Salvadoran soldiers charged with deaths of four Dutch reporters in 1982


SAN SALVADOR, July 16 (Reuters) - Human rights organizations on Friday filed a criminal complaint against 25 El Salvadoran soldiers and an officer, accusing them of the murder of four Dutch journalists during the 1980s civil war that ravaged the Central American nation.

The criminal complaint was filed in the municipality of Dulce Nombre de Maria and accused Colonel Mario Adalberto Reyes Mena of leading an ambush when he commanded the Fourth Infantry Brigade that led to the deaths of the journalists, who worked for Dutch television company IKON.

The 25 soldiers from the Atonal Battalion were named in the complaint as alleged perpetrators of the crimes, according to the plaintiffs. The military had no immediate comment and Reyes, who may no longer be in El Salvador, could not be reached for comment.

"What family members need is to know the truth and the other thing that the relatives ask for is justice. The relatives want ... jail for the murderers," said Oscar Perez, president of the Fundacion Comunicandonos, which represents two of the four victims' families.

The United Nations' 1993 Truth Commission Report said that on March 17, 1982 the four Dutch journalists were accompanying combatants from the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) to report on an area the group controlled in the northern department of Chalatenango. The fighters and journalists were ambushed by the battalion.

Journalists Jan Cornelius Kuiper, Johannes Jan Willemsen, Koos Jacobus Andries Koster and Hans Lodewijk ter Laag were killed in the ambush, along with members of the FMLN.

El Salvador's 1980-1992 armed conflict between the FMLN and the armed forces, which were supported by the United States, left some 75,000 people dead and 8,000 missing.

After an amnesty law outlawing the prosecution of rights violations committed during the conflict was overturned, human rights organizations asked El Salvador's attorney general in 2018 to investigate the case and those responsible for the deaths.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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