SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Wednesday issued a public designation for 13 current and former Salvadoran military officials for what it called gross human rights violations during El Salvador’s civil war three decades ago.
Issued for their alleged involvement in the planning and execution of the extrajudicial killings of six Jesuit priests and two others on a university campus in 1989, the designation bars them from entering the United States.
The crime is one of the most emblematic of the Central American country’s civil war that pitted then-leftist guerrillas the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) against the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army. The FMLN is now a political party.
In a statement, the U.S. Secretary of State said it had “credible information” that the current or former officials were directly or indirectly involved in “a gross violation of human rights or significant corruption.”
Lisandro Quintanilla, a lawyer representing the military in El Salvador, could not immediately be reached for comment.
It was not clear what had prompted the United States to issue the designation.
“We value our ongoing working relationship with the Salvadoran Armed Forces, but will continue to use all available tools and authorities, as appropriate, to address human rights violations and abuses around the world no matter when they occurred or who perpetrated them,” it said.
El Salvador’s civil war lasted from 1980 to 1992. It killed an estimated 75,000 people and left 8,000 more missing.
As in neighboring Guatemala, which was also the site of Cold War-era conflict, families of victims and human rights defenders in El Salvador have long sought justice.
In El Salvador, the Supreme Court of Justice declared a 1993 amnesty law unconstitutional in 2016 and ordered lawmakers to create a new law that would guarantee justice and reparation for victims. However, the process has been delayed.
Reporting by Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien