Justice for the victims!
International community calls for the reversal of the decision to close Tutela Legal and respect for its archives
San Salvador, October 4, 2013
As members of the international community—human rights, faith, community,and solidarity organizations—we the undersigned express our indignation and concern regarding the abrupt closure of the San Salvador Archdiocese´s Human Rights Legal AidOffice, Tutela Legal this past Monday, September 30th.
Tutela Legal is part of the legacy bestowed by Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and Dr. María Julia Hernández, who tirelessly raised their voices for justice for the poor and marginalized in El Salvador. Tutela Legal was born with the vision to assist the most disenfranchised in their demands for justice, and until last Monday, the offices continued serving this purpose.
We believe the manner in which the Offices of Tutela Legal were closed is extremely alarming: without any previous notice, efforts for dialogue, or planning process together with the staff. In the face of these conditions, we reject the explanation that representatives of the Archbishop´s representatives gave to the fired Tutela staff, saying that, “[TutelaLegal’s] reason for being no longer exists.”
Although El Salvador is no longer at war, there is still a long road to justice. The majority of human rights violations during the armed conflict continue in impunity. Only through the work of organizations like Tutela Legal have emblematiccases such as the massacre at El Mozotereached sentencing in the Inter-American Human Rights System. Justice remains elusive for current cases as well, with only three percent of homicides reaching sentencing. Additionally, the work of Tutela Legal also includes representation for victims in recent cases, such as the Record Battery factory case of extreme lead contamination in the Sitiodel Niño community, and human rights trainings in parishes throughout the Archdiocese. We consider the mission, vision, and work of Tutela Legal highly valid in the current context.
Less than two weeks ago, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court accepted an appeal of unconstitutionality against the 1993 Amnesty Law.Given that the Tutela Legal archives comprise more than 50,000 cases of human rights violations, including 80% of those cases documented in the 1993 UN Truth Commission Report, we are very concerned that this abrupt and unexpected closure is an effort to limit access to these extensive and historic archives.
Salvadoran civil society organizations believe that the Archbishop’s decision betrays the trust that victims placed in the Catholic Church in allowing the Church to represent their cases. The organizations also see the decision as an attack on the historic memory of the Salvadoran people, and a bitter and cynical blow to the sacred legacy left to them by Archbishop Romero.
We, as organizations of the international community, express our solidarity with the human rights organizations, Christian base communities, historic churches, victims of the armed conflict, and other members of Salvadoran civil society in their demands:
1. Guarantee the integrity, safe-keeping, and security of all records of human rights violations received by Tutela Legal, and allow victims access to their cases.
2. Reverse the decision to close the Archdiocese Offices of Tutela Legalas soon as possible. Above all, we demand the immediate reinstallation of those staff members unjustly fired, maintaining the same spirit of work inherited from Archbishop Romero, Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas, and Dr. María Julia Hernández.
We reiterate our expression of solidarity with the victims of grave human rights violations during the armed conflict, human rights organizations, and with the Salvadoran people in their just and necessary demands in the face of the arbitrary and alarming closure of Tutela Legal.
Ruben L Garcia Executive Director Annunciation House 815 Myrtle Avenue El Paso, Texas 79901 915-533-4675 915-351-1343 - Fax www.annunciationhouse.org