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World

High Court Strikes Down El Salvador's Civil War Amnesty Law

The 1993 law helped bring an end to the country's civil war but also prevented authorities from seeking justice for human rights violations committed during the brutal conflict

Salvadoran army reserve soldiers in San Salvador, photo: Reuters/José Cabezas
1 year ago

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — El Salvador’s Supreme Court on Wednesday declared as unconstitutional a 1993 amnesty law that helped bring an end to the country’s civil war but also prevented authorities from seeking justice for human rights violations committed during the brutal conflict.

The judges in the high court’s constitutional chamber ruled that aspects of the amnesty law violated the constitution, and denied Salvadorans the right to access to justice and compensation for war crimes.

In a statement, the court said the judges found that articles in the amnesty law are unconstitutional because they block the state from fulfilling its obligation “to prevent, investigate, judge, punish and offer reparations for series rights violations.”

The Salvadoran government fought a 12-year civil war with rebel groups before signing peace accords in 1992. In 1993, the country’s legislative assembly enacted the law prohibiting the prosecution of crimes committed by the military and leftist rebels during the conflict that claimed 75,000 lives.

Human rights groups had chafed at the amnesty law while supporters argued it was necessary to get the sides to lay down their arms. Wednesday’s ruling could allow prosecutors to investigate atrocities and war crimes.

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