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Document Friday: El Salvador’s Debate on Amnesty and Historical Memory

November 16, 2012

-Notes from the Evidence Project-

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the massacre of six Jesuit Priests in El Salvador, along with their house keeper and her 16 year-old daughter on November 16, 1989. For Document Friday, the National Security Archive is posting newly released documents regarding the case, filed by the Center for Justice and Accountability in August 2009, against 20 former El Salvadoran officials in the National Court in Spain for their involvement in the massacre.

In a May 2010 cable, the State Department describes the Salvadoran Supreme Court’s decision to reject Judge Velasco’s request for information regarding these 20 officials, and determined that the amnesty law agreed upon during El Salvador’s peace accords, protects the officials from prosecution.

excerpt from declassified Department of State cable

See the full cable here.

In May 2011, Judge Velasco issued an arrest warrant for twenty former Salvadoran officials which “sparked an emotional debate in EL Salvador on one of the worst atrocities of the civil war and the application of the Amnesty Law that helped end it,” commented a declassified State Department cable.

The cable went on to explain the complicated factors of the debate regarding the amnesty law, international law, Salvadoran politics, accountability, and historical memory:

excerpt from declassified state department cable

See the full cable here.

In recent news, one of the twenty officials indicted in the Spanish case, Inocente Orlando Montano, pled guilty to charges of immigration fraud in September of 2012. Montano’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 18, 2012 in Boston. Be sure to stay tuned for more news about this case.


“Supreme Court Refuses Jesuit Case Request, Upholds Amnesty Law,” State Department cable San Salvador 000201, May 24, 2010. Obtained by the National Security Archive through the Freedom of Information Act.

“Spanish Court Sparks Amnesty Debate,” State Department cable San Salvador 000219, October 3, 2011. Obtained by the National Security Archive through the Freedom of Information Act.

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