El Salvador orders probe into people who disappeared in civil war

El Salvador’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered the attorney general’s office to investigate the forced disappearance of three people during the 12-year civil war (1980-1992) and to punish those responsible.

The decision by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court came after a writ of habeas corpus was filed in November 2017 by a plaintiff “against the actions of members” of the now-defunct National Police (PN) and the Armed Forces. 

The missing include the brother, father and mother of the plaintiff, who was not identified but who asked that the whereabouts of their relatives and what happened around them be investigated. 

“It is declared that the plaintiff’s relatives were victims of forced disappearance, committed by members of the (defunct) National Police and the Armed Forces,” the court said. 

It ordered the attorney general, Rodolfo Delgado, to “launch a criminal investigation of the forced disappearance” of the three and to “determine the material situation of the victims and to charge, judge and punish those who are responsible.” 

On May 15, 1982, men in civilian clothes detained the plaintiff’s brother in the southern part of the capital San Salvador. He was loaded into a truck and allegedly taken to the National Police headquarters, a witness told the family, according to the lawsuit. 

The witness “was also disappeared” a few days later. Two days after the disappearance of the brother, his father and mother were also disappeared as part of a police and military operation. 

The parents of the man who witnessed the first arrest were disappeared, as well. According to the court document, the plaintiff’s brother was involved in “revolutionary political activity” at the time of his disappearance, while his father and mother were part of “community organizations” and “church communities” that at the time were viewed as leftist by the right-wing authorities. 

After the end of the civil war on January 16, 1992, the National Guard, the Treasury Police and the National Police were disbanded. The civil war left more than 75,000 dead and an economy in tatters.

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