Search:
From the Archive
Most contravention women issues in Islam Part 3
Fatwas: Part Twenty-One
Satan Is the True Fabricator of the Deities and Saints Worshiped by the Muhammadans
Fatwas Part Eighty-Nine
The Pharaonic Kingdom of Torture and the Absenting of the Egyptian Nation by Force from History
Gulf Cooperation Council Between Two Fires in Bahrain and Libya
Stealing from the State?!
Analysis of Morsy's visit to Iran
Analysis: Why was Tamarod successful?
The Quranic Sharia Legislation Methodology of Prohibition: A Practical Study
Syrian Refugees in Germany: Risks and the Solution
The difference between
Fatwas Part One-Hundred-and-Seventeen
The real Islamic Jihad in Palestine
right of women in Islam to work and to be active in the society
A Message to Satan
The miracle of the Quran in unlock the secrets of the early embryonic developmental stages in the mum womb Professor Dr Abdelrazak M Ali,
Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies <
President Obama and King Abdullah Al-saud
"Ihdena al siraat al moustaqeem"
El Salvador Truth Commission

The rise of Communism, because of the social and economic unjust, was the main reason of the conflict between the El Salvadorian government- supported by the US, and the FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional) - supported by the leftist countries such as Cuba. The war impact was brutal particularly on the civilian population. El Salvador, which population was five million by that time, lost seventy five thousand victims. By the beginning of the end of the Cold War, it was clear to the government that it was impossible to win this war, especially with the US losing its interest in fighting Communism in El Salvador. Only then, peace talks started to amount.

After three years of negotiations- under the United Nations’ auspices- between the El Salvadorian government and the FMLN, both parties reached a peace agreement signed in Mexico on January 16th 1992. They also decided to initiate a truth commission which mandate was to investigate the atrocities committed during the period of 1980-1991. The mandate emphasized serious acts of violence and their impact or repercussions. It distinguished to types of violence- individual cases and systematic violence. The Commission was given two specific powers: the power to make investigations and the power to make recommendations. The latter power is particularly important since, under the mandate, the Parties undertake to carry out the Commission's recommendations. The commission conducted its investigation on a confidential basis. It was free in using any source needed. It could also investigate any individual or group. The commission, however; was not by any chance a judicial body.

One of the first problems the Commission faced was the people’s fear to speak. They were not ready yet to testify, especially with foreigners on the Commission’s board. Moreover, the commission was appointed by the secretary-general of the United Nations, which also strengthened the idea of outside interference.

 In order to guarantee the reliability of the evidence it gathered, the Commission insisted on verifying, substantiating and reviewing all statements as to facts, checking them against a large number of sources whose veracity had already been established. However, this still did not justify that fact the Commission named names in their reports because this did not meet the requirement of the due process. In addition, the suspect should have the right to confront the accuser; the suspect should be able to tell his side of the story before documenting him as a human rights perpetrator.

One can argue that the Commission was not a judicial body, and hence it was not obliged to follow the due process. But, ethically speaking, since the Commission was not a judicial body, it should not have named names. The actual reason for naming names was the fact that the board knew those perpetrators will never stand trails because of the weakness and corruption of the Salvility of the evidence it gathered, the Commission insisted on verifying, substantiating and reviewing all statements as to facts, checking them against a large number of sources whose veracity had already been established. However, this still did not justify that fact the Commission named names in their reports because this did not meet the requirement of the due process. In addition, the suspect should have the right to confront the accuser; the suspect should be able to tell his side of the story before documenting him as a human rights perpetrator.

One can argue that the Commission was not a judicial body, and hence it was not obliged to follow the due process. But, ethically speaking, since the Commission was not a judicial body, it should not have named names. The actual reason for naming names was the fact that the board knew those perpetrators will never stand trails because of the weakness and corruption of the Salvadorian Judicial system in that time. So it is justified for this reason to name names. One can argue that if we accept truth as an alternative of justice and if we are not going to punish or persecute the perpetrators, then they must not at least stay in power, which also explains why the Commission named names. As a result of naming the human rights violators, they either resigned or were taken out of the government.  

The report explains many reasons for the violence. The lack of human rights guarantees in El Salvador and the fact that a society has operated outside the principles of a State subject to the rule of law imposes a serious responsibility on the Salvadorian State itself, rather than on one or other of its Governments. With the passage of time the military ended up controlling the society and the civil life. The Judiciary branch was weakened. Alliances between political leaders and the military also further weakened the civilian control over the military. On the other side, there was the FMLN and death squads, which operated both within and outside the institutional framework with complete impunity, spread terror throughout Salvadorian society. They originated basically as a civilian operation, designed, financed and controlled by civilians. The core of serving officers, whose role was originally limited to that of mere executants and executioners, gradually seized control of the death squads for personal gain or to promote certain ideological or political objectives.

 The Commission divided the violence into four periods- The Institutionalization of violence (1980-1983), Violations with the context of armed conflict (1984-1987), the military conflict as obstacle to peace (1987-1989), and from the final offensive to the signing of the peace agreement (1989-1991). The report explains the historical factors and development of the conflicts. It shows a yearly report of the violence during the repression. The Violence was systematic from the beginning. The government killed any opposition it found, even the priests. In the Jesuits priests’ case, six Jesuit priests, a cook and her 16-year-old daughter were shot and killed at the Pastoral Centre of José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) in San Salvador. The commission found that this crime was ordered by high level officers, whom the Commission named. Trail took place for this specific incident, but only the low-level officials (Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno and Lieutenant Yusshy René Mendoza Vallecillos) were punished, but those who ordered the crime were still at large, which the Commission criticized.

Abductions and disappearances were also another frequent form of violence during the civil war. One must distinguish that violence here is committed by both the Government and the FMLN, however the state was more violent. An example for the violence by the Guerilla is Duarte and Villeda case. On 10 September 1985, Inés Guadalupe Duarte Durán, daughter of President José Napoleón Duarte, and her friend, Ana Cecilia Villeda, were abducted by the FMLN and were taken to a guerrilla camp. On October 24th , after several weeks of negotiations in which the Salvadorian church and diplomats from the region acted as mediators in secret talks, Inés Duarte and her friend were released in exchange for 22 political prisoners. The operation also included the release of 25 mayors and local officials abducted by FMLN in exchange for 101 war-wounded guerrillas.

This Truth Commission is considered unique in its relation with the United Nations. This was the first time in the international community that the United Nations was responsible for a truth comission. Today the Unite Nations continues to monitor El Salvador and secure people through the UN Observer Mission for El Salvador. El Salvador’s Truth Commission is also unique in that it represents the first time since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials following World War II that foreign, rather than national figures, investigated past episodes of violence in a sovereign country.

            On the other hand, the Commission did not even suggest trails in it the recommendations section, although it was agreed-as mentioned before- that the parties should undertake to carry out the Commission's recommendations. The Board argued that recommending trails was useless because the judicial system was so weak and corrupt that it could not afford trails. One can argue here that the Commission should have recommended trails, no matter how unachievable it was. They would not have lost any thing by doing so, moreover; maybe this might have been used to have trails later in the future.

The attack on the Commission for not recommending trails elaborates and emphases and important fact, that the people are still not considering truth as a valid alternative of justice, which may undermine the whole idea of Truth Commissions. If truth was looked upon as an alternative of justice, then the human right organizations would have been satisfied by acknowledging what happened and naming names, but this was not the case. This means that Truth Commissions are still looked upon in the first place as a way to achieve justice, but if justice was unattainable, then acknowledging the truth should be enough. In other words, at least attempts to justice should be made before accepting the truth. The Commission mandate did not say that the Board should examine the possibility of trails. The recommendations accordingly ignored mentioning trails. So before attacking the El Salvador Truth Commission, I think that we should first accept truth as an alternative for justice because that is what truth commissions are all about.

Overall, El Salvador Truth Commission did a great job acknowledging the past abuses. I would consider it even very positive and active because of naming names, which is questionable on the moral and ethical level. I can not blame it for being just a truth commission and not recommending trails, although I wanted them to. Being appointed by the United Nations and having Non-Salvadorians on its’ board sent a message for all human rights violators: Human rights abusers will not be only punished by their own local government; the International Community has the authority to pursue any perpetrator.

 


The views and opinions of authors whose articles and comments are posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of IQC.