El Mozote

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The village of El Mozote

El Mozote is a village in the Morazán department in El Salvador. It was the site of the El Mozote massacre during the civil war in December 1981 when nearly 1,000 civilians were killed by the U.S. School of the Americas-trained Salvadoran Army unit known as the Atlacatl Battalion.

El Mozote Massacre[edit]

On December 10, 1981, the Atlactl Battalion entered the village of El Mozote with a plan in mind. The Battalion’s mission: to eliminate everyone in the village who stood in their way of capturing the Guerilla.[1] In the lapse of three days every inhabitant of the village was executed. On the fatal day of December 10, soldiers rousted the civilians from their homes and gathered them in the central plaza where they were forced to lie down on the streets.[2] Soldiers then brutally kicked, threatened and seized jewelry and valuables along with accusing the people of being Guerilla.[3] At night fall people were ordered to proceed into their homes and were warned not to step outside or else they would be murdered.[4] The following morning the citizens were forced outside where they were then divided into groups of men with boys and women with girls and children. Men and older boys were taken to a church and the rest were taken to vacant homes. In the church, the soldiers blind folded the men and killed them either by decapitation or shooting them at point blank range.[5] Many of these men were tortured before being executed. At the same time women and girls were forced to walk up hillsides where they were first raped before being murdered.[6] Then the soldiers rounded up the children in an empty home where they then released shots killing every single child in the village. After proceeding with the executions of all the inhabitants, they left obscene writing on the walls of homes prior to burning the homes and the bodies. The soldiers didn’t settle with just eliminating the inhabitants, they made sure that the animals of the deceased were killed and burned as well.[7] The “Angels of Hell”, as the Atlactl Battlion called themselves, had completed their mission.

Human rights violations[edit]

The civil war in El Salvador was a time of desperation and turmoil for the civilians of that small country. There were numerous complaints of human right violations but a countless number of people did not report the abuse for fear of the military’s retaliation. But it was the El Mozote Massacre that brought to light the many accusations of human right violations. The El Mozote case alone demonstrated almost all of the human right violations that were recorded during the civil war. Due to almost 1000 citizens being killed in a span of three days, the El Mozote Massacre came to be known as the most notorious case of human right violation in the history of El Salvador.

One of the human right violations determined by the massacre was the right to a fair trial and due process.[8] The inhabitants of El Mozote were accused of being guerrilla and without questioning they were executed. This was a violation of their rights according to the United Nations because the citizens were innocent without any link to the Guerilla but that still did not influence the military’s decision of killing every inhabitant. The citizens should have been questioned first about the Guerilla instead of just being executed. The citizens were also deprived of their safety and well being. According to the soldiers responsible for the killings, all of the inhabitants were protecting the guerrilla thus the killings of the inhabitants was justified in their eyes for the well being of the country.[9]

During the executions, the Atlactl Battalion procured to leave a mark behind with the victims along with letting the rest of the civilians in El Salvador know to not cross paths with them. The “Angels of Hell” tortured many of the men before murdering the victims. The military’s torture methods were brutal, “ Soldiers would dislocate body parts; apply electric shocks, acid burns, and severed limbs: tongues, ears, and gouged eyes.".[10] These torture methods that were used violated the human right of self-defense according to the Truth Commission Report. Torture is defined as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”.[11] The victims were tied down and left defenseless. Instilling unspoken pain to any human being is a violation to their rights because one is stripping that person of their identity and is inflicting unspoken pain into the victims. It is a violation especially if the victims are innocent and are being induced unnecessary pain. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that No One shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.[12] Before being murdered the victims were mentally stressed pushing them to want the soldiers to kill them. From that mental stress the victims were happy of being killed because they would not endure the pain any longer.

Overall the military violated the most important human right, “everyone has the right of life, liberty, and security of person”. The victims’ lives were abruptly taken without any resistance from the civilians. Their right to life and security were stripped without any plausible reason. The killing of defenseless children and babies made the case important for investigators. Babies were murdered ruthlessly at the hands of these men. Women and young girls were raped before being murdered and in the process of those actions the right to their security vanished. Now all that remained in the ghost town were dead bodies of men, women, young girls, boys and babies.

Truth Commission Report[edit]

The United Nations Truth Commission took part in investigating the different acts of human right violations in the civil war in El Salvador and took initiative in investigating the El Mozote Massacre. When the Truth Commission began to question the government about the massacre, the government insisted that the massacre never occurred. Due to the government’s insistence in denying the case, the Truth Commission knew that the massacre had to be a serious case because the government would not respond for the murders.[13] This encouraged the Truth Commission to continue their investigation even though they were asked to halt the investigations. What they came across with their investigation stunned the whole world.

Forensic investigation[edit]

The Truth Commission stepped foot in the desolate soil of where the massacre occurred, the feeling in the atmosphere was heavy and filled with sadness. As soon as the investigators arrived, they immediately started investigating and they encountered gruesome findings. They had found evidence of 143 skeletal remains; 136 children and seven adults.[14] When examining the bodies they discovered that most of the skulls had gunshot injury, which were inserted at a high velocity because of the damage to the skulls.[15] This indicated that the victims were shot a point blank range.

As the forensic investigators kept observing they found evidence of torture on some of the bodies. Many of the victims’ remains showed evidence of stabbing, strangling, and suffocation.[16] These same bodies showed evidence of dislocated limbs and gouged eyes because of the fractures around the eye area.[17] When the investigators entered homes they found that people were gathered in rooms and burned to death. Many of the victims also had gunshot wounds to the head. The investigators also believed that children under ten years old were gathered in a room and cremated then crushed due to the fire destroying the homes.

Unfortunately for the military and for the government, there had been a survivor who was successful in escaping the village. Rufina Amaya, the only survivor was able to retell the accounts of those horrific days.

Rufina Amaya[edit]

Rufina Amaya, the only survivor of El Mozote massacre, was 38 at the time of the killings.[18] With the help of her testimony, the Truth Commission was able to investigate the happenings of those days and bring to light the crime committed by the military. She was able to elude the military’s brutality by swift action. Rufina Amaya’s four children were all taken away from her before the military proceeded with taking Mrs. Amaya and 22 other women up to a hill. Mrs. Rufina recounts how she saw a mountain of dead people stacked on topped of each other, and at that moment she hurried to jump in a bush. Luckily for her sake, Mrs. Amaya was last in the line of women being taken to be executed.[19] Mrs. Amaya remained in the bush throughout the whole night where she heard children and babies screaming in horror. Mrs. Amaya even stated that she heard a child say, “ Mama they are killing us!”.[20] Mrs. Amaya then dug a hole where she screamed and then everything went silent. She was able to escape after that night.[21]

With the help of Mrs. Amaya the massacre did not go unheard. After being interviewed, her testimony made headlines in the Washington Post and the New York Times. After the story of the massacre was published, it made the investigation easier for the Truth Commission because the government could not interfere with the investigations. Also with the testimony of Mrs. Rufina Amaya the government and the military officers responsible for the massacre could not deny the genocide. Mrs. Rufina Amaya was of great contribution to the investigation of the El Mozote Massacre. Mrs. Amaya’s testimony was able to open doors and answer questions that were important to understand the massacre. Mrs. Amaya died at the age of 64 in 2007.[22]


  1. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  2. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massare. Arizona. 
  3. ^ Valis, Noel. "Fear and Torment in El Salvador". The Massachusetts Review. 
  4. ^ "El Salvador Human Rights Practice". The United States Department of Defense. Retrieved January 31, 1994.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  6. ^ Hobden, Steve (May 21, 1981). "In El Salvador, No escape From the Horrors of War.". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  8. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  9. ^ United Nations (April 1993). "El Salvador Accountability and Human Rights: The Report of the United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador" V (7). 
  10. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  11. ^ United Nations (April 1993). "El Salvador Accountability and Human Rights: The Report of the United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador" V (7). 
  12. ^ United Nations (April 1993). "El Salvador Accountability and Human Rights: The Report of the United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador" V (7). 
  13. ^ Valis, Noel. "Fear and Torment in El Salvador". The Massachusetts Review. 
  14. ^ Kirschnfer, Robert. "Forensic Investigation of El Mozote". Retrieved December 10, 1992.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  15. ^ Kirschnfer, Robert. "Forensic Investigation of El Mozote". Retrieved December 10, 1992.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  16. ^ Kirschnfer, Robert. "Forensic Investigation of El Mozote". Retrieved December 10, 1992.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  17. ^ Kirschnfer, Robert. "Forensic Investigation of El Mozote". Retrieved December 10, 1992.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  18. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  19. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  20. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  21. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 
  22. ^ Binford, Leigh (1996). The El Mozote Massacre. Arizona. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 13°54′N 88°07′W / 13.900°N 88.117°W / 13.900; -88.117