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Home Dutch News El Salvador issues arrest warrants for 1982 Dutch journalist deaths

El Salvador issues arrest warrants for 1982 Dutch journalist deaths

Published on 18/10/2022
Published from AFP.com

Rights groups in El Salvador and victims’ families welcomed on Monday a judge’s order to arrest three former military officers for their alleged implication 40 years ago in the deaths of four Dutch journalists.

In March 1982, the four journalists were killed in a rural area north of the capital San Salvador where they were filming a documentary about the Central American country’s bloody civil war.

A UN-sponsored Truth Commission established after the 1979-1992 war found that an army ambush had led to the deaths of Koos Jacobus Andries Koster, Jan Corenlius Kuiper Joop, Hans Lodewijk ter Laag and Johannes Jan Willemsen.

On Friday, a judge in northern El Salvador ordered the arrest of three retired military officers: former defense minister General Jose Guillermo Garcia (1979-1983); Colonel Mario Adalberto Reyes Mena, who now lives in the United States; and former director of the Treasury Police, Colonel Francisco Antonio Moran.

The prosecutor’s office and the police did not provide any information about plans to carry out the arrests.

Two other military officers, now deceased, were also named in connection with the journalists’ deaths: former Joint Chiefs of Staff General Rafael Flores Lima and Sergeant Mario Canizales.

“The judge’s decision is a very important step in the fight against impunity” for this crime, Miguel Montenegro, coordinator of the Salvadoran Human Rights Commission (CDHES), told AFP.

The victims’ living relatives also welcomed the judge’s decision.

“We have waited for this moment for forty years,” said Gert Kuiper, brother of Jan Kuiper, in a video conference from the Netherlands.

The case had been frozen in 1993, after the enactment of a law pardoning war crimes, but in 2016 that law was ruled unconstitutional, and groups filed criminal complaints in 2018.

In 2020, the Salvadoran Institute for Access to Public Information (IAIP) requested the army open up its archives.

A lawyer representing the journalists’ relatives, Pedro Cruz of the Salvadoran Association for Human Rights (ASDEHU), said that the judge’s decision “closes the initial phase of the investigation.”