SAN SALVADOR (AP) – Human rights defenders on Monday called for an investigation to find those responsible for the disappearance or destruction of the military archives of the El Mozote massacre, perpetrated by the armed forces in 1981 and that left almost a thousand peasants deceased in El Salvador.
Lawyer Manuel Escalante, from the Human Rights Institute of the Central American University, told the Public Ministry that “there are facts that may constitute crimes” and that they should be investigated.
After the armed forces prevented Judge Jorge Guzmán from entering the facilities of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review the files, President Nayib Bukele announced on a national radio and television network that he had declassified the required documents.
“We are going to voluntarily declassify these files. We remain committed that if there is any missing file to be searched, they will even be made into the public domain, ”he said.
But he also said that “most of the archives, as all of you will expect and as any Salvadoran can imagine, were destroyed in these 40 years. When? We don’t know ”, but he affirmed that they are not in the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces.
He assured that he declassified “all that remains of the archives of the El Mozote Massacre. We are not hiding even half a page, history will prove us right ”.
More than three decades after the massacre, Judge Guzmán reopened the investigation after the Supreme Court repealed the 1993 General Amnesty Law that prevented the investigation of crimes against humanity and crimes committed during the civil war.
Of the 18 ex-military men cited by the magistrate in March 2017, several had died or were withdrawn from the process and those who came forward denied their participation, alleging that many files were lost during the conflict or were destroyed.
The massacre occurred between December 11 and 13, 1981, about 120 kilometers east of the capital, San Salvador, during an operation by the now-defunct Atlacatl battalion, trained in the United States in counterinsurgency tactics. Soldiers entered the area in search of guerrilla units, but some killed civilians.
Many corpses were left inside a church that was later set on fire. In a grave, forensics found 136 skeletons of girls and boys with an average age of six years.
A 1983 report by the United Nations Truth Commission blamed Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, then commander of the Atlacatl battalion, the chief of operations, Colonel Armando Azmitia, and six other officers who were not tried under the protection of the amnesty law promoted by President Alfredo Cristiani (1989-1994).
Monterrosa and Azmitia died in El Mozote on October 23, 1984, when the helicopter in which they were traveling exploded by a bomb planted by the guerrillas.
The Truth Commission, which investigated the human rights violations committed during the civil war, was created after the signing of the Peace Accords on January 16, 1992, which ended a 12-year armed conflict with around 75,000 dead and thousands missing.