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The defining characteristic of a warrior is the willingness to close with the enemy

I know that many of you will have heard of the infamous School of the Americas, the US military training camp located in Fort Benning, Georgia, which specialises in training officers from Latin American countries. Since its creation in 1946, some 60,000 Latin American military officers have graduated from the school, including many notorious torturers and killers (here's just a sample).

Among its graduates were the perpetrators of the notorious murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador in 1989. Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of their slaying.

William Crawley covered the anniversary in his BBC Sunday Sequence programme this week. You can listen again to the discussion on the iPlayer (1hr 3mins 56sec), starting with some context from Noam Chomsky.

Two army officers were convicted in the massacre in 1991. Both were released early under a 1993 amnesty.

This week, as El Salvador's new government awarded the country's highest honour to the families of the dead, attempts persist to bring the 'higher up' guilty parties to justice:

"In January, Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco opened an investigation into 14 Salvadoran former military officials, including former Defense Minister Humberto Lario, to consider their indictment for the killings.

Velasco acted under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows for the prosecution of crimes against humanity and other serious offenses such as terrorism, even if alleged to have been committed in another country.

Two human rights groups — the Spanish Association for Human Rights and California's Center for Justice and Accountability — filed suit in November 2008 asking Spain's National Court to indict the 14 and former Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani.

Velasco rejected the request to include Cristiani, citing lack of evidence."

Meanwhile, these days the School of the Americas is called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Phew, that's a relief! It even has a Facebook page!  Change we can believe in…

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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