{"code":"25824","sect":"El Salvador","sect_slug":"el-salvador","hits":"584","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202111\/el_salvador\/25824","link_edit":"","name":"Salvadoran Civil War-Era Kidnapping Case Closed with Apology","slug":"salvadoran-civil-war-era-kidnapping-case-closed-with-apology","info":"A former guerrilla soldier asked for forgiveness from someone he kidnapped 35 years ago. The first civil war case in El Salvador to go to trial after the elimination of the Amnesty Law was resolved with a hug and the promise to bring to justice the intellectual authors. It\u2019s the first instance of a transitional justice solution to a civil war crime endorsed by a Salvadoran court. Leer en espa\u00f1ol","mtag":"Impunity","noun":{"html":"Nelson Rauda","data":{"nelson-rauda":{"sort":"","slug":"nelson-rauda","path":"nelson_rauda","name":"Nelson Rauda","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"584","pict":{"cms-image-000036598-jpeg":{"feat":"1","sort":"36598","name":"cms-image-000036598.JPEG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036598.JPEG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036598.JPEG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036598-jpeg","text":"<p>On July 13, 2016, the Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber declared the Amnesty Law unconstitutional. Armando Dur\u00e1n fell victim to the guerrilla during the armed conflict and sought justice for his kidnapping following the Chamber's ruling. Five years after he pressed criminal charges, one of his agressors asked for forgiveness in the Juvenile Court in San Miguel. Photo: Nelson Rauda\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EOn July 13, 2016, the Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber declared the Amnesty Law unconstitutional. Armando Dur\u00e1n fell victim to the guerrilla during the armed conflict and sought justice for his kidnapping following the Chamber's ruling. Five years after he pressed criminal charges, one of his agressors asked for forgiveness in the Juvenile Court in San Miguel. Photo: Nelson Rauda\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":36598,"date":{"live":"2021\/11\/02"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2021","data_post_dateLive_MM":"11","data_post_dateLive_DD":"02","text":"\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-5ffdf729-7fff-098f-6b61-9f3f23f18ca4\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThursday, October 14, 2021 marked a milestone in the history of El Salvador: a former guerrilla asked forgiveness from one of his victims, whom he kidnapped 35 years ago during the civil war. It\u2019s not just a symbolic act. It\u2019s the closing of a judicial process, endorsed by the Juvenile Court in San Miguel, and the culmination of a trial for the kidnapping of Armando Dur\u00e1n, who was held by the FMLN for 37 days in Jiquilisco, Usulut\u00e1n in 1987.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIt\u2019s the first trial of crimes perpetrated during the armed conflict to be resolved since the Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber ruled the Amnesty Law unconstitutional in 2016, and it ended with a kidnapper and a victim embracing.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cI apologize for what happened and I apologize for my participation in that event that caused so much damage and suffering to you and your family,\u201d reads the letter the perpetrator delivered to Duran and read aloud during the hearing by a defense attorney.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWhen Hern\u00e1ndez finished reading the letter, Armando Dur\u00e1n received a copy from his kidnapper and they hugged a second time. Subsequently, Dur\u00e1n stepped down from the podium after explaining his position and offering some acknowledgements. \u201cI thank the defenders and the accused,\u201d said Dur\u00e1n, \u201cfor assuming historical responsibility in this process of national reconciliation.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe perpetrator did not read the letter himself, because one of the characteristics that makes this case special is its prosecution under juvenile criminal law. The perpetrator was 17 years old when he participated in Dur\u00e1n's kidnapping. Despite the fact that he\u2019s now 52, the judicial system offered him the protection of his image and identity \u2014 assurance normally given to adolescents. In addition to the apology, the letter details what happened to Armando Dur\u00e1n.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cI recognize what happened to him from December 1986 to January 1987, when he was deprived of his liberty in the rural area of Jiquilisco, by a guerrilla unit belonging to the People\u2019s Revolutionary Army (ERP),\u201d the letter reads. The ERP was one of the factions within the FMLN. \u201cI recognize it because I was sometimes there.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cI turned 17 on November 1, 1986. In my childhood, 1980\u20131984 I was a collaborator of the ERP. I was part of the group that deprived you of your freedom,\u201d the confession reads. \u201cMy job was to provide security to the group that carried out the kidnapping operation, as well as help escort you from one place to another, and participate in surveillance.\u201d\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn the letter, the perpetrator details the command structure of the ERP. In the negotiation for the kidnapping, Armando's family contacted a guerrilla leader identified as Chungo. \u201cCommander Chungo died in Moraz\u00e1n, due to kidney failure, after the Peace Accords,\u201d reveals the confession. He then names other middle managers. \u201cCommander \u00d3scar became chief of the Chaparrastique Volcano area and died in combat in 1988. Commander Pedro, whose legal name was Antonio Rodr\u00edguez, graduated as an engineer, taught at the University of El Salvador, and died around the year 2000.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThree people made up \u201cthe superior command of the southeastern front,\u201d which operated in the Jiquilisco area. \u201cCommander Javier, whose legal name was Rodolfo N, was assassinated by gang members in approximately 2015 in San Francisco Javier. Commander Carmelo, whose legal name was Eleno Castro, was assassinated by a death squad on the Litoral highway, near Zacatecoluca, just after the Peace Accords were signed. I have no information on Commander Jer\u00f3nimo.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe letter adds that the perpetrator knew it was a kidnapping, that Dur\u00e1n's family handed over objects and a cash payment. The initial requirement was 200,000 colones, two Pelican-brand mimeographs, two Honda-brand electricity generators, 15 bales of olive green cloth, 300 tetanus vaccines, and a fertilizer that the guerrilla forces used to make explosives. The amount of money was finally boiled down to 50,000 colones.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EDur\u00e1n thanked the Attorney General\u2019s Office, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Human Rights Ombudsman, and \u201cthe digital, written, and other media for bringing this event to light.\u201d He added: \u201cI thank the judge for protecting my constitutional right of access to justice and for giving me the possibility of achieving truth, justice, comprehensive reparation and the promise of non-repetition. The victims of the armed conflict do not want revenge, only justice.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAt the end of the hearing, Dur\u00e1n and the perpetrator signed an accord of the Juvenile Court of San Miguel. 35 years after the kidnapping and 29 years after El Salvador signed the Peace Accords, the agreement stands as their own personal truce.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAfter Dur\u00e1n signed, Judge V\u00edctor Mel\u00e9ndez told him: \u201cWe would hardly have gotten here without you.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36598\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"On July 13, 2016, the Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber declared the Amnesty Law unconstitutional. Armando Dur\u00e1n fell victim to the guerrilla during the armed conflict and sought justice for his kidnapping following the Chamber's ruling. Five years after he pressed criminal charges, one of his agressors asked for forgiveness in the Juvenile Court in San Miguel. Photo: Nelson Rauda\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EOn July 13, 2016, the Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber declared the Amnesty Law unconstitutional. Armando Dur\u00e1n fell victim to the guerrilla during the armed conflict and sought justice for his kidnapping following the Chamber's ruling. Five years after he pressed criminal charges, one of his agressors asked for forgiveness in the Juvenile Court in San Miguel. Photo: Nelson Rauda\/El Faro\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003E\"Creativity\" from the Bench\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EArmando Dur\u00e1n, born in Jiquilisco in 1954, was the first complainant for a war case in July 2016, when the Constitutional Chamber determined that the Amnesty Law, negotiated during the Peace Accords to prevent the investigation of war crimes, was unconstitutional. The sentence was published on July 13. Dur\u00e1n arrived at the Attorney General\u2019s Office on July 28, 2016 and filed a complaint for kidnapping against the high command of the guerrilla, the FMLN, including former President Salvador S\u00e1nchez Cer\u00e9n.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETwo years later, in October 2018, the Prosecutor's Office ordered the capture of the perpetrator and presented the request for criminal action. Dur\u00e1n told El Faro that he felt dissatisfied because his complaint is against the intellectual authors, the FMLN high command.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe trial ultimately took place in April 2021 in the Usulut\u00e1n juvenile court. On April 16, the juvenile judge decided to acquit, but Dur\u00e1n persisted. The prosecution appealed the ruling, and in June the San Miguel Chamber of Minors annulled the trial, considering that the crime was against humanity, and ordered a retrial. This is how the case came to the docket of Judge V\u00edctor Mel\u00e9ndez.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn July 6, 2021, Mel\u00e9ndez issued a resolution in which he laid out the possibility of settling the crime. Currently, Salvadoran law does not allow conciliation for the crime of kidnapping. However, Mel\u00e9ndez invoked a clause of the Law of the Minor Offender that was in force until 1994 and allowed for \u201cthe reconciliation of all crimes or misdemeanors.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cWe opted for the hard way. Holding the hearing for two or three days and deciding if he was guilty or innocent was the easy part,\u201d said Judge Mel\u00e9ndez. But Mel\u00e9ndez considered that the categories of \u201cguilty or innocent could not satisfy the expectations of victim and perpetrator,\u201d opting for a \u201ccreative effort to give a better, more comprehensive response.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAs the perpetrator was a minor, Mel\u00e9ndez also considered him a victim. \u201cIt would be wrong if, in these proceedings, the punitive power of the State were used to punish the person (the perpetrator), because it would ignore the fact that since he was an adolescent (...) his hierarchy and role within the belligerent side of which he was a member was far from relevant,\u201d reads a resolution by Mel\u00e9ndez from August 12. \u201cIt is unreasonable that the investigation and prosecution of the complaint fail to address those who have truly had the power to control, dominate, and make decisions about the facts.\u201d\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EJudge Mel\u00e9ndez was inspired by the Amnesty ruling of unconstitutionality and the \u201cflexibility of the juvenile criminal process\u201d to craft the best possible response. Although the ruling forced the Legislative Assembly to issue new regulations to process war cases, the deputies have not complied for five years, leaving the judges alone in search of answers.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cWe don\u2019t want to create the impression that any case can be settled with transitional justice, but this case can,\u201d Mel\u00e9ndez told El Faro.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003E\u201cThe Beginning of a Promising Future for El Salvador\u201d\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cThis event is of utmost importance for the country,\u201d said human rights attorney Apolonio Tobar during the hearing. \u201cIt marks the beginning of a promising future for El Salvador in truth, justice, and reparation.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAttorney Tobar is one of the few survivors of Nayib Bukele's institutional takeover. In May, the ruling Assembly dismissed the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber and the attorney general, and replaced them with people loyal to Bukele. A congresswoman announced on Twitter that Tobar's post was next in line for those replacements, something that ultimately did not happen. Tobar, a fierce critic of the Bukele government's actions during the pandemic, has since lowered the tone and confrontation of his public discourse.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ESitting next to Tobar was Rodolfo Delgado, the attorney general illegally appointed by Nayib Bukele on May 1. His participation was minimal: he did not speak at the event, kept his gaze down during most of the speeches for 45 minutes, briefly greeted Armando Dur\u00e1n, and refused to answer questions from a journalist before leaving. \u00d3scar L\u00f3pez J\u00e9rez, illegally appointed president of the Supreme Court, did not even attend the event, despite a previous agenda stating that he would participate and give welcoming remarks.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn September, the Bukele-controlled Assembly ordered a purge of a third of the country's judges including Judge Jorge Guzm\u00e1n, who was the driving force behind the most symbolic case of civil war impunity: the El Mozote massacre. One would have to ignore all of this context to see the promising future for justice of which Prosecutor Tobar speaks.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe resolution of Armando Dur\u00e1n seems, rather, an exception prompted by Judge Mel\u00e9ndez. The judge accepted that his creativity to solve the case is based on a personal story in which he is also a victim of the guerrillas.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EJudge Mel\u00e9ndez's father was part of the municipal council of Cacaopera, Moraz\u00e1n and was executed by the guerrillas in 1984, when mayors and other local officials became political targets. \u201cThey kidnapped and executed him. We recovered his body, but that's as far as it went. We don't know how it happened or why,\u201d Mel\u00e9ndez said.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EJudge Mel\u00e9ndez revealed this to the defenders and accusers in the Dur\u00e1n case but says he always felt free to process the case. The lawyers agreed.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cSalvador Armando and (the perpetrator) represent many victims who have not yet achieved access to the human right to truth, reparation, and justice,\u201d said the judge. \u201cThere are many victims who still have not received an answer, and I include myself within that group still waiting for an answer.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E*Translated by Sophia Diez-Zhang\u003C\/p\u003E"}