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Alleged War Criminals May Be Granted Amnesty by El Salvador’s Parliament

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Young Catholic faithfuls take part in vigil commemorating the 38th anniversary of the assassination of Salvadorean Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

Legislators in El Salvador are considering granting amnesty to those accused of crimes committed during the country’s brutal civil war in the 1980s. The legislation would drop all ordinary criminal charges arising from the war, and it would shield anyone convicted of war crimes from imprisonment.

The move by conservatives in El Salvador’s parliament comes as 20 former senior military officers have been charged with an array of crimes, including murder, rape, and kidnapping. In December, a judge cleared the way for the men to also be tried on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Lawmakers succeeded once before in adopting legislation granting wide amnesty to those accused of often ghastly crimes during the war. In 1993, the parliament voted to block prosecution of crimes committed during the war, a law that remained in place until the country’s top court ruled it unconstitutional in 2016.

Last Saturday, the families of four American Roman Catholic missionaries raped and murdered by soldiers during the civil war sent an open letter to Salvadoran legislators urging them to vote against any proposed new amnesty. The next day, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador issued a statement calling on legislators to reject what has come to be called the Law of Reconciliation. He called it “totally unjust” and said that “instead of protecting and consoling the victims,” it would “protect the perpetrators, granting them impunity.”

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