The impunity enjoyed for 25 years by the killers of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador has begun splintering after a US judge ordered one of the suspects who had fled to the United States to be extradited to Spain to stand trial, reports NCR Online.
Just hours after the US court ruling on Friday to extradite Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano was made public, the National Civil Police in El Salvador began raiding the homes of other suspects also wanted by Spain for plotting and carrying out the 1989 massacre. Five of the six slain priests were Spanish citizens.
In 2011, the Spanish National Court's Judge Eloy Velasco Nunez issued indictments for 20 Salvadoran military men in connection with the massacre and then secured Interpol arrest warrants.
But Salvadoran authorities refused for years to make the arrests, citing a controversial 1993 Salvadoran amnesty law that has shielded war criminals from prosecution.
Sources familiar with the case said that the historic ruling by US Magistrate Kimberly Swank in the Montano case provided Salvadoran authorities the cover they needed to begin arresting former high-ranking officers in a country where the military still holds enormous power.
Montano is the highest-ranking official in recent history to be ordered extradited from the United States for human rights violations.
At the time of the massacre, Montano served as the Vice Minister of Defence for Public Safety, in command of the National Police, the Treasury Police, and the National Guard.
In her 23-page ruling, Swank said the evidence shows that Montano participated in the “terrorist” murders and attended the key meetings where the high command plotted the assassination of Fr Ignacio Ellacuría SJ, the rector of the University of Central America.
Fr Ellacuría was also serving as a key negotiator trying to mediate a peace between the US-backed Salvadoran government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN.) The peace talks included discussions about purging the military of those officers linked to atrocities.