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Former US-Backed Salvadoran Colonel Sentenced by Spanish Court to 133 Years in Prison for 1989 Jesuit Massacre

 [read more background on this case at https://www.npr.org/2020/08/13/900855625/a-court-case-in-spain-raises-ho...

IRTF note: Among the thousands of people killed by US-trained and -equipped soldiers during the civil war in El Salvador were six Jesuit priests— Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, S.J.—along with Elba Ramos and her 15-year-old daughter Celina, who were guests in the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America in San Salvador on the night of the murders.

Col. Inocente Orlando Montano led an elite U.S.-trained army unit that massacred six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter during El Salvador's 12-year civil war. 

by Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams

A Spanish court last week sentenced a former U.S.-backed Salvadoran army colonel and government official to 133 years in prison for the murder of five Spanish Jesuit priests during the Central American country's civil war. 

The Guardian reports Inocente Orlando Montano, 77, was found guilty of "terrorist murder" by Spain's highest criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, in Madrid on Friday. Montano also served as El Salvador's vice-minister of public security at the time of the 1989 Jesuit massacre.

The five Spanish priests, along with one Salvadoran Jesuit priest, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter, were murdered on November 16, 1989 by members of the elite Atlacatl Battalion, which was created, armed, trained, and funded by the United States.

According to a report by El Salvador's postwar United Nations Truth Commission, Atlacatl troops disguised as rebels rounded up five of the six priests—university rector Ignacio Ellacuria Beas Coechea, vice-rector Ignacio Martín-Baró, social sciences dean Segundo Montes, Juan Ramón Moreno, and Amando López—before ordering them to lie face-down on the ground in a garden where they were executed.

The attackers then discovered Father Joaquín López y López and killed him too, along with housekeeper Julia Elba Ramos and her 15-year-old daughter Celina Ramos.

The Spanish court could not convict Montano for murdering López, Ramos, or her daughter because his extradition to Spain under the legal concept of universal jurisdiction—which posits that national courts may prosecute serious human rights crimes regardless of where they occur—did not apply to those cases.

Almudena Bernabéu, a Spanish human rights lawyer and member of the prosecution team in the Montano case, said the verdict shows the importance of universal jurisction.

"It doesn't really matter if 30 years have passed, the pain of the relatives carries on," she said. "I think people forget how important these active efforts are to formalize and acknowledge that someone's son was tortured or someone's brother was executed."

Hailed by U.S. officials as "the pride of the United States military team in El Salvador," the unit Montano led committed some of the most horrific massacres of the 12-year Salvadoran Civil War. Atlacatl officers and troops—many of them trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA)—carried out mass rape and the wholesale murder of more than 900 villagers, mostly women, children, and the elderly, at El Mozote on December 11, 1981, to name but one of its many crimes.

According to a Truth Commission report, 26 Salvadoran soldiers were involved in the Jesuit massacre. Of these, 19 were SOA graduates, including Gen. Juan Rafael Bustillo and three others soldiers believed to be responsible for the 1989 torture, rape, and murder of French Médecins Sans Frontières nurse Madeleine Lagadec.

Elliott Abrams, the Reagan administration’s "death squad ambassador" in Central America who is now the Trump administration's special representative for Iran and Venezuela, hailed the U.S. record in El Salvador as "one of fabulous achievement." More than 70,000 men, women, and children died during the Salvadoran Civil War. The Truth Commission investigation concluded that 85% of the more than 22,000 atrocities that were reported during the war were committed by the U.S.-backed military regime and associated forces.

Many of the perpetrators of war crimes and other human rights atrocities—including Montano—found refuge in the United States. Montano was jailed in the U.S. for immigration fraud and perjury before he was extradited to Spain in 2017. 

Addendum about Elliott Abrams

[compiled by IRTF from the source https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/01/elliott-abrams-a-human-rights-ho... ]

No Reagan administration official worked harder to subvert human rights in the Americas than Elliott Abrams. After the Atlacatl Battalion, an elite Salvadoran army unit created at the US Army School of the Americas, carried out a series of horrific massacres including the wholesale slaughter of more than 900 villagers at El Mozote in December 1981, Abrams praised the murderous battalion’s “professionalism” while attacking reports of casualty figures and the journalists who reported them. He also white-washed Contra atrocities as well as those of the genocidal regime of General Efrían Ríos Montt in Guatemala, the Argentinian military junta — which was stealing and selling the babies of its victims at the time — and other pro-US, anti-communist regimes.

Late in 1986 the world learned of a secret arms-for-hostages deal between the Reagan administration and US archenemy Iran. The US also used proceeds from the arms sale to fund the Contras, who also trafficked drugs to bankroll their insurgency. Both the Iran deal and supporting the Contra terrorists were illegal. It would emerge that Abrams, who worked closely with key Iran-Contra criminal Colonel Oliver North, knew about North’s efforts to illegally assist the Contras and was “directly involved in secretly seeking third-country contributions” to the rebels. Federal prosecutors prepared multiple felony counts against Abrams for his role in the scandal but he was never indicted.

2001: Elliot Abrams—like many other prominent neoconservatives— found their power and standing elevated as the US entered the era of never-ending war on terrorism. Calls for regime change in Iraq aligned perfectly with George W. Bush’s aggressive post-9/11 foreign policy and the advice of conservative voices like Abrams’ at the think-tank Project for the New American Century (1997-2006).

2002:  According to the UK Observer, Abrams had advance knowledge of, and approved, the military coup that removed President Hugo Chávez from power in Venezuela for 47 hours in April 2002.   

2003: As Bush’s special Middle East adviser, Abrams was one of the key intellectual architects of the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq

2006: Running the National Security Council’s Israel/Palestine desk, Abrams was  accused of leading the Bush administration’s effort to subvert the 2006 Palestinian elections to block the formation of a Fatah-Hamas unity government. “It was during Abrams’ tenure in the NSC that the United States lost all credibility as an honest broker among Palestinians,” Eric Alterman wrote in The Nation in 2013.

Today: Elliot Abrams is now the second most prominent Bush-era neoconservative after National Security Advisor John Bolton to be hired by Trump.