Oficina de Tutela Legal del Arzobispado, San Salvador records
Scope and Contents
Two forms, with variations, were used to report the information in the case files. The forms are titled: "Capturado Por Motivo Politico" and "Denuncia Por Motivos Politicos."
The case files are numbered #1 - #8748. The numbered files end in 1991 and are continued by unnumbered files. Please note, not all the case file numbers are represented here. There are very large gaps in the numbering.
The numbering of the case files represents a rough chronological order. It would appear that Fecha De Captura or Fecha De Hecho, depending on which form was used, is the date used. However, with some case files the date used is the date that the report was made, and the date of the event may be years previous.
The file folders shown in the description that follows list the range of case file numbers in each file folder. This range of numbers does not mean that every case file number exists. The year of the event in the case files is written on the file folder. This is intended to show the chronological progression, but sometimes the date used to establish the number of the case file is the date of the report, not the date of the event. For example, see case files #1808, #2499, #2539, #5180, #7793, #8726, and #8748.
The organization of the material is in two sections:
I. Numbered Case Files II. Unnumbered Case Files
- 1975 - 1993
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Tutela Legal was founded in 1982 as part of the efforts by the archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, and his successor, Arturo Rivera y Damas, to create commissions and organizations to defend human rights. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Salvadoran and other human rights groups attempted to gather strong, scientific evidence as the basis to denounce political violence. At the time, gathering this information occurred under dangerous circumstances as many people who worked for these groups, reported violations, or tried to take legal action were threatened, assaulted, or murdered by death squads.
Tutela Legal visited sites of human rights violations and collected evidence as well as recorded oral testimony from survivors and witnesses. Because El Salvador was a signatory to the Geneva Convention, Tutela Legal had a framework of standards and law for carrying out investigations. Another important innovation involved monitoring not only the Salvadoran army and paramilitary deaths squads, but also El Salvador’s main guerilla force, the FMLN. This approach at even handedness was inspired by Archbishop Romero’s attempt to call out violence no matter what form it took or who was involved.
Tutela Legal became a highly credible source of information about human rights abuses for international delegations, including the Organization of American States and the United Nations. In Salvadoran courts, however, judges often refused to bring forth human rights abuse cases throughout the 1980s. The United States Embassy as well as the state of El Salvador, denied the existence of massacres like that of El Mozote, arguing that there were not enough proofs to back up the claim. However, the United States Embassy as well as other embassies, solicited from Tutela Legal its annual reports in order to know the state of human rights in El Salvador during the war. The evidence compiled by Tutela Legal during the war, however, strongly indicated that government security forces and death squads were committing the majority of the political violence. In 1993, the investigation by the U.N. Truth Commission confirmed Tutela Legal’s findings. According to the Commission, 85 percent of the human rights abuses during the war were committed by government security forces and the Armed Forces, 5 percent by the FMLN, and the rest were left unresolved. After the signing of the peace accords and the UN Truth Commission’s hearings in 1993, President Alfredo Christiani adopted an amnesty law, preventing the prosecution of violators of human rights. Since the end of the civil war, Tutela Legal has continued to put pressure on the Salvadoran government to amend the amnesty law and seek justice for the victims of human rights crimes.
After the Peace Agreement, cases of violation of human rights continued to happen in a proportion inferior to that of the war, but nevertheless very superior to that of a country in peace time. These cases have been more subtle and selective than during the conflicto. Thus, under the appearance of common delinquency or settling matters between gangs, executions, have been happening outside the legal system, having a political background or social clean –up or control of the population throught terror. In these cases criminal structures are implicated, promoted or tolerated by the State or integrated by public functionaries, mainly those members of the Civil National Police Force. In this context, Tutela Legal has continued its work of investigation and documentation of cases of violation of human rights with the objective that they do not go remain in the impunity. Added to cases of violation of civil human rights are cases of violation of economic, social and cultural rights. Thus, by example, Tutela Legal is giving legal support to to victims of the Enterprise Baterias de El Salvador, accused of lead poisoning in one of the areas of the country. This is a very important case, because for the first time in El Salvador, this Enterprise was closed for environmental contamination, and a legal process was instituted against the compony. The victims are members of poor communities residing in the proximity of the factory and their children who have high levels of lead in their systems.
17.5 linear feet (34 boxes)
Language of Materials
Case files in Spanish documenting killings, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture, and other human rights abuses in El Salvador 1975-1993. The case files contain biographical information about the victim including the date and place of the event, who is held responsible, and a detailed description of the circumstances surrounding the report.
I. Numbered Case Files II. Unnumbered Case Files
- Processed by Harvey N. Gardiner, October 29, 1998
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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