We are very pleased to share the good news that President of El Salvador Salvador Sánchez Cerén has issued a formal decree on the implementation of the judgement given in the Inter American Court of Human Rights (ICHR) concerning the victims of the El Mozote massacre.
During the El Salvador civil war in 1981, more than 1,000 villagers, mostly women and children, lost their lives in one of the largest and most bloody massacres to have been committed in Latin America. Of the 1,000 people who were murdered in El Mozote, 400 were children.
For decades, the suffering of the few survivors was met with indifference. The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary mobilized survivors by forming the Promotion of Human Rights Association to advise and teach the families of the victims about the legal process to advance the case of El Mozote.
This has been successful, and in January 2012 the Salvadoran State finally accepted its responsibility for the events of the massacre, and committed to the payment of reparations for the lives lost. However, there has been slow progress.
This sensitive and vital work received a significant boost on 30th September 2016 when President Sánchez Cerén issued a Decree, instructing the relevant Ministers and other responsible officials in his Government to carry out the full terms of the judgement. President Sánchez Cerén is a former guerrilla leader in the Civil War and is the first ex-rebel to serve as President. This comes at an important time when in July 2016, the amnesty for all government soldiers complicit in the massacre was lifted, paving the way for prosecution.
The Decree specified the details of the education, health, agriculture programmes etc. which form the judgement, and the government ministries responsible. He also stated that if the full sentence is not completed within the 2017 time frame given by the court, an extension would be requested to allow for the full completion of the judgement.
Part of the judgement handed down by the ICHR includes the erection of an official Memorial Monument at the sites of the major massacres in Cerro Pando, La Joya and El Mozote. In El Mozote, the community have built a monument of Peace and Reconciliation, and work is already underway on a new site that will be the permanent location for the commemoration of the anniversary of the massacre which takes place every December. Exhumations are still taking place, and identification can take up to a year following which the remains are returned to their families for burial. In October 2016, the remains of a further two victims were returned to their families and buried at the Memorial site at La Joya. While another 20 families have received the remains of their loved ones in December.