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Torture Victims in El Salvador Speak Out

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  • Cort Greene
    http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/03/torture-victims-in-el-salvador-speak-out/ Torture Victims in El Salvador Speak Out By Edgardo Ayala
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 21, 2013

      Torture Victims in El Salvador Speak Out
      By Edgardo Ayala
      | | Print<http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/03/torture-victims-in-el-salvador-speak-out/#>
      | Send by email |En espa�ol <http://ipsnoticias.net/nota.asp?idnews=102544>
      [image: Salvadoran activists Carlos Santos (left) and Fabricio Sant�n
      alongside a papier-m�ch� sculpture of a torture victim with a plastic bag �
      �la capucha� - on his head. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS]

      Salvadoran activists Carlos Santos (left) and Fabricio Sant�n alongside a
      papier-m�ch� sculpture of a torture victim with a plastic bag � �la
      capucha� - on his head. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

      SAN SALVADOR, Mar 21 2013 (IPS) - A report containing the testimonies of
      victims of torture during El Salvador�s 1980-1992 civil war will be
      published 27 years after it was written, to help Salvadorans today learn
      more about that chapter in the country�s history.

      The 197-page book �La tortura en El Salvador� (Torture in El Salvador), to
      be launched in April, contains the accounts of 270 victims interviewed in
      1986, in the heat of the civil war, by the non-governmental Human Rights
      Commission of El Salvador <http://www.cdhes.org.sv/> (CDHES). IPS was given
      exclusive access to the report prior to publication.

      Most of the interviews were carried out in the La Esperanza prison on the
      outskirts of San Salvador by members of the CDHES who had also been
      arrested, tortured and later imprisoned in that facility, where many of the
      country�s political prisoners were held in the 1980s.

      �In the 1980s it was impossible to publish the document, because of the
      repression. But finally it will see the light of day,� CDHES director
      Miguel Montenegro told IPS.

      El Salvador�s 12-year civil war left 75,000 � mainly civilians � dead and
      8,000 disappeared.
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      When a peace agreement put an end to the conflict, a lack of funds stood in
      the way of publication of the report, Montenegro said.

      The activist was seized in 1986 by the notorious Treasury Police, and
      learned first-hand about the torture techniques practiced by the security

      Because of their involvement in serious human rights abuses, the National
      Police, the Treasury Police and the National Guard were dismantled and
      replaced by the National Civilian Police under the United Nations-sponsored
      peace accord reached in January 1992 by the Farabundo Mart� National
      Liberation Front (FMLN) guerrillas and the government of Alfredo
      Cristiani <http://www.ipsnews.net/2008/11/rights-el-salvador-ex-president-cristiani-faces-charges-in-spain/>of
      the far-right National Republican Alliance (ARENA).

      More than 40 torture techniques are described in detail and depicted in
      drawings in the report.

      One of the most commonly used techniques was the �avioncito� (airplane), in
      which the victim�s hands were tied behind his or her back and the victim
      was suspended in the air from the wrists, often causing dislocation of the

      In the �capucha� (hood), a plastic bag was placed over the prisoner�s head,
      to partially suffocate them, while the �submarino� (submarine) involved
      simulated drowning.

      Other methods were electric shock, cutting off the tongue, or destroying
      the eyes with chemicals.

      �They would take me to a room in the Treasury Police headquarters in San
      Salvador where the walls and the floor were covered with dried blood,�
      Montenegro said.

      The book also provides profiles of torture victims who were forcibly

      The abuses formed part of a state policy put into effect by the army high
      command, and Salvadoran society has a right to know what happened,
      Montenegro said.

      The amnesty law<http://www.ipsnews.net/2011/07/rights-el-salvador-rumours-of-amnesty-repeal-cause-panic/>
      by Congress in 1993 protected the perpetrators of war crimes and other
      human rights abuses committed during the conflict from prosecution.

      But retired generals Eugenio Vides Casanova and Jos� Guillermo Garc�a, both
      of whom served as defence minister in the 1980s, were found guilty in 2002
      by a U.S. court for the torture of three civilians by units under their
      command. The court ordered the two retired officers to pay 54.6 million
      dollars in damages to the civilians.

      The CDHES document is coming out shortly after an investigative report by
      the BBC and The Guardian, published as a documentary on Mar. 5, revealed
      that retired U.S. Colonel James Steele, a Special Forces veteran of Vietnam
      who was posted in El Salvador in the 1980s, was later sent to Iraq.

      The British media report said Steele, who trained and directed
      counterinsurgency operations in El Salvador, was sent to Iraq to implement
      the so-called �Salvadoran option� to fight the insurgency after the
      U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 10 years ago.

      Steele was reportedly sent to train special Iraqi police brigades in
      torture techniques employed in this Central American country in the 1980s.

      �It is sad that what was used here in El Salvador is being revived in Iraq;
      this country served as the school,� Montenegro said.

      Another investigation into torture committed during the civil war is being
      conducted by the Salvadoran Association of Torture Survivors (ASST),
      founded three years ago.

      The ASST has two aims: to find out what happened and to bring complaints
      before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). �We are
      documenting the cases, to file formal complaints,� Carlos Santos, the
      president of the ASST, told IPS.

      Santos was studying theatre when he was arrested in 1983 along with another
      student, Fabricio Sant�n, in the eastern city of San Miguel, where they
      were tortured before they were transferred to La Esperanza prison.

      �Because no one was ever held accountable or punished for the abuses, there
      is a risk that they could be committed again in the future,� said Sant�n.
      �And that is what we don�t want.�

      In 2012, the IACHR accepted a complaint brought by the Human Rights
      Institute of the Central American University in representation of Santos
      and Rolando Gonz�lez, another member of the ASST.

      The complaint also covers four other cases, including the death of
      Salvadoran poet Roque
      who was killed in 1975 by fellow members of one of the left-wing groups
      that made up the FMLN, after he was found guilty of insubordination and
      spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in a �revolutionary trial�.

      The case brought before the IACHR accuses the current government of
      centre-left President Mauricio Funes of the FMLN of negligence with respect
      to investigating crimes like torture.

      The Funes administration has refused to sign the Optional Protocol to the
      Convention against Torture, which provides for in situ monitoring such as
      unannounced visits to local prisons.

      Nor has it ratified the Rome Statute, which established the International
      Criminal Court set up to try war crimes, genocide and other crimes against
      humanity that national courts cannot or will not handle.

      �These are the things that worry us, because they hinder progress in the
      search for truth, justice and reparations,� the president of the Committee
      of Relatives of Victims of Human Rights Violations
      <http://www.codefam.com/> (CODEFAM),
      Guadalupe Mej�a, told IPS.

      David Morales, director general of the government�s Human Rights Unit,
      declined to comment to IPS on government policy.

      Since September 2012, Santos and Sant�n have been touring the country with
      the exhibit �Nunca m�s en El Salvador� (Never Again in El Salvador), which
      uses papier-m�ch� sculptures of people to show torture techniques used
      during the years of state violence.

      �Some of the images are shocking, but we want to show them so that this
      won�t happen again,� Sant�n said.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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