October 1, 1991
Just days ago, I expressed the qualified hope that the recently signed New York Agreement between the Salvadoran government and its armed opposition would signal the beginning of peace in El Salvador. Now, with the verdict of the jury in the case of those accused of murdering the six Jesuit priests and two women at the Jesuit University in 1989, we may also be witnessing some significant change after years of near total judicial ineffectiveness and military impunity.
We hope the conviction of two military officers for this horrendous crime constitutes, as Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez has said, a decisive turn, and that it will signal a new resolve by the courts to pursue justice, wherever it may lead.
Serious doubts remain, however, about this verdict and the process that led to it. Credible allegations of evidence withheld or destroyed, of higher level involvement and of cover-up, not to mention the complete exoneration of soldiers who had acknowledged their participation in the murders, leave this verdict less than satisfactory.
We hope that these convictions, for all their limitations and unresolved questions, will strengthen the will of other judges and other juries in El Salvador, and that the notorious impunity of those who violate human rights will be proven to have ended. Investigations must continue and those who authorized these murders must be brought to justice. In the words again of Bishop Rosa Chavez, it is necessary to go beyond these eight faces and these uniforms.
We believe that intense U.S. concern as well as the limits and conditions on U.S. military aid have played a role in advancing the cause of negotiations and the determination to prosecute those who committed this terrible crime. We believe the Congress should continue to insist on strict limits and conditions until the peace and justice we pray for has been realized in El Salvador.