Death squad trial in El Salvador suspended

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By Marco Echevarria

On Monday, the start of a trial to be executed by a court in El Salvador against a group of retired military personnel, said to be part of a squadron of the Army’s death that allegedly killed five people in 1981 during the Salvadoran internal armed conflict, was suspended for the fourth time.

The suspension of the proceedings was due to the fact that one of the defendants, at the time in detention, was not transferred by the judicial authorities to the place where the public hearing was to be held, a procedure to be executed in the eastern department of San Miguel.

According to lawyer David Morales, a member of the non-governmental organization Cristo Sal, he explained to the press that the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador also did not obtain the virtual appearance of the accused.

“The Directorate of Technological Development of the Supreme Court of Justice has ruled. There is a responsibility of this court that has not had the capacity to guarantee the virtual appearance of one of the defendants,” he said in statements shared by Christ.

Counsel denounced “the extreme negligence of the Directorate of Criminal Centres that has also not guaranteed the physical presence in this process of this person who is in detention.”

“Judging war criminals does not seem to be of interest to the current Justice System, the current authorities, specifically the Directorate of Criminal Centres,” he said.

In this sense, the lawyer said that there is a deterioration in the criminal procedure system of El Salvador, is there a deteriorated one, which in its functionality continues to guarantee impunity to war criminals, while direct victims and their families remain without access to justice.”

It is worth noting that this same judicial process was scheduled to take place on 15 January, however, the trial was suspended due to a request by the defence in which it was argued that the witnesses to the event were outside the country and that in the absence of technology the virtual appearance of one of the accused in the case could not be executed. Same situation that delays due process once again.

The defendants and defendants for the incident are identified by the Prosecutor’s Office as José Inés Benavides Martínez, Luis Alonso Benavides Polio, José de la Cruz Orellana and Ángel Aníbal Alvarado Benítez.

In August 2021, the authorities arrested Benavides Martínez, Benavides Polio and the Orellana Cross. The two retired soldiers named Bevanides face criminal proceedings on parole.

Meanwhile, the Orellana Cross is in detention and the whereabouts of Alvarado Benítez are unknown.

Death squads

At the time of the Salvadoran armed conflict, in 1981 the well-known death squads – which are far-right paramilitary groups that carried out actions against political opponents, contrary to the current governments, were designated.

In many cases, these death squads harassed suspected guerrillas, their crimes to date have not been prosecuted by the Salvadoran justice system.

The death groups ceased to operate in 1992, when the Salvadoran civil war ended.

That conflict left some 75,000 dead, 8,000 missing and hundreds of massacres. War crimes could not be tried until now for an amnesty declared in 1993.

For the time being, delays in criminal proceedings have been hampered by reasons that may become unheard of in the public eye.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in TeleSurTV