The process of human rights reform was undermined by an amnesty law protecting human rights violators. There was a series of killings of members of the former armed opposition and dozens of other killings which appeared to have been carried out by "death squads" linked to the armed forces. Numerous figures identified with the opposition received death threats. Ill-treatment of detainees by the police was widespread. Implementation of the 1992 peace accords, which ended 12 years of armed conflict between the government and the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, made faltering progress. The accords had provided for the FMLN's demobilization and the implementation of a host of military, judicial and socio-economic reforms aimed at promoting democratization and respect for human rights. However, the agreed timetable for implementation was rarely adhered to and many human rights commitments had not been complied with by the end of the year. The FMLN was supposed to have demobilized in 1992, to allow its reorganization as a political party ahead of elections scheduled for 1994. However, in May 1993 arms caches allegedly belonging to the FMLN were found in Nicaragua, and subsequently in El Salvador and Honduras. Nevertheless, in August UN monitors certified that the FMLN's military apparatus had been fully dismantled. There were also delays in the restructuring and "depuración" ("purging") of the government's armed forces. By July the government had removed 102 military officers whose dismissal had been recommended in 1992 by an Ad Hoc Commission created under the accords (see Amnesty International Report 1993). At the end of the year the new National Civilian Police had not been fully deployed and there was concern that many ex-members of disbanded security force units with a long history of responsibility for human rights violations had joined existing police bodies. A number of judicial reforms arising from the accords were initiated during the year. Nevertheless, many deficiencies remained. There were numerous indications of the judiciary's resistance to reform and there were death threats against the newly appointed Consejo Nacional de la Judicatura (CNJ), National Council of the Judiciary, charged by the accords with evaluating the competence of all judges. There were serious setbacks in implementing agreements on socio-economic reform, such as those concerning land transfers. Against a backdrop of widespread economic hardship, labour conflicts and demonstrations were frequent and the security forces responded in at least one incident with excessive force. In the face of rising crime, army troops were deployed to fulfil police functions and the ruling Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), Nationalist Republican Alliance, proposed in February that the death penalty should be reintroduced for certain offences. This proposal was defeated shortly after by the Legislative Assembly. The UN observer mission in El Salvador, ONUSAL, continued to monitor compliance with the peace accords. Its Human Rights Division reported in October that many of its recommendations to the government had not been heeded. The Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (PDDH), Office of the Counsel for the Defence of Human Rights, created by the accords and due to assume many of ONUSAL's functions on its departure, consolidated its work, voicing particular concern at increasing political killings and violations of due process. However, the judicial, military and police authorities frequently failed to comply with the PDDH's recommendations on individual cases. March saw the publication of the report of the Comisión de la Verdad (Truth Commission), established by the accords to investigate some of the worst human rights abuses by government and FMLN forces committed since 1980 and to make recommendations to prevent their recurrence, recommendations which both parties had formally agreed to abide by in the accords. The Commission's report confirmed that the army, police and paramilitary groups were responsible for massacres, killings, torture and "disappearances" on a massive scale. It concluded that "death squads" linked to state structures had systematically eliminated political opponents and said that the judiciary bore great responsibility for the impunity with which abuses had been committed. Ninety-five per cent of the abuses reported to the Commission were attributed to government forces or "death squads", but the FMLN was also held responsible for scores of killings and abductions. The Commission presented findings on 32 cases which it had selected for in-depth investigation from the 22,000 reported, and made some 40 recommendations, including the removal and banning from office of military, judicial and FMLN officials named in the report, compensation for victims and relatives, an urgent investigation into "death squads", judicial reforms and implementation of ONUSAL's recommendations. The institutions most criticized, the military and judiciary, rejected the Commission's conclusions and recommendations, accusing it of bias and defamation. By the end of the year, many key measures recommended by the Commission had yet to be implemented. The government took prompt action to grant impunity to those accused in the Commission's report. Days after its publication, the Legislative Assembly approved the Ley de amnistía general para la consolidación de la paz, General Amnesty Law for the Consolidation of Peace, which protected from prosecution all those responsible for carrying out or covering up human rights abuses during the civil war, including judicial officials. Salvadorian human rights organizations challenged the law as unconstitutional before the Supreme Court, but in April the court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The law resulted in the release in March of a colonel and lieutenant convicted of murdering six Jesuits, their cook and her daughter in 1989. They had served 14 months in prison. Also freed were: a major accused of ordering the killing of 10 peasants in San Sebasti n in 1988 (see Amnesty International Report 1989); César Joya Martínez, an army deserter, who had testified about army "death squad" operations after fleeing the country, and who was forcibly returned from the USA to El Salvador in 1992 to stand trial for two killings in 1989; political prisoner Jorge Miranda, sentenced in 1992 for the 1987 killing of human rights activist Herbert Anaya, after an unfair trial (see previous Amnesty International Reports); and three members of the FMLN accused of killing two US military advisers in 1991 (see Amnesty International Report 1993). An FMLN member, William Rivas Bolaños, convicted in 1991 of killing US marines in Zona Rosa in San Salvador, the capital, in 1985 was not released; the judge in his case argued that the killing of individuals with diplomatic status was excluded from the amnesty law. Amnesty International was concerned about serious irregularities in his trial. Although evidence of past abuses continued to come to light, the amnesty law blocked investigations to identify those responsible and bring them to justice. Despite exhumations at the sites of two massacres committed in the early 1980s in El Mozote, Moraz n department, and the Sumpul River, Chalatenango department, judicial proceedings into these cases stalled. Reports of political killings increased during the year. There was a series of murders of leaders and other members of the FMLN and its electoral ally, the Convergencia Democrática (CD), Democratic Convergence. Most of the cases were not investigated and the pattern of killings, which intensified in the weeks before the official start of the electoral campaign in November, suggested the involvement of government forces or agents linked to them. Fredy Fernández Torres Portillo, FMLN leader in the city of Mejicanos, was shot dead in February. ONUSAL identified a member of the National Police as responsible, but this suspect was released within days of his detention by the National Police in March. ONUSAL concluded that the police's actions and the disappearance of records of the investigation indicated a possible police cover-up. Oscar Grimaldi, an FMLN member prominent in the demobilization process, was shot dead in August by unidentified individuals in a bar in San Salvador. He had been released from prison in 1992 under a previous amnesty. In October Francisco Véliz, a member of the FMLN's National Council and parliamentary candidate, was shot dead as he took his baby daughter to a crèche in San Salvador. The government immediately condemned the killing and requested international assistance in investigations, but the case remained unresolved. On 8 November the body of Manuel de Jesús Alvarado, a local FMLN activist and husband of the party's electoral affairs secretary, was found on a rubbish dump, with signs of torture and his hands tied behind his back with barbed wire. This and dozens of other unclarified killings recalled the modus operandi of the so-called "death squads". Although the identity of the killers was difficult to establish, their methods and the lack of official action strongly suggested the continued existence of clandestine government "death squads". The Truth Commission had highlighted the need for a special inquiry into the phenomenon of the "death squads" because of the threat these still posed to society. There was renewed UN pressure for such an inquiry following the October killings and the release of US intelligence documentation implicating senior Salvadorian government officials, including the Vice President and ARENA's presidential candidate, in past "death squad" activities. In December the government announced the creation of a commission to investigate the existence of illegal armed groups. Known as "Grupo Conjunto" (Joint Group), it consisted of ONUSAL, the PDDH and two government lawyers. In May CD member Gregorio Mejía Espinoza was bundled into a vehicle by armed men in plain clothes in a manner reminiscent of "death squad" abductions common in the past. He was interrogated about the FMLN's election plans and tortured with lighted cigarettes. Blindfolded and with his hands tied behind his back, he was driven to a deserted roadside, where his captors attempted to shoot him, but he managed to escape when the gun failed to go off. Gregorio Mejía Espinoza had previously received death threats from the "death squad", Ejército Secreto Anticomunista, Secret Anticommunist Army. In October the PDDH expressed concern that the judicial investigation into the case had still not produced any results. In the run-up to the electoral campaign, the FMLN presidential and vice-presidential candidates received death threats, as did numerous other FMLN and CD members, as well as lawyers, journalists and members of non-governmental organizations identified with the opposition. The systematic use of torture, widespread in the past, was no longer reported. However, there were many complaints of ill-treatment by National and Municipal Police agents, in some cases apparently motivated by the victim's political affiliation. In February Cruz René Morales Escobar and his brother Veito were arrested by about 10 National Police agents who burst into their home in Ilobasco, Cabañas, without a warrant. Handcuffed and with their hands tied behind their back, they were punched, kicked and beaten with rifle butts before being taken to the local mayor's office, and accused of being FMLN guerrillas and possessing weapons. The courts subsequently found no reason for their detention, but they were not released until June. Several deliberate and arbitrary killings of police and army officers were attributed to former FMLN combatants and armed groups allegedly composed of ex-combatants from both the army and FMLN. The killing in November of a local ARENA politician and several other killings were attributed to such groups. Amnesty International called repeatedly on the government to investigate cases of apparent political killings, attacks and death threats. It campaigned against the amnesty law on the grounds that passing such a law before those responsible for human rights abuses had been brought to justice was unacceptable under international standards. It also urged the Legislative Assembly in February to oppose reintroduction of the death penalty. Amnesty International called for a special inquiry into "death squad" killings, following statements by President Cristiani that "death squads" were a phenomenon of the past, and again following the killings in October and November. The inquiry, Amnesty International said, should include examination of links with state institutions and review the role of the intelligence services within the newly reformed armed forces. It repeatedly urged the government to comply with the recommendations of the Truth Commission, stressing the need to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations. It also called on the government to implement fully the judicial reforms recommended by ONUSAL and others. Amnesty International urged measures to prevent further political violence in the run-up to the elections. President Cristiani replied to Amnesty International's concerns regarding the amnesty law, arguing that it was necessary for national reconciliation. Amnesty International reiterated its concern that, far from promoting reconciliation, the law prevented justice in thousands of cases, went against the accords' intention to end impunity and thus laid a dangerous foundation for the future.

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