GENEVA (15 July 2016) – A group of independent experts of the United Nations* today welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court of El Salvador to declare unconstitutional the amnesty law of 1993, which had left in impunity crimes against humanity and war crimes, and serious or systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed during the internal armed conflict (1980-1992).
“This historic decision for the country restores the hope to the victims and trust in the justice system,” the experts said, recalling that the Salvadoran conflict left a toll of 75,000 dead and 8,000 disappeared, mostly civilians, many victims of torture and women victims of sexual violence, in addition to one million internally displaced persons and refugees in other countries.
“More than 20 years after the end of the conflict, this decision by the highest court will restore the fundamental rights to justice and integral reparation of the victims,” they stressed. “It is an example for the world”.
The UN experts noted that the declaration of unconstitutionality reflects the norms and principles of international law, including the prohibition of amnesties for crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law.
They also expressed that the decision of the Salvadoran Supreme Court emphasizes the imprescriptible nature of these crimes and stresses that the Amnesty Law or the time of its validity shall not be invoked to hinder the right to justice, the investigations, prosecution, punishment and reparation of these serious violations.
The human rights experts also explained that the Court requires the investigation of the criminal responsibility of direct perpetrators, as well as of those who gave the orders.
“Many of the recommendations of the Truth Commission continue being fully valid more than 20 years after their adoption. We urge the Salvadoran authorities to implement these recommendations that promote deep reforms of state institutions, including the justice system,” they said.
Similarly, the independent experts urged the judicial authorities to carry out prompt, independent and effective investigations and to design a prosecutorial strategy that takes into account international law, human rights mechanisms recommendations and comparative experiences. They insisted on the protection of witnesses and victims’ participation in judicial processes and in the reparations that concern them.
“This decision is also a significant step towards compliance with the decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and an important signal in the context of the recent extradition request from Spain of alleged perpetrators of the killing of six Spanish Jesuits and two Salvadoran women”, experts concluded.
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NOTE TO EDITORS:
The Peace Accords of 16 January 1992 do not make any mention of an amnesty, but on the contrary include provisions aimed at combating impunity.
The National Reconciliation Law of 23 January 1992 provides that no amnesties will apply to those who participated in serious acts of violence reported by the Truth Commission that have occurred since 1 January 1980. But this provision was repealed by the General Amnesty Law for the Consolidation of Peace, adopted on 20 March 1993 – 5 days after the release of the report of the Truth Commission- expressly denying the abovementioned agreements.
Now, however, the decision of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court restores the validity of these provisions of the National Reconciliation Law.
(*) The experts: Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Mónica Pinto, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page – El Salvador: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/SVIndex.aspx
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