Spain exercises universal jurisdiction in El Salvador killings

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 01 June 2011, 03:13 GMT]
Judge, Eloy Velasco Nuñez of Spain’s National Court, used the doctrine of universal jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed outside of the country, to issue arrest warrants on Monday for some of the top military leaders of El Salvador’s civil war, accusing them of meticulously planning and carrying out the killings of six Jesuit priests in 1989, New York Times said in its Tuesday edition. The 77-page charging document said that the 20 men named in the warrants never had doubts about “carrying out the most execrable crimes against people merely to impose their strategies and ideas.”

“We wanted to walk the judge every step of the way,” said Almudena Bernabeu, a lawyer with the Center for Justice and Accountability in San Francisco, which brought the case to Spain’s National Court with the support of the victims’ families. “The defense has always argued that it all happened in the chaos of war. But there is no doubt that this was a very carefully planned military operation.”

Among the men named in the indictment: Rafael Humberto Larios, who was the Salvadoran defense minister at the time; Juan Orlando Zepeda, the vice defense minister; René Emilio Ponce, leader of the Army’s Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Inocente Orlando Montano, the vice minister of public safety. Mr. Ponce, who is believed to have given the order for the killings, died this month in El Salvador. Mr. Montano is in custody, New York Times said in its report.

Under international pressure, a Salvadoran court tried nine men for the killings and convicted two officers, including Col. Guillermo Benavides Moreno, who witnesses said gave direct orders to the commando who carried out the killings. Both Colonel Moreno and the other officer were freed after serving 15 months under an amnesty declared in 1993. They are both named in the new indictment. Judge Velasco argued that the earlier trial was a sham, the paper said.

In the U.K., British citizens can apply for an arrest warrant under the Magistrates Court Act 1980. Suspect Sri Lankan war criminal, Major General Chagi Gallage, a member of Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda Rajapaksa's, entourage to London, escaped arrest in December 2010 by his premature departure from Britain.

Tamil activists in Norway, has similary filed Genocide charges against Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse and others in the Norwegian courts. If the Prosecutor determines there is reason to believe war-crimes were committed in Sri Lanka, the defendants will face the danger of being arrested if they happen to travel through Norway.

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External Links:
NYT: From Spain, Charges Against 20 in the Killing of 6 Priests in El Salvador in 1989


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