Rights court investigates 1981 Salvador massacre

The Inter-American Court began hearing testimony on the "Battalion Atlacatl" atrocities government denies ever took place

The Inter-American Court began hearing testimony on Tuesday on a massacre of close to 1,000 El Salvador residents in the Morazán department in 1981.

The hearings were carried out in Guayaquil, Ecuador where the court is in session.

Witnesses say that the victims were murdered by members of the "Battalion Atlacatl" and other units of the Salvadoran army. The alleged incidents took place between December 10 and 13, 1981 in more than a half-a-dozen towns and villages in Morazán. For many decades, the Salvadoran government has denied that the massacre ever took place.

One of the witnesses, María del Rosario López Sánchez, a former resident of La Joya and who lost 22 relatives in the atrocities, said that many survivors were too afraid to come forward with information. López Sánchez was forced to flee to the nearby hills, where she lived in hiding for six years.

Salvador Méndez, deputy attorney general, told the court that the 1993 amnesty law, which covered all crimes during the 1980-1992 armed conflict, has helped many former military officials from being charged with crimes from the past. The victims were represented by the Washington-based Center of Justice and Internal Law and Catholic Archdiocese Human Rights office in El Salvador.

"Much of the current violence in El Salvador can be related to unresolved issues of the past," said Sol Yáñez, a psychologist from the University of the Basque Country.

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