WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
9 Apr 2013 | Video

Twenty Years after the Salvadoran Truth Commission


Panel 1: On March 15, 1993, the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador published its report From Madness to Hope: The 12-Year War in El Salvador, which investigated a set of emblematic cases of human rights violations committed during the Salvadoran civil war and named individuals whom it believed to have perpetrated, ordered, or covered up abuses in those cases. Only five days later, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed an amnesty law that granted “full, absolute and unconditional amnesty to all those who participated in any way in the commission… of political crimes.” Since then, the Amnesty Law has been invoked to block attempts to bring those responsible to justice. Now, 20 years later, victims of human rights violations committed during the conflict are challenging the Amnesty Law in El Salvador’s Supreme Court. If the law is overturned, it could pave the way for investigations and prosecutions of those involved in wartime atrocities, including high-level officials from both sides of the conflict.

Panel 2Over the past several decades, countries across Latin America have overturned their amnesty laws or found ways to bypass them in order to move forward with criminal prosecutions of human rights violations. The 2001 ruling by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights in the Barrios Altos case, which declared that amnesty laws designed to perpetuate impunity violate the American Convention on Human Rights, further encouraged this trend.

This panel of experts discussed the status of transitional justice in the region, including the ongoing genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt; challenges to efforts to prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations in Peru and Uruguay; and recent attempts to weaken the Inter-American human rights system, a mechanism that has been instrumental in pushing governments to address past abuses. 

For more information on this event and the panelists, please click here.