Salvadorans mark 40 years without justice for massacre

San Esteban Catarina, El Salvador, Aug 22 (EFE).- Salvadorans on Monday marked 40 years since the El Calabozo massacre, in which the army killed more than 200 civilians in 1982 during the internal armed conflict (1980-1992), without truth or justice for the families of the victims and survivors.

The massacre, which occurred in a place known as El Calabozo in the municipality of San Esteban Catarina, 70 kilometers (43 miles) from San Salvador, took place the same year the armed forces killed hundreds of civilians and the forced disappearance of more than 150 children.

The El Mozote massacre of 1,000 peasants in the remote village and the La Quesera massacre, in which the state’s forces killed more than 500 civilians, were perpetrated in 1981 and also reached 40 years without justice.

According to the 1993 United Nations Truth Commission report on El Salvador, on Aug. 7, 1982, the Atlacatl Battalion began a “vast anti-guerrilla military operation” involving some 6,000 men that ended on Aug. 22 with the El Calabozo massacre.

According to experts, the military intervention in this area of the country was bigger than that carried out during the El Mozote massacre.

Lawyer David Morales, a member of human rights organization Cristosal and former human rights ombudsman in El Salvador, told EFE on Monday that the Court of the First Instance of San Sebastian is presiding over a criminal proceeding against at least four military commanders, allegedly responsible for the massacre.

“The greatest difficulty that has been faced in this process is access to information from historical military archives,” as has happened in the criminal case of the El Mozote massacre, the lawyer said.

There is a “systematic pattern of denial of information or sending information that is not useful when judges or prosecutors require military documents,” Morales said.

He pointed out that in the case of the proceedings for the El Calabozo massacre there is “strong testimonial evidence” and “we believe that the existence of the massacre is very clear.”

The lawyer said that the case is still in the investigation stage, which is “unfortunate” because it is now 40 years since the incident.

“Let us remember that these massacres, these exterminations of large numbers of the civilian population, such as El Mozote, La Quesera, El Calabozo, among others, responded to a deliberate military policy of extermination of civilians for counterinsurgency purposes. They were planned from the highest level (of the army),” he said.

According to the Truth Commission, “there is sufficient evidence that on 22 August 1982, troops of the Atlacatl Battalion deliberately killed over 200 civilians – men, women and children – who had been taken prisoner without offering any resistance.”

Despite public complaints of the incident, the Salvadoran authorities denied them. Although they said they had conducted an investigation, there is no trace of its existence, he said.

“The El Calabozo massacre was a serious violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” he added. EFE


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