A little over a week after the anniversary of the El Mozote Massacre in 1981 during the Salvadoran Civil War, and almost a fortnight after receiving her award as El Salvador’s Human Rights Defender of 2020, Krisia Mariela Moya captures for Misean Cara the importance of the struggle for justice, and of honouring the massacre victims and survivors.
For Krisia, coordinator of the El Mozote Project for the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, the challenge remains to accompany the survivors as they struggle to have court rulings, to combat impunity, and to dignify all who lost their lives through the massacre or continue to suffer its effects. The following guest blog is a reflection from Krisia on the award and the ongoing struggle to assure rights and justice for the victims and survivors of the massacre.
Last week on the 72nd anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Office for the Defence of Human Rights in El Salvador celebrated the International Day for The Defence of Human Rights with National Awards for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights 2020. The awards recognized and honoured individuals who have excelled as Human Rights Defenders in El Salvador in 2020.
I, Krisia Mariela Moya, the El Mozote Project Coordinator for The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SSHJM), gratefully received the award in recognition of my work accompanying victims and communities affected by the Massacre of El Mozote in El Salvador. Personally, I am incredibly grateful that an institution such as the Office for the Defence of Human Rights in El Salvador has acknowledged my work, but most important is the recognition of the project and the victims dedicated to the protection, defence, and promotion of human rights. El Mozote victims have struggled, and continue to struggle, to seek justice over many years. It is on behalf of those victims, who have been so resilient and dignified throughout, that I dedicate this award.
The Massacre of El Mozote was carried out in 1981 when El Salvador troops entered the village of El Mozote and surrounding villages in Morazan Department, north east El Salvador, and massacred over 1,000 innocent women, men, and children (of these more than 400 were children). For almost 30 years this crime against humanity went unpunished and unacknowledged by the State, the case was unable to be heard by the Salvadoran judicial system due to an amnesty law. The case was eventually heard in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in Quito Ecuador in 2011/12, the first of its kind from El Salvador. In 2012, the IACHR declared the State of El Salvador guilty of crimes against humanity and instructed the Government of El Salvador to implement a detailed reparation programme to compensate and recognise victims.
Numerous powers within El Salvador hold in disfavour those individuals or institutions that watch over vulnerable and unprotected persons. There is no law in El Salvador that protects human rights defenders. The El Mozote Project has achieved much success, but equally throughout the years it has faced countless challenges in the face of seeking justice, truth, and reparation for victims, and in trying to protect those victims from various forms of re-victimisation.
Many of us who carry on the cause demanding justice to identify the true perpetrators of the crime, have been threatened, insulted on social media, going so far as to say that many of us and the victims simply fight for money, and above all discredit our work by calling us politically partisan. This is something that we, as a collective and team, have had to defend together with other Human Rights Institutions in El Salvador and to work in a way that is totally independent of any ideology except that of basic human rights.
Today, the victims, being accompanied by the SSHJM Project Team, continue their struggle to ensure the reparations programme is implemented in full, ensuring full compliance by the Salvadoran State in accordance with the IACHR ruling, unfortunately many of the IACHR directives remain outstanding. In addition, the amnesty law in El Salvador has since been lifted, although precariously so, the victims are now seeking justice through the Salvadoran courts and criminal convictions for those responsible for the massacre.
Personally, it has been an incredible journey and learning process to accompany victims for whom the truth of the atrocities carried out 39 years ago is an ongoing struggle and painful process for survivors and family members. My role in support of the victims that we have accompanied for many years is a fundamental commitment to making situations of social injustice visible, combating impunity, and dignifying the victims. Above all the most important role has been to empower victims, their family members, to include victims on the Official Register of Victims and to empower these people and communities to claim their basic rights.
It is a privilege for me that with the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and with the support of Misean Cara, we can say that we have advanced greatly and made the case visible to the world.
EL MOZOTE NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!
Krisia Mariela Moya
El Mozote Project Coordinator