El Salvador: Transition Without Justice

Susan Jeffers May 6, 2011

Jeffers |1

Introduction
The dead are more unmanageable every day. Before it was easy with them: we gave flowers to the uptight ones we gave the relatives the names on one long list: to these we gave national borders to those we gave remarkable peace that one we gave a monstrous marble tomb Then we saluted the memory of the corpses and went to their cemetery rows marching to the compass of old music. But where the dead go is different now. Today they ask ironic questions. And it seems to me that they fall more and more on account of being more and more the majority. -Roque Dalton

Nineteen years ago a U.N. brokered peace agreement was signed to end the twelve year civil war in El Salvador that left an estimated 75,000 civilians dead. As part of the agreement, the U.N. initiated a truth commission with the mandate that "The Commission shall have the task of investigating serious acts of violence that have occurred since 1980 and whose impact on society urgently demands that the public should know the truth". commission states that Article 5 of the Chapultepec Peace Agreement gives the Commission the task of clarifying and putting an end to any indication of impunity on the part of officers of the armed forces and gives this explanation: "acts of this nature, regardless of the sector to which their perpetrators belong, must be the object of exemplary action by the law courts so that the punishment prescribed by law is meted out to those found responsible. (U.N. 1993.) Soon after the peace agreement was signed a general amnesty law was put in place. There was no change in the ruling party, and the goal of those in power was to „„eliminate, erase, and forget‟‟ the past. (Popkin 2004, 115) The report issued by the

and call for the repeal of the law they believe has led to continued impunity for past wrongs. and a murder rate that is one of the highest in the world.Jeffers |2 Today there are signs of re-emerging death squad activity. Neo-liberal economic policies first set in motion in the early nineteen eighties and post-war structural adjustment policies have served to solidify and intensify the economic stratification of the Salvadoran society. having been party to the human rights abuses of the past. An official apology was finally issued in 2010. their effectiveness (or lack of). Background History The history of El Salvadoran society has long been one of socioeconomic stratification maintained by repressive oligarchic regimes and challenged by popular social movements. Survivors of the victims and human rights activists dispute the notion that wounds have been healed. disappearances. Organized crime and gang violence continue to grow. that repeal would simply open old wounds. is legal justice even possible when the judicial system is complicit in maintaining the culture of impunity those in power are highly motivated to keep in place. and ties to gang and organized crime leaders within the police forces. Government officials claim that the amnesty law has served its purpose and helped heal the wounds. with the goal still being to forgive and forget the past. when for the first time since the peace accord the ARENA party no longer held the executive offices. The privatization of communal agricultural lands in the 1800's led to the consolidation of . and investigations continue regarding corruption. Also. drug trafficking. explore the measures taken post conflict. I intend to the obstacles to reconciliation and what possible measures could be taken towards achieving justice.

A new supreme court and attorney general were appointed. there was no concrete action taken to disarm or disband its working network. and a special commission was formed to investigate past human rights violations and locate victims of political violence who had disappeared under the former regime. and the president of the non-governmental Human Rights Commission. promote social and economic equity and guarantee political and human rights. and dissolved itself after issuing their report. as well as a transition to civilian rule. a member of the new Supreme Court. No living prisoners were located. (Carrillo 2010) The 1970's saw an increase in both mobilization of popular dissent and violent repressive measures by the governing forces. The commission received no cooperation from security forces during their investigations or in the implementation of their final report and recommendations.Jeffers |3 property and wealth into the hands of a small number of families. (Popkin 2000) Although the paramilitary organization ORDEN was officially dissolved on paper. Massive human rights abuses and civil unrest led to a coup de tat by reformist officers in 1979. civilian junta. The commission was comprised of Salvadorans. and the instances of disappearances and killings increased following the coup with more than 14. giving rise to a coffee oligarchy. In response to an uprising in the early 1930's the military took direct control of the government.000 deaths . Modest land reform programs were implemented and the banking system and foreign trade in coffee and sugar exports were nationalized. crushing the revolt with the massacre of some thirty thousand peasants and consolidating an authoritarian military polity that would remain in power for the next fifty years. instituting a joint military. including the newly appointed attorney general. but sixty seven bodies were found. Among the stated goals of the junta were the intent to put an end to corruption and violence by the state.

and a series of attempts by U. Gross human rights violations were generally discounted or minimized by U. torture. citizens.Jeffers |4 attributed to state terror in 1980 alone. providing substantial military aid to the Salvadoran forces." (Popkin 2000. officials. Popkin 2004) The civil war was marked by a state campaign of repression. assassinations. The counterinsurgency was one of the Central American battlefields in the United States' proxy war against the Soviet Union. Investigations of politically motivated killings were rarely carried out by the Salvadoran government.S. forced disappearances. united under the banner of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). and Bush Sr. launched an offensive marking the start of a twelve year civil war that left an estimated seventy-five thousand civilians dead. A 1991 USAID study concluded that "It is military aid. Popkin (2000) states that the only cases investigated and prosecuted during the 1980's involved the deaths of U. and even in those cases only low level operatives were tried. with Presidents Carter.S. Hard-line officers took control and newly appointed cabinet and justice members resigned in the face of the continued culture of impunity and campaign of military terror. and mass displacement.S. Popkin 2000. citizens were the victims. p70) . agencies to enact technical reforms were not only ineffectual but seen by Salvadorans as another counterinsurgency tool. Reagan. rather than any deficiencies in AID's AOJ program that ensures the futility of any program to democratize the judicial system. In the following year a coalition of guerilla forces.S. and then only under external pressure. carried out with impunity by the military and paramilitary forces. The lack of judicial independence and impunity for the authors of gross human rights violations persisted. leaving those responsible for ordering the murders untouched. (Carrillo 2010. the exceptions being cases in which U.

S.Jeffers |5 Transition From War While resistant to the notion of a negotiated ceasefire. internal factors and international pressure brought the government of El Salvador and the FMLN to begin a series of negotiations to bring an end to the war. guarantee unrestricted respect for human rights and reunify Salvadorian society" (U. A brief overview of the agreements is provided here. prompting international outrage. their housekeeper and her daughter. while the implementation will be addressed in following sections.S. but also a series of reforms and mechanisms designed to transition from the authoritarian military/civilian government structure to a democratized society. With the slow dissolution of the Soviet Union and winding down of the Cold War. The FMLN enjoyed widespread popular support. Two days into the battle. Following an offensive in November 1989 during which FMLN forces were able to take and hold position in the capital of San Salvador for a week. 1992. (Baloyra 1992. promote the democratization of the country. With participation of the United Nations and the Organization of American States.S. members of the U. conditioned further military aid on cooperation. a series of meetings culminated in the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords January 16. . and the government forces were dependent on U. the U. military aid. it became clear the warring factions had fought to a stalemate.N 1992.) Chapultepec Peace Accords The negotiated peace not only provided for a ceasefire. Sieder 2003) The stated purpose of the accords was "to end the armed conflict by political means as speedily as possible. trained Atlacatl Battalion murdered six Jesuit priests.

including respect for the constitution. an Ad Hoc Committee was established to carry out lustration procedures. restructured and downsized. as well as subordinating the armed forces to civil authority in service to the nation as a professional. (U. and those members not purged by the Ad Hoc Committee's findings were to be incorporated into the armed forces. A National Council of the . (U. with the promise of "a new force with a new organization. In order to purify the ranks. The military was to be removed from civil policing functions. human rights and dignity. and respect for democratic principles. and regulations required for private security forces. rights and freedoms. This body would be responsible for civil policing and have national jurisdiction. Those soldiers who were discharged due to reorganization of the armed forces were to be given one year's pay as well as assistance in transitioning to employment in the civilian sector. rule of law.Jeffers |6 Military and Security Forces Reform The accords called for doctrinal changes in the armed forces.N. new education and training mechanisms and a new doctrine". apolitical and non-deliberative body. the section on judicial reform is given little weight. and a Commission on the Truth was given the task of addressing issues of impunity. Paramilitary forces were proscribed. new officers. Rapid Deployment Infantry Battalions were to be disbanded. Chapter 1) A National Civil Police department was established. 1992) Judicial Reform Although the judiciary in El Salvador was culpable in creating and maintaining the culture of impunity. emphasizing professionalism and independence from partisan control.N 1992. Both the National Guard and Treasury Police were to be disbanded. and the National Intelligence Department abolished and replaced by the State Intelligence Agency under the direct authority of the President rather than the military.

These programs followed the International Monetary Fund and World Bank philosophies of structural readjustment. as noted in the Peace Accords. FMLN had pushed for a complete replacement of the Supreme Court.Jeffers |7 Judiciary was to be established. but also not up for negotiation. including both military and FMLN fighters. President Reagan. and were to be included in the planned job development programs. 1992. strong ties between ARENA assembly members and Supreme Court President Gutierrez Castro made that impossible. The economic restructuring was to take place in the context of the ongoing neoliberal programs initiated by ARENA and the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development in 1983.S. not shared by the FMLN. which left the current regime in power. and loosening of trade restrictions. Carrillo 2010) In recognition of the "need to provide certain basic guidelines so as to ensure the requisite social stability during the transitional period. as well as the establishment of a National Counsel for the Defense of Human Rights. with strong backing from U. a Judicial Training school was called for. privatization. if all training requirements were met. free from party control and independent from the executive and legislative bodies. (Popkin 2000 p104) Economic and Social Questions The FMLN was to be demobilized as an armed force. . and fully integrated into civil society. including the distribution of land to former combatants. but given the nature of the ceasefire.N. some land reform programs. consolidate peace and make progress towards the reunification of Salvadorian society" (U. philosophies. (Chapter 2) During the negotiating process. Security Council 1992). (U. de-regulation.N. prior to the expiration of their current terms. They were not banned from serving on the new Civil Police Force.

and former combatants were to be fully integrated into political. exempting those found responsible for grave acts of violence by the Truth Commission.Jeffers |8 FMLN Political Participation The FMLN was granted status as a legal political party. civil and institutional sectors of society. with a focus on the senior officer ranks. with rights to operate within the electoral structure. A compromise was reached. opposition argued that amnesty not be granted for certain crimes. and the inclusion of the military observers was meant to quell fears that civilians would not understand military necessity or actions and were not qualified to judge professional qualifications. The Ministry of Defense and other public entities were instructed to supply any information requested. Political prisoners were freed.N. While not . 1992) The latter provisions led to the approval of the National Reconciliation Law. While the ruling ARENA party preferred a total amnesty. the first of the post-war amnesties. and what was needed for reconciliation was a policy or forgive and forget. 147 of January 23. (U. The Secretary General of the United Nations selected three members from Salvadoran civil society of "recognized independence of judgment and unimpeachable democratic credentials" (un p5) to conduct the investigatory and decision making tasks and two military observer members were appointed by the President. and security guarantees made for exiles and wounded soldiers returning to the country. Ad Hoc Committee The Ad Hoc Committee was charged with purifying the military of human rights violators. The effects of this act will be addressed below. claiming that any attempts to prosecute war time atrocities would destabilize the peace process. Legislative Decree No. including officer service records. It was believed that a panel drawn from Salvadoran society would be better accepted by the military.

many were retired with full honors. (Hayner 2011) Not surprisingly. negotiated prior to the signing of the Peace Accords. 1993). and those were eventually discharged faced no further sanction. and capacity to operate in the new peace time context and while consensus was preferred for decisions. 1993) Unlike the Commission on the Truth. the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee were secret and no public report was issued. a majority vote was acceptable in its absence. the committee recommended that over one hundred officers be discharged. following submission of the report. (Popkin 2000) Judgments were based on the officer's professional competence. its decision to name perpetrators.N. (U. The committee was given a time frame of three months to complete the investigatory stage. (2011 215) Hayner credits the publishing of the Commission on the Truth's report. each committee member received death threats. was given only one paragraph in the Chapultepec document.N. Despite later claims that the Commission had ended the need for further discussion or prosecution of human rights . but at the conclusion. Commission on the Truth The stated goal of the Commission on the Truth was to "clarify and put an end to any indication of impunity on the part of officers of the armed forces" (U. along with international pressure. appearing under the heading END TO IMPUNITY. The mandate. and two were forced to leave the country for their own safety.Jeffers |9 permitted to participate in the investigatory or deliberative functions. one month for the decision process. and sixty days for implementation. There was considerable resistance by the military. for forcing eventual compliance. with further details found in the final report of the Commission. the observers were given access to reports and permitted to provide explanations. past conduct.

the wording found in the Peace Accords clearly did not preclude legal action. and was to make recommendations for legal. ending impunity and assisting in national reconciliation. Chapter II) . or those that pointed to systematic patterns of violence designed to intimidate sectors of the larger society. Security Council 1993. it claims the Parties recognized that such violations "regardless of the sector to which their perpetrators belong. administrative or political remedies based on the findings. (U. the criteria were not based on the size of the offense. Although during negotiations. Given the challenge of properly investigating twelve years of atrocities and human rights violations within a half year time period. and pledged. Cases could involve one victim or many. the Commission chose to focus on representative cases. Both parties agreed to the binding nature of the recommendations. to carry them out. with the purposes of creating confidence in the changes promised by the peace process. must be the object of exemplary action by the law courts so that the punishment prescribed by law is meted out to those found responsible" (U. but the severity of the crime and its impact on the victim and greater Salvadoran society. on paper at least. limited to either individual acts so heinous that they caused international and domestic outrage. in the end it was left to the Commission which incidents to study.N 1993) Mandate The Commission was tasked with investigating serious acts of violence committed during the time period from 1980 to the signing of the Accords. Rather. with the number of cases considered being limited only by the given time constraints of a six month investigatory period.J e f f e r s | 10 violations. Violations committed by both parties to the conflict were considered.N. the parties considered drawing up a list of cases to be investigated.

administered. a domestic staff would have been more prone to intimidation. and a small support staff of around fifty. (Hayner 2011. It was created. Those chosen were internationally respected figures drawn from regional states. 1993. it was not physically removed from the country. given the continued power position of the ARENA government and their security forces. The invitation to testify was . There was also the real fear that.12) Concerns of perceived bias also led the Commission to avoid working with human rights organizations with experience in El Salvador. including a former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. the newly formed Commission let it be known that "they would not let themselves be pressured or impressed: they were after the objective truth and the hard facts. but also deprived the investigators of insight into the country and its politics. a former president of Columbia. 214) Methodology While the commission had no Salvadoran members. with offices established in several departments. Some reasons for excluding Salvadoran nationals included the hope that foreign actors would be seen as impartial in their conclusions and more trusted by those who gave testimony. (Hayner 2011.J e f f e r s | 11 Composition Unlike the Ad Hoc Commission.N. and a former Venezuelan minister of foreign relations." (U. a policy that may have helped mitigate charges of partiality. in agreement with the signatories of the Peace Accords. Popkin 2004) In their initial statement to the press. the Commission on the Truth was composed and staffed entirely by non-Salvadorans. a fear borne out by the experience of the Ad Hoc Committee cited above. composed of three commissioners appointed by the Secretary General. and funded by the United Nations.

asking those with information on past atrocities and abuses to offer testimony. Testimony could be given at offices. In addition to having offices. Overwhelming evidence . in which there was less than "sufficient" evidence to support such a finding.more evidence to support the Commission's finding than to contradict it. in keeping with the guarantee of discretion and confidentiality. attempted to verify incidents using official documents when possible. 1993. Commissioners also traveled throughout the country to take testimony and to travel to sites revealed during their investigations.conclusive or highly convincing evidence to support the Commission's finding. and giving assurances of discretion and confidentiality. As investigations progressed.N. The Commission listed three degrees of certainty for their findings." (U.N 1993. The Commission decided not to arrive at any specific finding on cases or situations. and traveled with a professional team to investigate reported crimes on site. While results and conclusions were made public. the commission checked information against multiple trusted sources. and public announcements were made thru the papers. 3. 13) Care was taken to substantiate testimony received. on site. 2. (U. often outside the country when the safety of witnesses was at risk.J e f f e r s | 12 extended to the entire society. the sources of the information gathered were not. 17) . were thought to have been involved in or have further information on the case at hand. which were 1. they sent summons to those who. radio and television. Sufficient evidence . or in secret locations. based on information received.very solid evidence to support the Commission's finding. Substantial evidence . or any aspect thereof. the commission had an " "open-door" policy for hearing testimony and a "closed-door" policy for preserving confidentiality.

military and intelligence agencies maintained records as well. Jimmy Carter mandated annual country-by-country human rights reports by the U.S.During the morning. and the refusal to provide information regarding burial sites and secret prisons. which provided an extensive catalogue of human rights abuses by the Salvadoran military. torture and execute the men in various locations . Created and trained at the U.N. W. (Hayner 2011. their housekeeper and her daughter..S. there was a marked lack of cooperation and intentional cover up on the part of the military officials. Bush. U. 1993) By virtue of the depth of United States involvement in training and supporting the Salvadoran military forces culpable in human rights violations. and as part of their intimate involvement with the Salvadoran military. they proceeded to interrogate.. officials were an important source of documentation used by the Commission for verification. Department of Morazán. U.S.. including the murder of six Jesuit priests.J e f f e r s | 13 Although the Peace Accords mandated that they be given access to any and all records they requested. providing confirmation of senior Salvadoran officers' involvement in gross violations of human rights.-Salvadoran relations.S. units of the Atlacatl Rapid Deployment Infantry Battalion (BIRI) arrived in the village of El Mozote. 171) During his presidency. School of the America's at Fort Benning. documented in the final report of the Commission as follows: On the afternoon of 10 December 1981.S. The final report decries the government's concealment and destruction of records. (U. the battalion was responsible for numerous atrocities. (Sieder 2003. and the El Mozote massacre. Chapter 15) The Atlacatl Battalion is illustrative of the intertwined nature of U.. after a clash with guerrillas in the vicinity. Daily dispatches were sent from diplomatic offices reporting on conditions. Department of State. Declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents were made available to the Commission by President H.

The members agreed that "unless both Parties decided to amend our mandate. women and children. the Commission felt it was necessary to name perpetrators. otherwise they would be helping to maintain the impunity they were charged with ending. to prevent false accusations and lend credibility to the findings and recommendations.N. the survivors subsequently buried the bodies. they began taking out the women in groups. Therefore. The next day. The FMLN was in favor of full disclosure. In Los Toriles. 1993. not simply their crimes. The others. lined up and machine-gunned. verification was critical to the process. situated 2 kilometres away. separating them from their children and machine gunning them. Around noon. 105-107) Naming Names Given the mandate to investigate "serious acts of violence .. After exterminating the entire population. were taken from their homes. (Sieder .. (U. 1993. 117) Given the lack of an independent judiciary and the continuing power of those culpable for the majority of abuses. Finally. they went through the village of Los Toriles. During the weeks that followed the bodies were seen by many people who passed by there. (U. Some of the inhabitants managed to escape. A group of children who had been locked in the convent were machinegunned through the windows. the soldiers set fire to the buildings. whose impact on society urgently demands that the public should know the truth". The victims at El Mozote were left unburied. the Cristiani government was opposed and pressured the commission to keep perpetrators from being publically identified. 4 )." (Popkin 2003.J e f f e r s | 14 .N. we were legally and morally obligated to identify those we found to be guilty of the serious abuses we had been investigating. there was little hope that justice would be achieved in the courts. they killed the children. The soldiers remained in El Mozote that might. Had the commission been domestic rather than a project of the United Nations there may well have been a more limited reporting. men.

and secondary source testimony concerning over 20. should be barred from public office for ten years. 125) Lustration The report concluded the following steps should be taken. or interfering in the investigation of serious acts of violence should be dismissed. (Popkin 2000. but . 1993). along with any civil servants who had been found to assist in the same. It was recommended that those who named in serious acts of violence. both parties agreed that the recommendations of Commission on the Truth would be binding and carried out once issued.J e f f e r s | 15 2003) Overall. with a lifetime ban on employment involving military or security operations. 1993) Judicial Reform While the commission favored appropriate legal action against those who committed serious crimes.000 victims.000 primary sources concerning over 7.000 victims.N. (U." Deliberations were based on tenets of international law. testimony was taken from over 2. treated implementation of the recommendations as part of the implementation of the accords. and the U. 1993. given the historical lack of an independent.N. (U.N. impartial and effective judicial system in Salvadoran society to draw from. Thirty-two cases were documented in the final report "From Madness to Hope: the 12-year war in El Salvador: Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador. the question was not whether those guilty of serious crimes should be punished. Recommendations The Commission issued its final report March 15. engaging in a cover up. Those in the armed forces implicated in committing. When signing the peace accords. whether previously retired or discharged as a result of the findings.

N. 1993) Institutional Reforms The Commission also recommended institutional reforms designed to prevent the recurrence of past violations.N. disbanding and barring of paramilitary forces. urging the enactment of reforms in the armed forces and security structures.J e f f e r s | 16 whether given the current political and judicial state of affairs it was even possible to do so. The reasoning was twofold. They called for a special fund to . (U. 1993) Reconciliation Citing the need for restorative. (U. Reforms regarding the appointment and dismissal of judges were recommended also.N. 1993) Reforms aimed at ending the culture of impunity were among the recommendations. the commission recommended vehicles for material and moral compensation for victims. and much needed recent judicial reforms could not be implemented until the new court was seated. The question of retiring the sitting Supreme Court before expiration of their term was raised once again. affirming the presumption of innocence of those arrested. including removing the Supreme Court's power of dismissal of lower court judges and putting it in the hands of the legislature. and regulation of private security. Justice sector reform measures included invalidating the use of extrajudicial confessions. with the recommendation being immediate replacement of the sitting Court. as well as retributive justice. discontinuing the practice of indeterminate detention and enacting punishment for violators. (U. and allowing for arrestees to have access to a defense at the start of their detention. the Supreme Court President Gutierrez Castro had been castigated in the report for his unprofessional conduct and "inappropriate and negative" interference in the case of the El Mozote massacre (Popkin 2000).

proscribing civil action as well as criminal. a lawyer found to have aided in the cover-up following the murder of the Jesuit . they called for substantial international contributions to the fund. compiled during the investigatory stage of the commission's work. for the purposes of research and possible future prosecutions. to study. as well as restoration of the victims reputations and status. the commission suggested a Forum for Truth and Reconciliation. Although the issuance of the report did re-enforce the rulings of the Ad Hoc commission.N. a national holiday to memorialize the victims and aid in national reconciliation. 1993. and some named by the commission remained in positions of power. leading to the eventual removal of those slated for dismissal for violations. to be made available. 176) Moral compensation was recommended in the form of a national monument in El Salvador listing the names of all victims. As there was no real ownership of the process for Salvadorans. Given the financial situation at the time. more sweeping amnesty law. Rodolfo Parker. This never materialized and the work product of the commission remains inaccessible. the amnesty precluded any further attempts at ending impunity.J e f f e r s | 17 be created to provide monetary compensation for victims of both the government and FLMN forces. analyze and monitor compliance with the recommendations. Also suggested was a repository in the United States for the materials. "especially the wealthier countries and those who showed most interest in the conflict and its settlement" (U. recognition of the serious crimes committed against them. with care taken to maintain confidentiality. the legislature passed a second. Reactions Five days after the final report was released. Those dismissed as a result of the lustration process were often retired with honors.

forget. that had no bearing on the Supreme Court. along with General Ponce. illegal. Hayner 2011) President Cristiani stated that the report did not meet the need of the Salvadoran society to forgive. The defense minister. but also left no domestic civil organizations behind with an investment in . Supreme Court President Castro dismissed the peace accords as executive negotiations.J e f f e r s | 18 priests in 1989. complicit in the murders. 127). one of those named by the commission as being involved in the conspiracy that led to the murder of the Jesuit priests. unethical. The international nature of the panel allowed for greater freedom from intimidation. but also diminished the sense of ownership of the proceedings by the Salvadoran society. With so many seats of power occupied by those named in the commission's report. The report was not embraced by the government of El Salvador. and that the findings of the truth commission were irrelevant. then later. denounced the report as "unfair. and erase the past. The decision to distance itself from non- governmental human rights organizations working in El Salvador may have lessened the appearance of bias. and allowed for citizens giving testimony to trust the promises of confidentiality and impartiality. was later appointed to represent the Salvadoran government in the National Commission for the Consolidation of the Peace. (Popkin 2000. (Popkin 200. the dismissal and condemnation of the findings was not a surprise. incomplete. and that he would only feel compelled to implement those recommendations he felt would promote those needs. to the Foundation for Development in Justice and Peace. and though available was not widely disseminated to the public. biased and insolent".

death and impunity still in place. Sieder 2003) Conclusions Brahm (2007) outlines different modes of measuring the success of truth commissions. 2004. there was little chance of any healing.J e f f e r s | 19 promoting the report and its recommendations. In time many of the reforms were enacted. the ARENA party. (Popkin 2000. let along apology. with the most basic being the utilitarian question: did the commission fulfill its mandate of . those in power were not inclined to accept recommendations that challenged their personal and partisan privilege and impunity. and documented by the Commission on the Truth. clean break from a discredited and disgraced past political regime. regardless of the make-up of the commission. The commission was empaneled during the cease fire while FMLN fighters were still in de-mobilization camps. The planned transition was simply from a state of war to the absence of war. It is questionable that a domestic panel would have been possible in the given situation. In such circumstances there was little hope for any form of justice to emerge. let alone yielded better results. whose founder Roberto D'Aubuissson was behind the murder of Oscar Romero and other death squad activity. still in power. and the mechanisms of torture. but no one was ever charged or tried for any of the serious crimes against humanity committed during the war. not one in which there was a clear. Those in power expected forgiveness in the absence of any admission of wrong. With the continuity of power resting with those who equated national reconciliation with impunity. In the end. and demanded that the population simply forget the atrocities committed against them.

The commission also pioneered a more efficient and thorough model of record keeping and database maintenance (Hayner 2011) used by subsequent truth commissions. the economic inequalities that were a major impetus for the war have been magnified. disconnection and fragmented community. and people live in an atmosphere of distrust. Using this measure. But judging the success based on the political and social effectiveness. operating in a hostile environment with few historical examples to draw from. the commission's work was impressive. (Moodie 2010) These shortcomings may not be the sign of a failed truth commission however. the Salvadoran commission can be deemed a qualified success. there was little chance for the commission to fulfill its mandate. but a function of reality clashing with the purported efficacy of the method itself. as found in transition justice literature. There seems to have been little impact on the society in general. It had little or no effect on the culture of violence and impunity that still exist in Salvadoran society today. Technically. Forgiveness of those who continue to defend their criminal actions as necessary and correct is close to . as the report received little distribution within El Salvador. the failure is even more apparent.J e f f e r s | 20 investigating. In the case of El Salvador. and the healing aspect in regards to victims is questionable. the Salvadoran commission falls short of the lofty goals attributed to the practice. even when confining the definition of justice to the realm of criminal accountability. which has one of the highest murder rates in the region. and reporting its findings for public consumption. When incorporating theories of social and economic justice. as well as the level of social stratification and fragmentation. documenting. Absent the political will to end the culture of impunity. Following the war. it seems that the justice component of the transitional justice model is absent.

with no centralized power to confront. It remains to be seen what will transpire with the election of the first FMLN president in terms of social and economic justice. Violence now is seen as criminal. The question posed by Arundhati Roy is applicable: "What happens now that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory organism" (Moodie 2011. 140) The problems faced by El Salvador today were not caused by a failed transitional justice model. Rather than a sense of healing. High violence and low income has brought disillusionment. faceless and pointless. Even with the benefit of U. The death rate from murder rivals that of war time violence. suspending or reversing many of the reforms enacted as part of the peace accords. Silber 2011) The violence has led to a series of laws instituting emergency powers. and the sense of community and purpose felt during the war have been replaced by distrust and fragmentation. the percentage of the population living in poverty has also risen.N. as the hope of democracy and economic equality has been replaced with the reality of democratization and neoliberal free markets. but by the lack of any real transition and the denial of justice by political actors.J e f f e r s | 21 impossible. returning to more authoritarian modes of justice. as the expected benefits of a peace never materialized. the short-term mechanisms of . what has emerged in post-war El Salvador is a sense that things are worse than during the war. but now people are killed for no reason. and certainly not healing. (Moodie 2011. People have a sense of unknowing. funding and follow-up support. Peterson 2008. As the gross domestic product almost doubled. The promise of social and economic equality which many gave their lives for during the war was replace with the lack of hope.

The electoral transfer of power from the ARENA party to the first FMLN president has brought about a small step in that direction. "I am seeking pardon in the name of the state. 2010) . was a victim of right-wing death squads "who unfortunately acted with the protection. collaboration or participation of state agents". The archbishop. In January of 2010.J e f f e r s | 22 transitional justice were incapable of effecting healing or mitigating the effects of freemarket development With the passage of time and shifting political power dynamics. the search for accountability may lie in post-transitional justice attempts. March 25. he said." Mr Funes said as he unveiled a mural honouring Oscar Romero at El Salvador's international airport. (BBC. President Funes issued a long due apology and official acknowledgment that the government had committed crimes and abuses during the civil war and in March of the same year addressed the murder of Oscar Romero.

1:16-35. 2011. del Castillo. Hayner. Everyday Revolutionaries: Gender. Democratic Accountability in Latin America. Brahm. Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions. Journal of Democracy 3. “Horizontal Accountability and the Rule of Law in Central America”. Baloyra. Scott and Christopher Welna.J e f f e r s | 23 Bibliography Popkin. 2007. Peace Without Justice: Obstacles to Building the Rule of Law in El Salvador. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Salvaging El Salvador. Jackson 2003. Peace. Michael and Donald W. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. Irina Carlota 2011. Eric. International Studies Perspectives 8. Alexandra Barahona De . Moodie. Rachel 2003. Graciana 2008. Cath 2010. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. (pp 228-265) Oxford: Oxford University Press. . Enrique. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. “War. Violence. The Challenge of Post-Conflict Economic Reconstruction (pp 103-136). Priscilla B. Ellen 2010. no. Sieder. Carmen Gonzalez Enriquez and Paloma Aguilar ed. no. Uncovering the Truth: Examining Truth Commission Success and Impact. Silber. “UN-led reconstruction following UN-led negotiations: El Salvador” Rebuilding War-Torn States. The Politics of Memory and Democratization (pp 161-189 ). New York: Routledge. 2:70-80. El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace. Dodson. Collins. and Memory Politics in Central America. Margaret 2000. Mainwaring.” Brito. 1992. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Post-Transitional Justice: Human Rights Trials in Chile and El Salvador. and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. ed.

volume 15. Alexandar 2006. 2 (Summer2008 2008): 511-542.J e f f e r s | 24 Segovia. Impacts and Challenges for the FMLN. S/25500. Peterson. 1993. and Political Memory in El Salvador. 2004. "Martyrdom. Groningen.. 5-8. A/46/864 S/23501. (pp 154-175). Pablo de. Latin American Politics & Society 46. 105-124 UN Security Council. M. Criminal Law Forum (2004). The Neoliberal Oligarchic Consolidation in El Salvador: Origins. UN Security Council. Sacrifice. Popkin. From Madness to Hope: the 12-year war in El Salvador: Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador. 1992 . “The Reparations Proposals of the Truth Commissions in El Salvador and Haiti: A History of Noncompliance. and Brandt G. Marcia. ed. issue 1-2 . no. The Situation in Central America: Threats to International Peace and Security and Peace Initiatives. Carrillo Carlos Velásquez. Annex." Social Research 75. The Socioeconomic Implications of Dollarization in El Salvador. The Salvadoran Truth Commission and the Search for Justice. The Handbook of Reparations. Towers. Netherlands: NALACS 2010 Annual Conference. Anna L. Peterson. 2010.” Greiff. 3:29-54. p. Oxford: Oxford University Press. no.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.