US immigration judge rules former Salvador defense minister may be deported

A federal immigration judge in Florida decided Feb. 23 that former Salvadoran defense minister Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova can be deported for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during El Salvador's civil war. Judge James Grim found that Vides assisted in both the killing of four US churchwomen in 1980 and the torture of two Salvadorans, who testified against him in hearings last spring in the Orlando immigration court. Although this was not an official order for Vides' deportation, it is a confirmation that the government has the ability to deport him based on charges brought against him by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit of the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Obama administration charged Vides in April with human rights crimes and sought to deport him. He had been living in Florida since the conclusion of his term as defense minister in 1988. In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a $55 million verdict against him and another former Salvadoran general, Jose Guillermo García, in a civil suit for torture and human rights violations. The verdict had previously been thrown out for failure to file within the 10-year statute of limitations but was reinstated because of "extraordinary circumstances." In 2000, however, the US lost in a jury trial when attempting to prosecute Vides and Garcia for the killing of the four American women in 1980. After that case, one juror explained that they did not believe the generals were directly responsible for the killings or that they could have done anything to stop them.

From Jurist, Feb. 24. Used with permission.

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