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)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(h) Attack on an FMLN hospital and execution of a nurse (1989)
(j) FENASTRAS and COMADRES (1989)
SUMMARY OF THE CASE
On 10 September 1990, Dr. Begoña García Arandigoyen was summarily executed in the Department of Santa Ana. The Spanish doctor, who was 24 years old, died in an alleged clash between a patrol of the 4th Company BIC PIPIL of the Second Infantry Brigade of the armed forces of El Salvador and a column of the Ejército Revolucioniario del Pueblo (ERP) of FMLN.
The Commission finds the following:
1. Begoña García Arandigoyen was executed extrajudicially by troops of the 4th Company BIC PIPIL of the Second Infantry Brigade, under immediate command of Lieutenant Roberto Salvador Hernández García and the overall command of Army Lieutenant Colonel José Antonio Almendáriz, commanding officer of the Second Brigade.
2. The above officers covered up the crime with the collaboration of the National Police Third Command, Santa Ana unit, and the experts and judicial authorities who took part in the examination of the corpse of Begoña García.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FACTS 288/
Dr. Begoña García Arandigoyen, a Spanish doctor, entered El Salvador in September 1989 to work as a doctor for FMLN. She was executed, following her arrest, on 10 September 1990 in the Department of Santa Ana by troops of the 4th Company BIC PIPIL of the Second Infantry Brigade.
According to the official version, a patrol which was conducting a search of the area to the south of the Santa Ana volcano, near the Montañita estate, clashed with FMLN troops at approximately 1 p.m. on 10 September on the La Graciela estate.
According to a statement by Army Lieutenant Colonel José Antonio Almendáriz Rivas, commanding officer and Chief of Staff of the Second Brigade, he was advised by radio when fire contact was made with the enemy and was later informed of the death of 10 guerrillas, including two women, one of whom was a foreigner. 289/
According to the official version, FMLN troops managed to retrieve the bodies of eight of the dead, and the troops of 4th Company BIC PIPIL found only the bodies of two women. One of them looked like a foreigner.
At nightfall, other soldiers transferred the bodies of the two women from the place where the events had allegedly occurred to the main building of the Malacara estate, in Potrero Grande Arriba canton, Santa Ana district.
On the morning of 11 September, Army Lieutenant Colonel José Antonio Almendáriz Rivas, COPREFA staff and members of the National Police Third Command, Santa Ana unit, under the command of Lieutenant Gilberto García Cisneros, arrived at the Malacara estate by helicopter. COPREFA staff photographed the bodies and, according to the official version, members of the Third Command performed paraffin tests to see whether the women had fired weapons. There was no judicial examination of the bodies. 290/ At the request of the military personnel, local residents proceeded to bury the bodies.
The official examination of the corpse
On 14 September, the corpses were exhumed and the body of Dr. Begoña García was examined by the forensic doctor on duty, Dr. Neftalí Figueroa Juárez, in the presence of the judge of the First Criminal Court of the Santa Ana judicial district, Oscar Armando Avilés Magaña. Those present included a representative of the Embassy of Spain and Lieutenant Colonel Almendáriz Rivas.
The examination report states that "[they] examined the corpse of BEGOÑA GARCIA ARANDIGOYEN, which has a destructive wound on the outer right-hand surface of the right forearm, with a total and displaced fracture, a destructive wound on the lateral surface of the right buttock and wounds on the outer surface of the right elbow and the left thigh. The corpse is rapidly decomposing, death having occurred at least four days ago, there is no evidence of tattooing, burns or powder marks around any of the above-mentioned wounds, from which it can be inferred that the wounds were inflicted from a distance. The corpse was exhumed and the direct cause of death was hypovolemic shock resulting from multiple wounds." 291/
The autopsy in Spain
After the corpse of Begoña García had been transferred to Spain, the Pathology Department of Navarra Government Hospital performed a clinical autopsy. That autopsy, and the report by Dr. Carlos Martín Beristaín on the medical and forensic findings, 292/ established the following:
1. The corpse had multiple wounds, especially to the head, neck and upper and lower extremities.
2. There was a large wound on the left forearm, corresponding to a total fracture, which implied the use of a blunt instrument or the impact of a bullet.
3. There were two round bullet entry holes, from 2.4 to 3 cm in diameter, above both elbow joints, although no exit holes could be detected, the wounds being very selective and occurring only on the extremities and symmetrically on the arms, without other wounds on the thorax which could have been caused by a line of fire.
4. The wounds on the arms and the left thigh could have been made by a sharp bayonet-type instrument, since they were too large in diameter to have been caused by a firearm without being accompanied by greater destruction, other exit holes or the presence of bullets in the flesh.
5. An entry hole 1.8 cm in diameter in the lower central occipital region, the trajectory being upwards and forwards.
6. A round hole 2.5 cm in diameter at the base of the neck, just above the sternal manubrium.
7. Death must have occurred instantaneously as a result of the firearm wounds to the cranium, because of the destruction of vital nerve centres and not because of the bleeding which the wounds may have caused.
Dr. Beristaín’s report notes that a biochemical analysis detected the existence of a large quantity of powder around the edges of the neck wound (above the sternal manubrium), confirming that the wound had been caused by a shot fired from a distance of a few centimetres. The bullet wounds in the occipital region and the sternal manubrium had similar characteristics and had been made from a distance of a few centimetres.
The report further notes that when the corpse was officially examined in El Salvador, neither of the two head wounds which were made from a distance of a few centimetres (in the nape of the neck and in the region above the sternum) was recorded.
Report by the expert of the Commission on the Truth
At the request of the Commission on the Truth, Dr. Robert H. Kirschner, a forensic pathologist, studied the examination made by Dr. José Neftalí Figueroa on 14 September 1990 and the clinical autopsy report from Navarra Hospital. In the opinion of Dr. Kirschner, the Navarra autopsy directly contradicts the El Salvador examination and supports the contention that Begoña García was captured and executed. Dr. Kirschner notes that the Navarra autopsy report describes wounds which are inconsistent with those occurring in combat and typical of those caused by execution, including the wound at the base of the cranium, fired from a gun almost in contact with the nape of the neck, and another in the upper chest, caused by a shot fired from a distance of a few centimetres.
The Commission finds the following:
1. There is full evidence that Begoña García Arandigoyen was executed extrajudicially, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, by units of the Second Infantry Brigade under the immediate command of Lieutenant Roberto Salvador Hernández García and the overall command of Army Lieutenant Colonel José Antonio Almendáriz Rivas, commanding officer of the Second Brigade.
2. There is full evidence that the above officers covered up the crime.
3. There is full evidence of the responsibility of the judicial authorities, as shown by the actions of the judge of the First Criminal Court of the Santa Ana judicial district, Oscar Armando Avilés Magaña, and of the forensic doctor on duty, Dr. Neftalí Figueroa Juárez, who took part in the examination of the corpse of Begoña García and who omitted from the record the two gunshot wounds made at a distance of a few centimetres, thus failing in their duty to carry out a full and impartial investigation of the causes of her death.
288/ The Commission on the Truth reviewed all the relevant documentation on the case of Dr. Begoña García and obtained testimony from an expert forensic pathologist as to the validity of and the conclusions reached by the official examination of the corpse and the clinical autopsy.
289/ Statement made by Lieutenant Colonel José Antonio Almendáriz Rivas to the First Criminal Court of Santa Ana at 12.30 p.m. on 19 August 1991.
290/ Letter No. 0630, dated 12 September 1990, from Lieutenant Gilberto García Cisneros of the National Police Third Command to the Commander of the Second Infantry Brigade.
The two judges of the respective district stated that they had never received notice or a summons to examine any corpse. Letter No. 320, dated 28 August 1991, sent by the Second Justice of the Peace of Chalchuapa, Raúl García Morales, and letter No. 457, dated 29 August 1991, sent by the First Justice of the Peace of Chalchuapa, Gloria Macal de Fajardo. Court dossier.
291/ Examination made in the First Criminal Court, Santa Ana, at 5.15 p.m. on 14 September 1990.
292/ Autopsy report, Pathology Department, Navarra Government Hospital, Navarra, Spain, 22 September 1990. Report prepared by the National Toxicology Institute, Ministry of Justice, Department of Madrid, at the request of the Second Court of Investigation of Pamplona (Navarra), Madrid, 30 October 1990. Report on the death of Dr. Begoña García Arandigoyen on 10 September 1990. Dr. Carlos Martín Beristaín, November 1990.