Return Home

Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador

UN Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, From Madness to Hope: The 12-Year War in El Salvador, Report, 15 March 1993, in UN Secretary General, Letter to the President of the Security Council (S/25500), Annex. (PDF link)


G. The Recovery of Faith

I. Foundation for the Truth


The purification which is to follow the reports of the Ad Hoc Commission and the Commission on the Truth may seem inadvisable in cases where a person guilty of a serious crime in the past rectified his behaviour and contributed to the negotiated peace. This, however, is the small price that those who engage in punishable acts must pay, regardless of their position: they must accept it for the good of the country and the democratic future of the new Salvadorian society. Moreover, it is not up to the Commission to act on complaints, requests for pardon or pleas of attenuating circumstances from persons dismissed from the armed forces, because it has no binding judicial powers. It is not by resignation but by its creative attitude towards its new commitments and the new order of democratic coexistence that Salvadorian society as a whole will ultimately strike a balance in dealing with those who must take the blame for what they did during the conflict but deserve praise for what they did in the peace process.

El Salvador needs new souls. By its response to the murder of the Jesuits, 10 years after the assassination of Monsignor Romero by that nightmarish creation the "death squads", the military leadership showed just how far its position had hardened in daring to eliminate those it viewed as opponents, either because they were opponents or because they voiced concern, including church workers and journalists. In the uproar that followed, the most perverse sentiments came to the fore and the most absurd obfuscation was used in an attempt to cover up the truth as to who had given the orders.

What is more, it would tarnish the image of the armed forces if they were to retain sufficient power to block the process of purification or impose conditions on it: if the guilty were not singled out and punished, the institution itself would be incriminated; no other interpretation is possible. Those who would have the armed forces choose this course must weigh the price of such an attitude in the eyes of history.