Wednesday, February 08, 2012


An American lawyer who contributed to the U.N. Truth Commission report about war crimes during the Salvadoran Civil War told a Salvadoran newspaper that he is confident that the Commission’s finding that Roberto d’Aubuisson was the intellectual author of the Romero assassination would hold up in court.

EL FARO newsmagazine interviewed Douglass Cassel, a Notre Dame University Law School Professor and former American Bar Association President who served as an advisor to Thomas Buergenthal, one of the three commissioners charged with resolving several high profile human rights cases and making overall recommendations to foster post-war reforms and reconciliation after the Salvadoran Civil War (1980—1992). Buergenthal is a former magistrate of the International Court of Justice; the two other commissioners were Belisario Betancur, the former president of Colombia, and Reinaldo Figueredo, the former foreign minister of Venezuela. EL FARO questioned Prof. Cassel about the integrity of the Commission’s report, and Cassel noted that no one has ever been able to mount a credible challenge to any of the Commission’s findings. Cassel was emphatic with regards to the Commission’s findings relating to Archbishop Romero’s assassination:
Q. Would you, as a lawyer, be in a position to maintain before a judge—to cite what might be the most famous case—that Roberto d’Aubuisson is responsible for the death of Oscar Arnulfo Romero?

A. Yes, without a doubt.

Q. Would you have been able to so maintain in a trial, had the report been binding? Do you believe that the information gathered by the Commission, set forth in the report, would be enough to convict Roberto d’Aubuisson?

A. If it had been possible to bring him into court, I think that it would have led to a conviction. None of the commissioners and none of the three advisers had the least doubt in this case, because we interviewed key witnesses, who knew what happened. But in a criminal case the question is whether these witnesses would have come forth voluntarily, and the answer, at least at that time was "no." They feared for their lives. It was in fact very difficult to convince them to give evidence to the Commission, even knowing that we would not disclose their identities.
Cassel cited revelations in historic U.S. diplomatic cables recently published in the Salvadoran press, which report that d’Aubuisson aides had hatched a plot to assassinate Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani and that the Air Force revolted against Cristiani’s plans to sign the Salvadoran peace accords, to explain why Cristiani did not promote the Commission’s report as the definitive explanation of the Romero assassination and other crimes.
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