March 31, 2016 — More than 25 years after six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter were killed at the UCA, in El Salvador, there is hope for justice: warrants have been issued for the arrest of former Salvadoran military officials tied to the 1989 murders.
Last month, Salvadoran police arrested four of the 16 former military officers who are accused in the murders of Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ; Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ; Segundo Montes, SJ; Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ; Joaquín López y López, SJ; Amando López, SJ; their housekeeper Elba Ramos; and her 15-year-old daughter Celina Ramos.
In November 1989, at the height of the Salvadoran civil war, military forces were ordered to kill Fr. Ellacuría and leave no witnesses, punishment for Fr. Ellacuría’s advocacy for the poor.
The arrests were in response to extradition requests from Spanish National Court Judge Eloy Velasco who recently reissued a request for international arrest warrants for more than a dozen former Salvadoran military officials. Legislation protecting Salvadoran military from being tried for human rights abuses forced the families of the victims and human rights groups seeking justice to take their case to Spain, where a law of universal jurisdiction allows prosecutions for some crimes committed outside the country. Five of the six Jesuits were Spanish.
The UCA released a statement responding to news of the warrants, which said, “To know what really happened in this, and in other cases, will be good for El Salvador; it will contribute to doing justice for the victims; it will be an important step in the process of reconciliation and will bring peace to the perpetrators themselves.”
The statement noted that the Jesuits and the UCA have always been willing to forgive those who planned and executed the murders, but that the Salvadoran “justice system has yet to uncover the whole truth and to determine responsibility, so that forgiveness can be offered.”
In addition to the arrests, last month a U.S. magistrate ordered the extradition to Spain of Inocente Orlando Montano, a former Salvadoran commander, to stand trial for the slayings of the five Jesuit priests who were from Spain.
According to U.S. Justice Department evidence in his extradition case, Montano, who served as an army colonel and presidential cabinet member, was among the commanders who ordered a U.S-trained battalion to kill Fr. Ellacuría.