This is to update you on an important and historic development in the Jesuits Massacre Case. As you may have already heard, nine of the twenty defendants in the case - all former Salvadoran military officials -- made a decision to self-surrender to Salvadoran military authorities late Sunday night. While the facts are still unfolding, we wanted to provide you with an update. We will continue to report on developments in the case through e-mail and on our Facebook page
As we reported in May, the Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco issued indictments at CJA's request against twenty of the defendants, all former members of the Salvadoran military charging them with crimes against humanity and state terrorism for their role in the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in November 1989. After intensive work by CJA's legal team, the judge issued arrest warrants last month for 14 of the defendants which Interpol began to send throughout their system.
When it became clear that the Salvadoran National Police were going to honor the arrest warrants, nine of the defendants met on Sunday night (August 7) at a country club outside of San Salvador to presumably discuss next steps. Later that night, at approximately 10:00 p.m., all nine turned themselves into a military facility also outside of San Salvador. The decision to self-surrender to the military was presumably an attempt to defy the usual civilian process involving international arrest warrants and extradition treaties. In an unprecedented development, the Minister of Defense of El Salvador accepted the validity of the international arrest warrants and turned the defendants over to civilian authorities where they are all now being held in custody.
In addition to former Minister of Defense Rafael Humberto Larios and former Air Force Chief General Rafael Bustillo, the following defendants surrendered: Colonel Francisco Helena Fuentes, Vice Defense Minister Juan Orlando Zepeda, Mariano Amaya Grimaldi, Jos� Ricardo Espinoza Guerra, Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos and Antonio Ramiro �valos Vargas y Tom�s Z�rpate Castillo.
The Spanish courts have 60 days to formalize the extradition requests. The Salvadoran Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether to honor the arrest warrants and extradite the men to Spain to be prosecuted for their role in these outrageous crimes. One of the main issues confronting the Salvadoran court is whether the amnesty law which was passed in 1993 at the end of the twenty year civil war will continue to protect military officials for human rights abuses committed against the civilian population. While amnesty laws that protect military officials from human rights prosecutions are illegal under international law, how the court will rule is very difficult to predict.
Needless to say, this is a stunning development in the now 21 year search for justice on behalf of the relatives of the victims, the citizens of El Salvador, all of us at CJA and the broader human rights community.
To read our press release on this development in the case please click here
. For more information on the criminal case against those responsible for the Jesuits Massacre, as well as CJA's other El Salvador cases filed in the U.S, see www.cja.org
As always, we thank you for your support of this important work.