Spanish Court Begins Trial of Former Salvadoran Officer for 1989 Murder of Jesuits and Lay Women

BY ISN STAFF | June 8, 2020

The trial for the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests—Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Amando López, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., and their housekeeper and her daughter, Elba Julia Ramos and Celina Maricet Ramos, will begin today in Madrid, Spain.

The trial is scheduled to be concluded in the course of two consecutive blocks: the first taking place from today through June 10 and the second scheduled later in the summer, starting July 8 and ending July 16. Following the Spanish criminal procedure, at the outset of the trial, the criminal charges will be read out loud, and then the evidence will be presented, starting with the testimonies of the defendants and witnesses.

Inocente Orlando Montano, Former Colonel and Vice-Minister of Public Security

The principal defendant is former colonel Inocente Orlando Montano, who at the time of the events was Vice-Minister of Public Security, and was extradited from the United States to Spain in November 2017.

Considering mobilization limitations derived from the COVID-19 pandemic and the international relevance of this trial, attorneys for the private and popular prosecution ‒exercised by the Spanish Pro-Human Rights Association (APDHE), the family of Jesuit assassinated Ignacio Martín-Baró, and the San José Jesuit School of Valencia Alumni Association filed a petition to have the trial live streamed in an effort to promote the principle of transparency that should regulate criminal trials. The live stream can be found here.

The Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador and their companions. [Artwork: Mary Pimmell-Freeman]

The assassination of the Jesuits priests and the two women they employed shocked the entire world and forever tainted Salvadoran history with atrocity and injustice. This heinous act was carried out in the early hours of 16 November 1989 by the Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army. The events were so significant that they are said to have forced the end of the civil war in El Salvador and catalyzed the victims’ quest for truth, justice, and accountability, after an era of state-sponsored terror and repression against the civilian population.

Attorney Almudena Bernabeu, member of the prosecutorial team and co-founder of the Guernica Group, stated:

“After all these years and all the obstacles, we are thrilled this trial will begin next week. This is the culmination of the enormous effort that started in El Salvador 30 years ago. This trial is the testament of the resilience of the families and the people of El Salvador and we celebrate that even in the context of the current world crisis, justice can be served.”

The trial against Montano comes at a time when Salvadoran civil society is struggling to promote meaningful accountability for the atrocities committed in that country since the late 1970s. Guernica Centre continues to work with its national partners to combat impunity and promote accountability initiatives that respond to the ongoing quest for justice that victims continue to lead. This case is also significant as it demonstrates the need to reinstitute rules that will allow the effective exercise of Universal Jurisdiction to combat the impunity of international crimes, particularly when they correspond to state-sanctioned behavior.

Trial Updates (via Guernica Centre):

2 replies
  1. joseph mulligan
    joseph mulligan says:

    Let us hope that justice is done. People may be interested in my videos about the Jesuit martyrs: youtube.com search for my channel: josephmulligan1
    In Christ,
    Joe Mulligan, SJ

  2. Paulita Pike
    Paulita Pike says:

    Awesome job, Almudena and team. This trial has most certainly needed the involvement of many people -literally a team- to bring us to this day in the Jesuits´ historical trial.
    Many, many thank-yous to all involved.

    Looking forward to that almost unbelievable day when at least ONE of the gruesome killers is brought to Justice. The symbolism will be heard loud and clear by the Salvadorean people who have waited, and waited some more, watched, prayed, prayed even harder, sought, fought for and demanded Justice for our slain priests, for Elba and also for Celina.

    This hard-won case means more than is imaginable to most people, mostly because the wheels of Justice are always stuck in the proverbial mud of corruption. The process, and outcome, will become a rallying cry for those who fight for Human Rights and Transitional Justice, as a sign that these are within one´s reach, if one works as hard, and believes as fiercely as Almudena, that a better world is possible.

    Paulita Pike


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