Promoting Accountability in El Salvador: The Case of El Mozote

February 23, 2018

Promoting Accountability in El Salvador: The Case of El Mozote

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 2:00pm
340 Cannon House Office Building

Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a briefing on efforts to ensure accountability for grave human rights abuses committed during El Salvador’s civil war, examined through the lens of the El Mozote massacre.

Over a four-day period in December 1981, Salvadoran army troops massacred over 1,000 civilians, primarily women and children, in and near the town of El Mozote in the remote eastern region of the country. The massacre was the largest of the twelve-year war.

Although a post-conflict UN-sponsored Truth Commission recommended pursuing justice in key cases of human rights violations, a 1993 amnesty law suspended investigations and prosecutions underway and precluded new ones. But the Salvadoran Constitutional Court overturned the amnesty in 2016, opening the door to new legal efforts on victims’ behalf. The first case that has begun to make its way through the judicial system is that of El Mozote, in which eighteen retired military officers are on trial.

The United States provided assistance and training to the Salvadoran military during the war, and in the years since, has supported initiatives to strengthen the judicial system, in particular the office of the Attorney General. The El Mozote case is a test for principles of judicial independence and equality before the law in El Salvador, and also points to the potential importance of facilitating access to U.S. archival records.

Panelists will review the history of the massacre and its impact, discuss the challenges involved in the legal case, and provide recommendations for ways the U.S. government can contribute to justice for the victims and their families.

This briefing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. For any questions, please contact Kimberly Stanton (for Mr. McGovern) at 202-225-3599 or, or Matthew Singer (for Mr. Hultgren) at 202-226-3989 or

Hosted by:

James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC
Randy Hultgren, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC 


  • Leonor Arteaga, Attorney, Due Process of Law Foundation
  • Dorila Márquez, President, El Mozote Association for the Defense of Human Rights:   
  • David Morales, Lead Civil Attorney in the El Mozote case
  • Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst, National Security Archive


  • Geoff Thale, Vice President for Programs, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Opening Remarks

  • Rep. James P. McGovern, Co-Chair, TLHRC