Court Forces U.S. Backed Salvadoran Generals to Pay $55 Million to Civil War Torture Victims
Interview with Beth van Schaack, trial attorney with the Center for Justice and Accountability, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
During the 1980s an estimated 75,000 people were killed in El Salvador's bloody civil war, the vast majority civilians. The U.S. government supported the ruling elite to the tune of one million dollars a day, mostly in military aid. Thousands of people were executed or tortured by the Army and allied death squads.
Three Salvadorans living in the U.S., one now a U.S. citizen, sued two Salvadoran generals who were in power during the war years, charging them with torture under U.S. law. The same laws used two years ago to try these generals for the1980 rape and murder of four American church women in El Salvador in 1980. The generals, Jose Guillermo Garcia and Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, were acquitted in that case. But in this more recent lawsuit, filed by the Center for Justice and Accountability, the plaintiffs won. In a July 23rd verdict the jury ordered the Salvadoran generals to pay the victims almost $55 million in damages.
The defendants have 30 days to appeal the decision. Beth van Schaack, one of the trial attorneys, said the generals received no support from the current government of El Salvador, and they may not be able to afford an appeal. They probably won't be able to pay the damages either, but van Schaack says that wasn't the goal of bringing the case. Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with van Schaack about why the Salvadoran survivors sued in U.S. courts, and what they hope to gain from this verdict.
That was Beth van Schaack, legal adviser to the Center for Justice and Accountability. Contact the Center by calling (415) 544-0444 or visit their Web site at www.cja.org.
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