El Salvador: UN Observer Mission Monitors Human Rights

Article excerpt

Although no civilian victims or military casualties have been recorded in El Salvador since the end of the 12-year civil war, UN human rights investigators are documenting violence and abuses which, though tempered, have continued into the peace-keeping period.

The Director of the Human Rights Division of the UN Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL) on 12 August called for judicial action against perpetrators of torture in the country and for clear national policy guidelines to ensure strict compliance with detention rules.

Despite serious concerns about summary executions, violent death and threats, the Division reported (S/24375) that the overall human rights situation in El Salvador had improved since the establishment of ONUSAL and the subsequent end of the prolonged conflict, which had claimed more than 75,000 lives.

Two independent commissions were also investigating human rights offences: The Commission on Truth in July began to investigate serious acts of violence perpetrated since the civil war began in 1980, while an ad hoc commission had completed a confidential report evaluating the performance of the military as part of the "purification" process.

ONUSAL was established under the 1990 San Jose Agreement on Human Rights, which reaffirmed the desire of the parties to agree on measures to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. Under the Agreement, the human rights verification mission was to take up its duties upon the cessation of the armed conflict between the Government and the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN).

However, at the parties' request, the Security Council decided by its resolution 693 (1991) of 20 May to establish ONUSAL before the end of the armed conflict. Its initial mandate included wide-ranging powers unprecedented in UN history.

ONUSAL's mandate was subsequently broadened to include ceasefire verification and other peace-keeping tasks through resolution 729 (1992), adopted on 14 January following the achievement of a peace agreement on 31 December 1991 between the two parties. The UN-brokered Peace Agreement was formally signed by the FMLN and the Government in Mexico City on 16 January 1992.

A substantive problem affecting the implementation of the Peace Agreements had related to the distribution of farm land to former combatants.

(In a 19 October letter to the Council, the Secretary-General reported that the two sides had accepted a UN plan for the "prompt and speedy transfer" of large areas of land, especially to former FMLN combatants.)

Other problems, especially related to demobilization of forces, continued to affect the timetable for implementing the agreements, which had already been revised twice.

On 28 September, the Secretary-General sent Marrack Goulding, Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations, to El Salvador to investigate the delays.

On 2 October, Mr. Goulding told reporters in San Salvador that the UN was concentrating its efforts on "sure implementation of the second |recalendarizacion.'"

But, he continued, "obviously we do not exclude the possibility that the two sides might agree on a third |recalendarizacion'. And if that should happen, that should be regarded as a perfectly reasonable development of this process, and not as some dramatic disaster."

Commission on Truth

The Commission on Truth was dispatched to El Salvador on 14 July following a formal installation ceremony the day before at UN Headquarters in New York. …

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