WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

El Salvador Without the Amnesty Law: What’s Next for Human Rights Cases?

Thursday, 8 December 2016
Washington, D.C.

AP Photo/Edgar Romero

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) are pleased to invite you to a panel discussion on: 

El Salvador Without the Amnesty Law: What’s Next for Human Rights Cases?


Sidney Blanco
Constitutional Chamber Magistrate, Supreme Court of Justice, El Salvador

Naomi Roht-Arriaza
Professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law of the University of California and President of the Board of Directors, DPLF

Leonor Arteaga
Senior Program Officer for Impunity and Transitional Justice, DPLF

Moderated by

Geoff Thale
Program Director, WOLA

Thursday, December 8, 2018
5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Butler Room, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Please RSVP here.

The event will be livestreamed through DPLF’s Facebook page

The discussion will be in Spanish with simultaneous interpretation provided.

In July 2016, the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador’s Supreme Court struck down the 1993 Amnesty Law, which had served to limit investigations and prosecutions of major human rights abuses committed during El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war. This long-awaited ruling opens the door to justice for wartime atrocities, but has provoked controversy in El Salvador.

In accordance with the Constitutional Chamber’s ruling, in September 2016 a criminal court judge reopened the investigation into the El Mozote massacre, which had been closed 23 years prior by virtue of the Amnesty Law. The Attorney General of the Republic has indicated that his office does not have the resources to pursue this investigation and, at present, has not demonstrated any progress in this or any other case related to the armed conflict.

According to a UN Truth Commission, more than 75,000 people were tortured, unlawfully killed, or forcibly disappeared during the twelve-year conflict. Of these cases, 95 percent cases are attributed to the armed forces and paramilitary groups, and 5 percent to the guerilla movement Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN).

The Constitutional Chamber’s decision was well-received by human rights organizations and victims’ collectives. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and a group of UN independent experts applauded the repeal of the Amnesty Law, the legitimacy of which had been questioned for violating domestic and international law.

However, former high-level military officers, government officials, and opposition politicians rejected the decision and warned that it would lead to a “witch hunt” that could jeopardize peace. Certain elites have called on the authorities to prioritize the large-scale corruption and gang violence that currently ravages the country, rather than pursuing cases for crimes that occurred more than two decades ago.

In a country with alarming levels of criminality and little effective rule of law, does impunity for crimes of the past contribute to impunity for crimes today? Is there a connection between the methods used by criminal organizations, the “iron-fist” police response, and the lack of attention to victims? Is this related to the legacy of the armed conflict?

Join us for a discussion on the future of El Salvador without the Amnesty Law with Sidney Blanco, Constitutional Chamber Justice of the Supreme Court of El Salvador; Naomi Roht-Arriaza, professor at the Hastings College of Law of the University of California and President of the Board of the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF); and Leonor Arteaga, Senior Program Officer for Impunity and Transitional Justice at DPLF. Geoff Thale, Program Director at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), will moderate the discussion.