Salvadoran ex-high commanders arrested in 1989 Jesuit massacre

On Aug. 7, nine former Salvadoran military officials accused in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, including ex-defense minister Rafael Humberto Larios and air force Gen. Rafael Bustillo, were handed over to a criminal court in El Salvador after a Spanish court issued international arrest warrants. The Salvadoran government said in a statement that the men, among 20 ex-soldiers indicted by a Spanish judge in May, were in the custody of a civilian court that handles extradition cases. The suspects turned themselves in at a military installation, as Salvadoran police were preparing to arrest them on an extradition order from Interpol. A tenth suspect, former army chief of staff Rene Emilio Ponce, died in May, before the indictments were issued.

The Salvadoran Defense Ministry said it would not interfere in civilian proceedings against the men, who have asked the country’s Supreme Court to block the extradition. It would be the first time Salvadoran officers were extradited to face crimes stemming from the conflict. The men argue that the case involving the 1989 massacre of the Jesuit priests and two women who worked for them was closed in 1991 after a court handed down convictions against at least two officers. The convictions were set aside under an amnesty when the civil war ended in 1992, setting the stage for a legal battle over whether the suspects have immunity from prosecution on fresh charges of crimes against humanity. (LAT, Aug. 9; Center for Justice and Accountability, Aug. 7)

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