the
Subdirector, the then Major Carlos Camilo Hernández, to find the books for
1989, and to advise him when they were ready, because they were going to be
burned; that at approximately 9 p.m. he reported that he had carried out the
order; that subsequently, at midnight, Lt. Mendoza and four cavalry cadets,
whose identity he could no longer recall, came to the registry and took away the
books, saying they were going to burn them; he remembered this because he was sleeping in the registry
office on that day.
The IACHR considers that these acts were intended to conceal the role of
the material and the intellectual authors of the Jesuit murders, since those
records would have shown who had entered and left the Military Academy on the
day of the murders, and the days previous thereto. In
this respect, it must be noted that the orders to conduct, first, the search and
then the murder of the Jesuits were issued from the Military Academy, which was
the command headquarters for the security zone created on November 13 by the
Estado Mayor. The records in
question would have provided key evidence for determining the guilt of all the
authors of this crime.
Moreover, the Investigation Commission made no attempt at any time to
answer the key question as to who ordered the murders.
Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Antonio Rivas Mejía, chief of the Executive
Unit of the Investigation Commission at the time of the crimes, declared
explicitly before the Court that there was no investigation of the Estado
Mayor of the Armed Forces, "since that institution is responsible for
the entire country, while the security commando was responsible solely for the
Military Complex, and since those responsible for the murders had been
identified, it was not necessary to undertake such an investigation".
The investigation was flawed from the outset, since the Investigation
Commission's detectives failed even to cordon off the scene of the crime to
prevent evidence from being tampered with.
According to the Investigation Commission's reports, two of its
detectives arrived at the scene of the crime at 9.10 on the morning of November
16, some seven hours after the murders had been committed.
They began to take photographs and to collect physical evidence:
projectiles, bullet casings, fingerprints etc.
They also began to prepare plans and to question possible witnesses.
Other potentially important evidence found at the scene of the crime was
simply ignored by the Investigation Commission's agents.
The Investigation Commission received the first information implicating
the Atlacatl Battalion on November 17, 1989, during interviews with police
officers stationed at the Torre Democracia [“Democracy Tower”], located at the junction of
the Autopista Sur [“Southern Expressway”] with Avenue Albert Einstein.
Sub-Sergeant Germán Orellana Vásquez, of the national police battalion,
and agent Victor Manuel Orellana Hernández, who were both on duty from midnight
until 7 a.m. on November 16, told the Investigation Commission that they saw
armored cars and soldiers of the Atlacatl Battalion pass by.
They also said that, around 2:00 in the morning, they heard shooting and
explosions, both distant and close by.
On December 5, 1989, two lieutenants of Military Detachment Nº 7 that
took part in the operation revealed that there were troops of their unit in the
abandoned buildings that were used by the Atlacatl Battalion as a meeting point
before launching its action on November 16, 1989.
Despite this, not a single member of the patrol from Military Detachment
Nº 7 admitted having seen soldiers of the Atlacatl Battalion that night, or
having heard any vehicles go by. In
light of the statements by men of that battalion,
and given the circumstances of that night, which included a curfew lasting 12
hours, it is simply impossible to believe that these soldiers and vehicles were
neither seen nor heard, since they were in exactly the same place.
In his testimony as a military expert, on May 27, 1991, the Argentine
Colonel José Luis García said:
The statements of Colonel García can only reinforce those taken earlier
by the Investigation Commission. Police
officer Juan Antonio Navarro Artiga told the Investigation Commission that any
troops moving about would have to report by radio to the soldiers in the zone,
or risk being shot. From the
beginning of the curfew, at 6:00 in the afternoon, according to Navarro, there
were standing orders to shoot at any unidentified vehicle.
Corporal Angel Pérez Vásquez, who later confessed to having killed
Father López y López, told the Investigation Commission that "with
respect to the murder of the six Jesuit priests, the first he knew of it was
some two weeks after leaving the Military Academy, when he read about it in a
newspaper ". Private Juan
Antonio González Torres actually maintained that he had heard nothing about the
death of the Jesuits until the date he gave his testimony, on 28 December.
Declarations of this kind, intended to conceal rather than reveal the
truth, were the rule, not only from the first witnesses, but from the hundreds
of members of the Salvadoran Armed Forces on active duty, who were not ashamed
to commit perjury before the Court.
On December 22, 1989, Father Tojeira delivered new evidence to the
Investigation Commission, including the handwritten sign implicating the FMLN,
which was left at the pedestrian entrance to the UCA, and some bullet casings,
an empty beer can found at the scene of the murders, and two cigarette butts.
The Investigation Commission immediately ordered the appropriate
laboratory analysis and requested handwriting tests of all commandos in the
Atlacatl Battalion. On January 14,
1990, the handwriting analysis showed that the words "We have executed the
dirty informers. Victory or
death…FLMN" could have been written by Sub-Lieutenant Guevara Cerritos or
by Sub-Sergeant Avalos Vargas. Some
witnesses later declared that they had seen Sub-Lieutenant Guevara Cerritos
writing something on the sign.
The first communication between the Investigation Commission and Colonel
Benavides to appear in the record is dated January 3, 1990, when Lieutenant
Colonel Rivas asked whether any of his men had used flares in the vicinity of
UCA between 6 p.m. on November 15, 1989, and 7 a.m. the following day.
Despite the great volume of evidence recognized by this body to that
date, the results were very thin. Nothing
positive was obtained from any of the fingerprints taken,
the handwriting analysis was inconclusive, and the ballistic tests provided no
useful information. The British
police (Scotland Yard) criticized the manner in which the Investigation
Commission handled the tests, because it created confusion and made it
impossible to tell where each object had been found.
Worse, the Investigation Commission never completed the ballistic tests, nor was
it ever able to link any of the accused to the crime on the basis of such tests.
On January 3, experts of the Investigation Commission had determined that
some of the ammunition casings found at the scene corresponded to bullets fired
from the M-16 rifle assigned to private Victor Antonio Delgado Pérez, of the
Atlacatl Battalion commando unit. Fifty-three
casings found in the walls of the Centro Monseñor Romero came from his M-16.
Yet there remained 73 casings to be compared with samples taken from
commandos of the Atlacatl Battalion.
On January 4, the ballistics experts reported that they had identified a
second M-16, belonging to Private Neftali Ruiz Ramírez,
as having fired 41 casings at the north side of the Centro Monseñor Romero.
It is important to note that the two soldiers to whom the rifles belonged
were never tried. It is
inexplicable, moreover, that the Investigation Commission did not question Col.
Benavides until January 1990, in light of the fact that he was commander of the
military security zone in which the UCA was located, and that there had been
shooting and explosions at the university that night, attributed to the FMLN.
Only one of Col. Benavides’ subordinates, Capt. García Oliva (who was
named by Col. Ponce as the officer in charge of the troops stationed to the
South and Southwest of the University) was questioned.
Nor is there any indication that the Investigation Commission took any
statement from the then Director of the Military Academy, Major Camilo Hernández,
to determine what had happened that night.
Major Hernández, now promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, was subsequently
tried for "cover-up", accused of destroying evidence, and was
sentenced to three years in prison.
Although every indication pointed to military involvement, the official
posture of the Army and of the civilian authorities during November and December
1989 was to place the blame on the FMLN. An
anonymous letter from "junior officers" accused Col. Hernández, then
director of the Treasury Police, of complicity in the murders: he denied that
accusation on December 9, 1989, in a sworn statement given to the Investigation
Commission. He concluded his
statement by saying that "terrorist delinquents" commit this kind of
crime in order to discredit the Armed Forces, by making people believe that it
is the Army that has committed them.
The investigation by the Honor Commission
113. In early January 1990, officials of the United States Embassy provided the Salvadoran High Command with information linking Col. Benavides to the crime. This revelation led to the appointment by President Cristiani of a Special Honor Commission, the predominant role of which was to minimize damage to the Army and to restrict the scope of the investigation. It was during these two weeks that the names of the nine accused were given, but the process by which they were identified has never been clarified. It was also during this period that seven of the nine accused confessed their involvement in the crimes before the Investigation Commission. Their extra-judicial confessions remain the best and most complete record of the events in question. Until that moment, no one had been accused of the crime.
From the beginning, the objectives and activities of the Honor Commission
were shrouded in mystery. The names
of its members were not released, even to the judge hearing the case, until
March 1990. On March 21, President Cristiani responded to a request from
Judge Zamora, of March 5, with a copy of a letter from General Larios in which
those names appear. The Honor
Commission was made up of an officer from each rank, from general to captain,
and two civilian lawyers.
The members of the Honor Commission also said explicitly that Lt. Col.
Rivas Mejía gave the names of the nine accused to them, as chief of the
Investigation Commission. Inexplicably,
both the Investigation Commission and the Honor Commission said that it was the
other body that provided the names.
The Investigation Commission made no further effort to continue the
investigation, despite its legal obligation to do so.
The IACHR considers that, as of that moment, there was an agreement to
limit the investigation to these persons alone.
The members of the Honor Commission deny having identified the names of
the accused on the basis of their own investigation, and they describe their
task as that of simply "exhorting" the suspects to tell the truth. Nowhere is it made clear how it was determined who should be
accused, or who made that decision, or why this information was not made public.
The report of the Honor Commission, which consists of seven pages and two
annexes, sheds no light at all on the internal working mechanisms of the
Commission, or on how it arrived at the conclusions found in the summary.
Broadly speaking, the document indicates the reasons that led to creation
of the Honor Commission, explains that the Investigation Commission had
determined the "possible involvement of elements of the Armed Forces"
and adds that "this Commission was appointed to support the investigation
into the case". It relates
succinctly the names of the soldiers and of the persons killed by them.
In its conclusions, the report declares that "the events involved
the responsibility" of the nine accused, and "recommends" that
"they be turned over to the competent civilian tribunals".
The description of the events that is given in the report coincides with
that to be found in the summary. The
report makes no reference as to how members of the Honor Commission were able to
obtain that information.
In light of the foregoing, the IACHR concludes that the Investigation
Commission, the authority responsible for investigating the case, failed to
fulfill its task properly, since it did not immediately undertake procedures
that are normal in the case of such a crime.
The Investigation Commission allowed evidence to disappear, and even to
be intentionally destroyed, and it gave the suspects plenty of time to formulate
alibis and to succeed in their efforts at cover-up.
While this attitude changed following the report of the Honor Commission,
all the facts suggest that an effort was made to restrict the investigation to
the nine suspects identified in that report.
From that time on, the Investigation Commission deepened its
investigation, but only with respect to the nine persons who were finally tried,
and it made no attempt to discover those responsible for masterminding the
operation within the higher ranks of the Armed Forces.
The operation of November 15 and the lack of reaction from the Estado Mayor
The operation of November 15, which resulted in the murder of the Jesuit
priests and Mrs. Ramos and her daughter, was carried out in the most heavily
patrolled sector of the city, and lasted approximately half an hour.
During the attack, high-powered weapons were used against the Monseñor
Romero Theology Center. Commandos
of the Atlacatl Battalion used their M-16 rifles, anti-tank rockets and
grenades, and even started a fire. Such
was the intensity of the heat generated by the assault that several nearby
window panes were broken.
The soldiers stationed in the vicinity of the UCA, and the officers who
were inside the Estado Mayor headquarters, testified that they heard an enormous
amount of shooting at the University. Some
even said that they were concerned that there might be an attack against the
Military Complex itself. Nevertheless,
according to the summary, no one made the slightest effort to investigate what
was happening or to respond to the shooting.
This suggests that they were well aware of the origin of the explosions,
and the reason for them; had it been otherwise, they would have reacted to such
a tremendous noise.
121. The noise produced during the shooting of the Jesuits (machine-gun fire and automatic assault rifles, grenade explosions and rockets) could be heard perfectly well from the Estado Mayor headquarters. "On hearing these explosions, there was extreme concern at headquarters", recalls Col. Carlos Armando Avilés. "For the first time, they feared an attack on the vital nerve center of the Armed Forces, the Estado Mayor and the Ministry of Defense". Another officer who was present that night, the head of the Counter-Intelligence Department, Major René Guillermo Contreras Barrera, "heard heavy explosions and detonations near the Estado Mayor and he judged them to be coming from the direction of the UCA."
policy of cover-up and its beneficiaries: the Atlacatl Battalion
The institutional policy of cover-up was intended to create a protective
shield of impunity around the intellectual authors, as well as those material
authors who had not been individually named by the Honor Commission.
Thus, for example, several witnesses whose testimony appears in the
summary noted that troops of the Atlacatl Battalion were stationed in the
vicinity of the UCA at the approximate time of the killings.
Nevertheless, the head of the Estado Mayor, Col. Ponce, made no mention
of the Atlacatl Battalion when he reported to the court, for the first time,
that troops were deployed in the area. Moreover,
several soldiers who mentioned the presence of the Atlacatl Battalion later
changed their statements and said that they had seen no such thing in the zone.
This suggests an attempt to conceal the presence of the Atlacatl
policy of cover-up for the Estado Mayor
The policy of cover-up was also carried out, and very effectively, with
respect to officers of the High Command who took the decision to conduct the
It is important to recall that on November 15, 1989, from 8 o'clock in
the morning of that day until 8 o'clock on the morning of the following day, the
command of the Joint Operations Center of the Armed Forces (COCFA),
at the Estado Mayor, was in the hands
of Col. Nelson Iván López y López, chief of C-1 of the Estado Mayor. Lt. Raul
Antonio Mejía Chávez, of C-2 (intelligence), Major Oscar Joaquín Martínez of
an officer of the Air Force and a radio technician were also on duty.
The chief of C-3, Col. Joaquín Arnoldo Cerna Flores, was at headquarters
until about one or two o'clock in the morning, as was stated in Court on
September 21, 1990. Members of the
High Command were at headquarters until two in the morning, when the killers
were already within the UCA premises.
Moreover, it must be recalled that the operation of November 15, 1989,
took place during the curfew decreed on November 11, and within the special
security zone that included the vicinity of the UCA, a few blocks from which
were the headquarters of the Estado Mayor, the Ministry of Defense, the Military
Academy, the National Intelligence Directorate (DNI), the San Benito battalion
of the national police, and two military residential quarters, Colonia Arce and
The IACHR considers that, if the High Command had not consented to the
operation, the security forces would have reacted and would have gone to the
scene of the crime. Yet this did
not occur, and the brutal killings were committed with impunity in the midst of
loud shooting and bombs that shattered the silence imposed by the curfew.
One of the persons who attended the meeting of November 15, 1989,
declared to the "San Francisco Examiner", a U.S. newspaper, that this
meeting "was the most tense and desperate meeting of the highest commanders
in the country since the war against the leftist insurgents had begun 10 years
It is difficult to believe that a military operation that was conducted
on that very day, only a few blocks from the High Command, and that involved so
much movement of troops and so much noise from shooting and explosions, could
have gone unnoticed by the High Command, especially when several of its members
had remained at headquarters until the early hours of the morning of November
The nature of the operation itself, the meeting held by the High Command
on November 15, the date of the murders, the decision to name Benavides two days
earlier as chief of the new security zone, and the hierarchical structure of the
Armed Forces, all suggest that the decision could not have been taken in
isolation by Col. Benavides alone. On
the contrary there is much circumstantial evidence to indicate that Col.
Benavides was acting as part of a broader military conspiracy, as was recognized
in the report of the Truth Commission.
In this respect, it is interesting to note the formal statement given on
January 11, 1990, by retired Col. Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez, who was considered in
his day to be one of the most effective field commanders in El Salvador.
Ochoa declared to the newspaper “El
Diario de Hoy” that he hoped the investigation would not be limited to the
lower ranks of the military, because someone higher up had to have given the
order. According to the news
service "Agence France Presse", Ochoa said: "This action involved
officers of much more senior rank, and even if a general or colonel is involved,
the guilty parties must be punished".
On May 18, 1990, at the request of the Public Prosecutor, Col. Ochoa gave
a written statement in answer to the questions posed by Judge Zamora.
During an interview on the American television program "60
Minutes”, aired on April 22, 1990, Col. Ochoa made his accusation more
explicitly. According to him, a
smaller group of officers got together after the full general staff meeting on
the night of November 15. Ochoa
declared that during that meeting Col. Benavides received the express order to
kill the Jesuits:
A group of commanders stayed behind.
Each of them was responsible for one of the zones of San Salvador.
They gave an order to kill leftists, and this is what Benavides did.
I say again, Benavides was obeying orders, it was not his decision.
Col. Ochoa's statement was promptly seconded by a group of junior
officers, calling themselves "Domingo Monterrosa lives".
On May 3, 1990, these officers published a five-page communiqué
addressing several issues, including the case of the Jesuits.
The anonymous group said "the Ochoa case deserves to be looked into
more closely. His position is
supported by many of us junior officers, as well as some of our superiors, and
he has stated something that many of us are unable to express because we would
be severely punished."
The junior officers went on to ask: "What happened during the
meeting that was held between 3 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon in Col.
Zepeda’s office, involving not only Col. Benavides but other, lower-ranking
officers? The High Command knows
all about this."
There has never been any serious attempt to investigate the truth of
these allegations. The High Command
rejected the "open letter from junior officers", calling it simply
Col. Ochoa’s statements are relevant when it is recalled that he was a
high-ranking retired military officer in El Salvador, and he based his
testimony, as he said in his declaration, on the procedures that determine how
decisions are taken in traditional military actions.
In his statement, Ochoa said: "The number of people involved (in the
deaths) and the way the action was carried out point to a pre-conceived
The United Nations Special Representative to El Salvador, José Antonio
Pastor Ridruejo, also noted in his report of 1991:
The special representative, however, shares with many sectors of public opinion, locally and internationally, and particularly with non-governmental humanitarian organizations at the local and international level, some serious doubts about the possible intellectual authors of the murders. We must ask, in effect, if a decision with such serious consequences of every kind as that of ending the life of the Jesuit Fathers could have been taken alone by Col. Benavides who, it would appear from many sources, was known for his profound sense of discipline and his perfect obedience to orders. In short, although the outcome of the trial in the Jesuit murders case constitutes an important milestone in the recent history of Salvadoran criminal justice, the steps taken appear to have been insufficient. In the view of the special representative, the judicial investigation should have continued until it was absolutely clear whether there were intellectual authors behind the crime, and until any such persons were prosecuted and punished” (emphasis added).
proceedings, the verdict of the jury and the sentence
With respect to the actual carrying out of the murders, it should be
noted that eight of those accused gave clear confessions, with full details,
about their participation in the operation of November 16, 1989, in the
following terms: Sub-Sgt. Ramiro Avalos Vargas killed Fathers Armando López and
Juan Ramón Moreno; Private Oscar Amaya Garibaldi killed Fathers Ignacio Ellacuría,
Ignacio Martín-Baró and Segundo Montes; Sub-Sgt. Tomás Zarpate Castillo fired
at Elba and Celina Mariceth Ramos, until he thought they were dead; the two
females were finally killed by Private Jorge Sierra Ascencio; Corporal Angel Pérez
Vásquez killed Father Joaquín López y López; Lt. Yusshy Mendoza and Lt. José
Ricardo Espinoza directed the operation, backed up by Sub. Lt. Gonzalo Guevara
Cerritos. All of these men belonged
to the Atlacatl Battalion, except for Lt. Mendoza, who belonged to the Military
The extra-judicial statements referred to were truthful, consistent,
detailed and fully concurrent with other elements of judgment available with
respect to the crime, as required in Article 496 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure of El Salvador. They were
also consistent with other confessions and declarations, ballistic tests, the
weapons employed and the results of the autopsies.
Moreover, they were not extracted through violence or intimidation and
they were legally validated before the court, pursuant to the provisions of
Article 496 of the Code of Criminal Procedures, as confirmed by the testimony of
two eyewitnesses given to Judge Zamora.
The Fourth Criminal Court in plenary, moreover, confirmed the
truthfulness of these statements by the First Criminal Chamber of San Salvador
and by the country’s Supreme Court of Justice.
Despite this, no member of the Atlacatl Battalion was punished.
The jury verdict led to the absurd result where seven of the accused,
those belonging to the Atlacatl Battalion, were acquitted and the only two men
found guilty (Col. Benavides and Lt. Mendoza) belonged to the Military Academy.
Of the two lieutenants who led the operation, Mendoza, from the Military
Academy, and Espinoza, from Atlacatl, only the first was convicted, although the
bullets that killed Celina Mariceth Ramos did not come from the weapon
registered to him.
Both Lt. Mendoza, who was convicted of murder and the members of the
Atlacatl Battalion displayed in their behavior a singular and dangerous lack of
regard for human life. Moreover,
the order to kill did not come suddenly in the heat of combat, but was given
after cold-blooded premeditation. Those
who received it had several hours to think it over, to appreciate its manifestly
illegal nature, and to contemplate the consequences of their actions.
Nor did the judicial decision result in conviction of the intellectual
authors of the crime, which means that in this case the policy of cover-up was
fully effective. It was only after
signature of the peace accords and the creation of the Truth Commission that
there was any serious investigation of the role played by the High Command and
the Atlacatl Battalion. It was on
the basis of this investigation that that Commission, in its report of March 15,
1993, concluded that the order to kill Father Ellacuría, and to leave no
witnesses, had been given to Col. Benavides on the night of November 15, 1989,
by then-Col. René Emilio Ponce, in the presence and with the collusion of
General Juan Rafael Bustillo, then-Col. Juan Orlando Zepeda, Col. Inocente
Orlando Montano and Col. Francisco Elena Fuentes.
That Commission also concluded that Col. Ponce had arranged that for this
operation “a unit of the Atlacatl Battalion was to be used, which he had sent
two days previously to conduct a search of the priests' residence”.
Furthermore, according to that Commission’s findings, Colonel Oscar
Alberto León Linares, Commander of the Atlacatl Battalion was aware of the
murders and concealed incriminating evidence. Colonel Nelson Iván López y López,
assigned to assist in the work of the Investigation Commission, and Colonel
Manuel Antonio Rivas Mejía, Chief of that Commission (and who also
“recommended to Col. Benavides that he destroy any incriminating evidence”)
also knew the truth and concealed it. None
of these officers was duly investigated, prosecuted and punished.
In light of the foregoing, the IACHR concludes that the investigation
undertaken by the Salvadoran State with respect to the extra-judicial execution
of the victims in this case was not conducted seriously or in good faith, but
was rather intended to protect some of the material authors and all of the
intellectual authors of the crime.
Despite the fact that these proceedings led to the conviction of four
officers of the Salvadoran Armed Forces,
the facts and elements of the case, which are public and well-known, reinforced
by those that came to light during processing of the case before the IACHR, make
it clear that the process that resulted in those convictions was neither
impartial nor objective, in the terms demanded by the American Convention.
In effect, the actions were coordinated and orchestrated to give the
appearance of regularity, and to make it seem that justice was being done.
But in reality, the Honor Commission, composed for the most part of
military officers, and the Investigation Commission, presided by another
officer, Lt. Col. Antonio Rivas Mejía, colluded to limit and negotiate
accusations, in other words, to put together a convenient "package of
charges" intended to provide cover for the senior military command.
With this package, nine soldiers who had been pre-selected by the Honor
Commission were prosecuted; only four of them were convicted, and of those only
two for the crime of murder. The
judicial power, for its part, allowed itself to be used in a sham process that
constituted a denial of justice. On
the other hand, the other public powers, the Legislature and the Executive,
conspired to grant amnesty to those who had been convicted, and to prevent any
future investigation from ever imposing penalties for these horrible crimes
against human rights. All of this
affected the integrity of the proceedings and implied the manipulation of
justice, as well as the obvious abuse and misuse of power, as a result of which
these crimes have to this date gone completely unpunished.
Considerations of law
In light of the facts established above, the IACHR will now examine the
violation of the human rights of the victims in this case, attributable to the
The right to life
In accordance with Article 4(1) of the American Convention, "every
person has the right to have his life respected.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived his life."
It should be noted that this fundamental right cannot be suspended under
any circumstance, in accordance with Article 27 of the Convention.
As noted above, it has been amply proven that in the early morning of
November 16, 1989, agents of the State belonging to the Salvadoran Armed Forces
summarily executed six Jesuit priests and two women in the residential complex
of the UCA in San Salvador.
The evidence used to establish the responsibility of those agents in the
crime of murder include, among other relevant items, the report of the Truth
Commission and the judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992.
The rest of the evidence consists of the various items of proof found in
the file of the case in the IACHR.
The judgment of January 23, 1992, summarizes the evidence against each of
the accused. The principal evidence
against seven of them--Lieutenants Mendoza and
Espinoza, Sub. Lt. Guevara Cerritos, Sub-Sergeants Avalos and Zarpate,
Corp. Pérez Vázquez and Private Amaya Grimaldi--consists of their own
extra-judicial confessions, given at the General Directorate of the National
Police. As noted above, these
confessions were legally validated by two eyewitnesses, and by the Fourth
Criminal Court in plenary, the First Criminal Chamber of San Salvador, and the
Supreme Court of Justice.
Tomás Zarpate Castillo admitted that he had shot the two women and,
believing that they were dead because they made no sound, he took his retreat.
The confessions referred to contain compelling evidence.
Sub-Sgt. Antonio Ramiro Avalos Vargas confessed that he and Amaya
Grimaldi had forced five of the Jesuit priests to lie face-down on the ground
and that, after Lt. Espinoza said "when are you going to get on with
it?", he turned to Amaya Grimaldi and said "let's get on with
it". Immediately Amaya Grimaldi, using the AK- 47 rifle given to
him by the lieutenant of the Military Academy, began to shoot at the two priests
in front of him, while Avalos Vargas, with his M-16, proceeded to shoot two
other priests in the head and body. He
next went into the residence, where in one of the dwellings he found two women
lying on the floor, shot and moaning in each other's arms, and he ordered
private Sierra Ascencio to finish them off; the private thereupon fired a volley
of 10 bullets with his M-16 rifle into the bodies of the two women until they
ceased to moan.
Amaya Grimaldi, for his part, admitted that when Avalos Vargas started to
shoot the priests who were lying closest to him on the grass, he began to shoot
at the two who were closer to him, with his M-16; they then repeatedly shot all
five of the priests who were lying on the grass.
At that moment, he heard the voice of Lt. Espinoza, giving the following
order to Private Cotta Hernández: "Get them inside, even if you have to
Corporal Angel Pérez Vásquez admitted that he killed Father López y López,
who had already been wounded by another soldier.
According to the Corporal’s testimony, upon entering the second floor
the University, where there are several dwelling chambers, he saw a tall man in
a white robe (Father López y López) leaving the corridor.
One of the soldiers shot at the priest, who fell to the floor.
When Corporal Pérez Vásquez went to search the rest of the dwelling, he
felt the wounded priest grab him by the feet.
He turned around and shot the priest four times.
Although Lieutenants Mendoza and Espinoza and Sub-Lieutenant Guevara
Cerritos were less truthful in their testimony, and denied responsibility, the
three admitted having participated in the operation on the orders of Col.
Lt. Mendoza declared, among other things, that on November 15, 1989, at
11 p.m. or midnight approximately, he received an order to appear before Col.
Benavides at the office of the director of the Military Academy. There, Mendoza met Col. Benavides and two other officers, one
of whom he recognized as Lieutenant Espinoza, a member of his promotion class.
He did not recognize the other officer, but soon heard him being called
Lieutenant Cerritos. According to
his testimony, Col. Benavides said: "Look, Mendoza, you are to go with
Espinoza on a mission, he already knows what it is", to which Mendoza
replied "very well, Colonel.
He subsequently took part in the operation.
Lieutenant Espinoza declared that Col. Benavides had said to him:
"This is a case where it’s either them or us; we're going to start with
the ringleaders; we have the University inside our sector, and that's where
Ellacuría is". He then turned
to Espinoza and said: "You scouted the place; now you have to get rid of
him, and I don't want any witnesses, Lieutenant Mendoza is going to go with you
in charge of the operation, so there will be no problems". Espinoza told Benavides that this was a serious problem, and
the Colonel replied: "Don’t worry about it, you have my full
Sub-Lieutenant Guevara Cerritos, for his part, admitted having received
orders from Col. Benavides, along with two lieutenants, to carry out the
operation at the UCA. He testified
that Col. Benavides told them: "Well, gentlemen, we're going to play this
for all or nothing, it's either them or us - these people have been the brains
behind this war for a long time". According
to Guevara Cerritos, Benavides went on: "Here we have Lieutenant Mendoza,
and since he is a comrade of Lieutenant Espinoza and has more seniority, he is
the one who will lead the operation. Espinoza's
soldiers already know where the Jesuits are sleeping, and I do not want any
witnesses". Guevara Cerritos
also admitted that he and Espinoza subsequently called together the patrol
leaders who were there, and told them the orders that they had received from
With respect to Col. Benavides, it has been proven that on November 16,
1989, he was the commander of the Security Commando zone that was created on
November 13, and in which the UCA was located; that on the day of the events,
the Atlacatl rapid-response commando unit, to which the other accused except for
Lieutenant Mendoza belonged, was under the operational control of the security
commando; that Col. Benavides, Lieutenants Mendoza and Espinoza and
Sub-Lieutenant Guevara Cerritos held a meeting in the office of the Military
Academy director, on the night of November 15, at which the execution of the
Jesuit priests living in the UCA was decided; that there is a "formal
command structure" in the Salvadoran Armed Forces, by virtue of which the
commander of any garrison, detachment, etc., has the power to issue orders to
any subordinates who are under his operational command, without the need to
consult his immediate superiors first; that "the superior officer takes
responsibility for all orders given" (Article 9 of the Army Ordinances in
effect at that time); that Col. Zepeda declared in his testimony that since he
was commander of the zone where the crime was committed, Col. Benavides must
take full responsibility for it; that in his testimony, given in the form of a
sworn statement, Col. Ponce declared that the rapid response unit of the
Atlacatl Battalion, from the time it was constituted to reinforce the mission of
the security commando, was under the operational command of that commando, and
therefore of its commander, Col. Benavides; that orders in the Armed Forces must
be given within the rules laid down by law, and that "any member of the
institution who gives an order contrary to law is personally responsible for its
results and consequently liable to the corresponding penalty"; that in
light of the ballistic evidence, it was proven that the bullet casings found at
the scene of the crime belonged to an M-60 machine gun and an AK-47 rifle,
weapons that, as noted in the Court record, were under the responsibility of
Col. Benavides who, in his capacity as director of the Military Academy, was the
only person who could authorize their use.
With respect to the senior officers who gave the orders or planned the
extra-judicial executions, it should be noted that none of the high-ranking
officers admitted in his testimony that there was any question of consent,
acquiescence, higher orders or even political orders.
Nevertheless, the evidence in the possession of the IACHR, including the
report of the Truth Commission, shows that Col. Benavides was not acting on his
own when he ordered the murders at the UCA.
Col. Benavides reported, for operational purposes, to Col. Ponce, and the
security commando was directly under the Estado Mayor.
It was Ponce who, according to the Truth Commission's report, gave Col.
Benavides the order to kill Father Ellacuría, without leaving any witnesses.
To this end, he arranged for the use of a unit of the Atlacatl Battalion
which he had sent, two days earlier, to conduct a search of the priests'
residence. Ponce gave this order to
Benavides on the night of November 15, 1989, in the presence of and with the
collusion of General Juan Rafael Bustillo, Col. Juan Orlando Zepeda, Col.
Inocente Orlando Montano and Col. Francisco Elena Fuentes.
The IACHR considers that the facts here described are clearly imputable
to the State, since the State is internationally responsible for any actions of
its agents in violation of the American Convention.
In this respect, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled:
Whenever a State organ, official or public entity violates one of those rights, this constitutes a failure of the duty to respect the rights an freedoms set forth in this Article (Article 1(1)).
This conclusion is independent of
whether the organ or official has contravened provisions of internal law or over
stepped the limits of his authority: Under international law a State is
responsible for the acts of its agents undertaken in their official capacity and
for their omissions, even when those agents act outside the sphere of their
authority or violate internal law.
Thus, in principle, any violation of
rights recognized by the Convention carried out by an act of public authority or
by persons who use their position of authority is imputable to the State.
The IACHR considers that the international responsibility of the State
also arises from international humanitarian law, since the Jesuit priests who
were killed were not legitimate military targets, but members of the civilian
population who should not have been the object of attack.
In interpreting and applying the rules of international humanitarian law,
the IACHR has been guided by the decisions of the International Criminal Court
in judging persons responsible for serious violations of international
humanitarian law that were committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia
since 1991. Specifically, in its
decision on the Tadic case, the Appeals Chamber of that Court ruled that United
Nations resolutions 2444 (respect of human rights in armed conflicts)
and 2675 (basic principles for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts)
were "declaratory of the principles of customary international law with
respect to the protection of civilian populations and property in armed
conflicts of any kind."
These resolutions prohibit, among other things, attacks against the
civilian population, and they require the parties to an armed conflict to
distinguish at all times between members of the civilian population and persons
who are actively participating in the hostilities, and to direct their attacks
solely against the latter, and by inference, against other legitimate military
targets. In order to protect
civilians from the effects of hostilities, other principles of customary law
require the attacking party to take precautions to avoid or minimize the loss of
life among civilians, or damage to their property, inherent or collateral to
attacks against legitimate military targets.
The immunity of civilians against direct attack is also found in certain
conventions. Specifically, common
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949
expressly prohibits, under all circumstances, "violence to life and person,
in particular murder of all kinds” of those who are taking no active part in
Moreover, Article 3 of the Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva
Conventions of 1949,
elaborates and strengthens the basic rules of common Article 3, and codifies the
principle of civilian immunity as follows:
The civilian population as such, and civilian taken individually, must
not be the object of attack. Acts
or threats of violence, intended to instill terror among the civilian
population, are prohibited.
3. Civilians must enjoy the protection guaranteed by this
Section, unless, and during such time as, they are active participants in the
In situations of internal armed conflict, the civilian population
includes those civilians not engaged in any action intended to damage enemy
personnel or property. 
As has been demonstrated, during this phase of the Salvadoran armed
conflict, agents of the State identified the Jesuit priests with subversion.
Father Ellacuría was publicly accused of being the "creator of the
theory and concept of guerrilla rebellion".
The Armed Forces published a statement in which they accused him of
supporting the guerrillas’ use of car bombs in the last months of 1988.
Col. Juan Zepeda of the First Infantry Brigade declared that the UCA was
"a refuge for terrorist leaders, from which they plan their strategy of
attacks against Salvadoran citizens".
The Vice Minister of Public Safety, Col. Inocente Montano, said publicly
that the Jesuits were totally identified with subversion.
On November 11, 1989, the date on which the FMLN military offensive
began, the radio station of the Armed Forces called for violence against members
of the church, and against Father Ellacuría, whom it accused of having poisoned
the minds of the youth of El Salvador. During
the trial, one of the witnesses testified that Col. Benavides, on giving the
order to commit the murders, said with respect to the Jesuits: "these
people have been the brains behind the guerrilla war for a long time."
For its part, the Truth Commission, in its report, termed the murder of
the Jesuits “an act of violence against opponents on the part of agents of the
Ibid., Conclusions 4.b) page 50.
Ibid., page 48.
Ibid., Conclusions 5, page 50.
See Interview with Henry Campos and Sidney Blanco, former prosecutors, in
the Jesuit murders case, January 22, 1991, Channel 12.
Transcription submitted by the petitioners and not disputed by the
See Report of the San Francisco Observer Delegation to the Jesuit Murder
Trial in El Salvador. Submitted
to the Bar Association of San Francisco, October 9, 1991, by Linda P.
Drucker, Esq. Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe, Naomi Roth Arriaza;
The Jesuit Murder Affair at the Universidad
Centroamericana of San Salvador, November 16, 1989, A Critical
Summary of the Trial, 1991.09.25-28, François Crépeau, Professor,
muerte anunciada, [“A death Foretold”], Marta Doggett, Coleccion
Testigos de la Historia, volume 8.
See Report of Observers on the Trial in El Salvador of Military Personnel
accused of murdering six Jesuit priests, a cook and her daughter,
January 13, 1992, De Paul University, International Human Rights Law
Institute, College of Law, Chicago, USA.
Office of the Criminal Investigations Commission 017/UE/990, of May 23,
1990, signed by Lt. Col. Manuel Antonio Rivas Mejía, Chief of the Executive
Testimony of Lt. Col. Manuel Antonio Rivas Mejía, Fourth Criminal Court,
October 19, 1990, folio 2477 of the summary.
Agents of the Investigation Commission’s Forensic Technical University (UTF)
also went to the scene, as did members of the National Police Explosives
Unit, the Third Justice of the Peace of
San Salvador and his secretary, a forensic pathologist, the Second
Criminal Judge of Santa Tecla and his secretary, and an official of the
Public Prosecutor’s Office.
See extra-judicial statements of the accused, February 13 and 14, 1990. See also the statement of Sub-Sgt. Eduardo Cordova Monge,
Fourth Criminal Judge, of January 18, 1990, folio 1352 of the summary.
Statement of Juan Antonio Navarro Artiga, December 6, 1989, folio 105 of the
Scotland Yard made the following comments with
respect to the collection of fingerprints from the corpses:
were taken from the bodies in situ.
Scotland Yard sees no justification for doing it at that time, since
all this can do is help to contaminate the scene of the crime and the
personnel who are carrying out the examination.
If the bodies have already been identified in front of the officials
conducting the investigation, the only thing that has to be done is to
photograph them and label them carefully". Report of Scotland Yard,
submitted to the Fourth Criminal Court on March 22, 1991, paragraph 117, p.
 Scotland Yard sent a team of three men to El Salvador in January 1990. A portion of their observations and conclusions was sent to Judge Zamora in February 1991. The report was included in the summary in May 1991, too late for those observations and suggestions to be of any use during the process.
 In a statement to the Investigation Commission on January 15, 1990, Delgado Pérez admitted having entered the UCA on the night of November 15, 1989, but he said he had remained in the covered parking lot and that he fired into the air when he heard others doing so. In his court statement, on January 25 1990, he denied having ever left the Military Academy on November 15. When the Judge attempted to summon him again to clarify these contradictions, and his possible role in the crimes, the newly appointed chief of the general staff, Colonel Rubio, replied in a telegram dated September 7, 1990, that Delgado Pérez had been discharged from the Army on April 30, 1990. General Ponce later explained, on June 18, 1991, that Delgado Pérez had been dishonorably discharged as a deserter, because he did not return from a 72-hour leave. The Army, as far as is known, made no effort at all to determine his whereabouts.
In his statement of
January 14, 1990, Private Ruiz Ramírez insisted that he was on patrol with
commandos who were not at the UCA on the night of murders. He said he thought it “strange that his gun should be
involved in the events under investigation.
He supposed that, upon going to fight in Zacamil, he had
inadvertently exchanged guns with one of his comrades, and he did not know
who owned the one he had now". The
Commission immediately asked the Atlacatl commander, Lieutenant Colonel León
Linares, to tell it to whom the M-16 gun with serial number 5447811 had been
issued. On January 15,
Lieutenant Colonel León Linares reported that that rifle was assigned to
Private Nelson Mauricio Morales Portillo of the Fourth Infantry Brigade of
the Atlacatl Battalion, who had deserted on January 2, 1990.
In his court statement of March 19, 1990, Private Ruiz Ramírez
denied having left the Military Academy that night and declared that on
November 16, in the Colonia Zacamil, he had exchanged guns with Sierra
Ascencio (the soldier, also a deserter, accused of murdering the two women,
who was tried and sentenced in
absentia). On September 7, 1990, in a second court statement, Ruiz Ramírez
contradicted himself and declared that he did not know if his rifle belonged
to Sierra Ascencio or not. Ruiz
Ramírez did not stand trial.
The American Major, Eric Buckland provided this information.
The extra-judicial statements of the seven accused who confessed their
involvement in the murder operation were taken “officially” on January
13 and 14, 1990. Other soldiers
of the Atlacatl Battalion and the assistant to Lt. Mendoza gave their
statements on January 14 and 15.
of Col. Carlos Armando Salvador Avilés Buitrago, Fourth Criminal Court,
October 31, 1990. Folio 2643 of the summary.
The acronym COCFA stands for “Centro
de Operaciones Conjuntas de la Fuerza Armada”, i.e. the command post
of the Estado Mayor.
General Ponce provided these names in June, 1991, when it was already too
late to use them in the judicial investigation.
In his earlier statements to the Court, over a period of nearly two
years, General Ponce had never mentioned this important piece of
information. Col. López y López,
who gave testimony before Judge Zamora on September 14, 1990, also failed to
make any such mention.
Testimony of Major René Guillermo Contreras Barrera, Fourth Criminal Court,
November 1, 1990, folio 2647 of the summary.
Expanded testimony by sworn deposition of Col. René Emilio Ponce, Fourth
Criminal Court, December 23, 1990, folio 2519 of the summary.
San Francisco Examiner, February 5, 1990.
For further details on the November 15 meeting, see Boston Sunday
Globe, February 4, 1990; Christian
Science Monitor, February 7, 1990; Baltimore
Sun, February 4, 1990; Miami
Herald, February 5, 1990.
See Washington Post, Jan 6, 1983; New
York Times, Jan 13, 1983; and Financial Times, 13 February 1985.
Paris, AFP, in Spanish, 2112 GMT, January 12, 1990.
The newspaper Ciudad de Mexico,
May 8, 1990. Because he was a
member of parliament, Ochoa was entitled to respond to questioning in
“60 Minutes”. When he was
asked if he thought it possible that Col. Benavides had decided on the
murders on his own, Col. Ochoa replied:
“No, sincerely, I do not think so.
Knowing him, he is a man who would never do or even think of doing
something as serious as killing the Jesuits.
Benavides was carrying out orders.
He did not act alone.”
Open letter from the Junior Officers' Movement
"Domingo Monterrosa Lives", to the President of the Republic and
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces; to our chiefs in the High Command;
to members of the legislative assembly and ministers of the government; to
the national and international press and to the Salvadoran people, May 3,
1999, published in the newspaper Diario Latino of May 4, 1990.
Col. Juan Orlando Zepeda, a prominent member of
the group known as La Tandona, was
Vice Minister of Defense. In
April 1989, Col. Zepeda had said that an attack by urban commandos of the
FMLN had been planned at the UCA.
Canal Doce [Channel Twelve] Television, May 4, 1990, taken from FBIS,
May 4, 1990; Canal Doce Television,
May 22 1990, taken from FBIS, May 29, 1990.
“The Human Rights Situation in El Salvador”, Doc. UN A/46/529. October
11, 1991, p. 22.
Report of the Truth Commission, supra,
note 18, page 44.
 Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime of murdering the priests and Elba Julia Ramos, as well as for the crime of proposing and conspiring to commit acts of terrorism. Lt. Yusshy René Mendoza was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime of murdering the child Celina Mariceth Ramos, as well as for the crimes of proposing and conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, and concealing a crime. Lieutenant Colonel Camilo Hernández was sentenced to three years in prison for the crime of cover-up. The Commission wishes to note that this last officer was not among the nine soldiers held responsible by the Honor Commission, but was included in the proceedings at a subsequent date.
Extra-judicial statement of the accused Yusshy René Mendoza Vallecillos,
given at the Directorate of the National Police on January 13, 1990.
Judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992, folios
5724-5726 of the Court record.
Extra-judicial statement of the accused Tomás Zarpate Castillo, given at
the Directorate of the National Police on January 13, 1990.
Judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992, folios
5730-5731 of the Court record.
Extra-judicial statement of the accused Oscar Mariano Amaya Grimaldi, given
at the Directorate of the National Police on January 14, 1990.
Judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992, folios
5732-5734 of the Court record.
Extra-judicial statement of the accused Angel Pérez Vásquez, given at the
Directorate of the National Police on January 14, 1990.
Judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992 folios
5731-5732 of the Court record.
Extra-judicial statement of the accused Yusshy René Mendoza Vallecillos,
given at the Directorate of the National Police on January 13, 1990.
Judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992, folios
5724-5725 of the Court record.
Extra-judicial statement of the accused José Ricardo Espinoza Guerra, given
at the Directorate of the National Police on January 13, 1990.
Judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992, folios
5722-5724 of the Court record.
Extra-judicial statement of the accused Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos, given at
the Directorate of the National Police on January 13, 1990.
Judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992, folios
5726-5727 of the Court record.
Judgment of the Fourth Criminal Court of January 23, 1992, folio 5720-5722
of the Court record.
All denied that there was any discussion of the UCA or the Jesuits during
the meeting of the High Command on November 15, 1989.
I-A Court, Velásquez Rodríguez case, Judgment of July 29, 1988, Series C Nº
5, para. 169-172. See also I-A
Court, Godinez Cruz case, Judgment of January 20, 1989, Series C Nº 5
(1989), the Neira Alegria and Others case, Judgment of January 19, 1995,
Series C Nº 20 (1995) para. 63.
Convention contains no rules defining or distinguishing civilians from
combatants or other military targets, nor does it specify when a civilian
may be legally attacked or when civilian victims may be regarded as
legitimate casualties of military operations.
The Commission is obliged therefore to apply standards of definition
and rules of humanitarian law as sources of guidance in resolving this and
other kinds of complaints alleging violations of the American Convention in
situations of combat. To do
otherwise would imply denying the exercise of its jurisdiction in many cases
that refer to indiscriminate attacks on the part of agents of the State,
resulting in significant numbers of civilian victims.
Such a result would evidently be absurd, in light of the objectives
and basic purposes both of the American Convention and of the treaties on
humanitarian law. See Report Nº
55/97 (Case 11.137 - Juan Carlos Abella), Argentina, Annual Report of the
IACHR 1997, OEA/Ser,L/V/II.98, para. 161.
UN GAOR, 3rd Comm., 23rd Session, UN Doc A/C.3/SR.1634
UN GAOR, 23rd Session, Sup. Nº 28 UN Doc A/8028 (1970).
Prosecution vs. Dusko Tadic, Nº IT-94-1-AR72, para. 112 (October 2, 1995).
El Salvador ratified the Geneva Conventions of 1949 on June 17, 1953.
El Salvador ratified the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of
1949 on the Protection of Victims of Domestic armed Conflicts (Protocol I)
on November 23, 1978.
New Rules for Victims of Armed Conflicts: Commentary on the two 1997
Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (1982), page 672.