Transitional Justice

Case of El Mozote and nearby places Massacre

El Calabozo Massacre Case

In December 1981, the U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army systematically killed approximately a thousand people in the village of El Mozote and surrounding areas. This is the largest massacre of civilians by government forces in Latin America in modern history. After the civil war, an amnesty law was passed that prevented the prosecution of war crimes, symbolizing a widespread attitude that the crimes should not be punished and the victims did not matter.

In July 2016, the Supreme Court of El Salvador (Constitutional Chamber) revoked the amnesty law. Now, Cristosal is supporting Tutela Legal, an organization that has worked on this case since the beginning, in its prosecution of the case. El Mozote’s case represents more than a demand for well-deserved justice for the victims and their families. It is also setting a precedent in the national legal system and showing current victims of violence that the legal system can and will work for them.

The search for justice for human rights violations sends a message that resonates not only in El Salvador, but throughout the world. Through the case of El Mozote, Cristosal emphasizes that human rights violations against all humans in all places are unacceptable.

On August 17, 1982 in the towns of San Esteban Catarina, Santo Domingo, San Esteban, Santa Clara and San Lorenzo, in the department of San Vicente, the Armed Forces of El Salvador (FAES) deployed one of the largest military operations ever carried out in the region, involving some four thousand military personnel.

The operation was called “Lieutenant Colonel Mario  Azenón  Palma”, and the Immediate Reaction Battalions of Atlacatl, Ramón Belloso and Atonal participated in it. Troops from the 2nd Military Detachment and the 5th Infantry Brigade were also added.

 In the morning hours of August 22, 1982, members of the Atlacatl Battalion attacked a large group of civilians on the banks of the Amatitán River, at the point known as El Calabozo, slaughtering more than 200 people, pouring acid into their bodies and burning dozens of corpses. The El Calabozo massacre constituted the “military success” that armed forces had hoped for when they concluded the first phase of the operation the next day they announced that numerous “terrorists” had been eliminated. Members of the armed forces located and exterminated many others on the banks of the Jutiapa River, Santa Rosa, on the road that leads to San Ildefonso and the areas surrounding El Calabozo.