El Salvador Torture Victims Win Award in U.S. Court against Former Salvadoran Officials

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Sunday, September 1, 2002
Bruce Zagaris
On July 23, 2002, a jury in the U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Florida awarded $54.6 million in damages to three civilians who were tortured by security forces in El Salvador during the civil war in the 1980s. The case was significant for the precedent of a civilian jury holding military leaders responsible for torture under command responsibility principles. The jury found that Jos? Guillermo Garc?a and Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova knew of atrocities committed by their troops and did not act to prevent them. Mr. Garc?a was minister of defense and Mr. Vides was the head of the National Guard. Since 1989, they have lived in Florida. The case has significance for El Salvador, where no officers or troops were court-martialed for abuses during the civil war and a broad amnesty was conferred on all combatants after the peace accords. According to a truth commission, the military and death squads together had been responsible for 85 percent of the abuses committed during the conflict.