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UA 314/91 - El Salvador: death threats / harassment: Mirtala Lopez and other human rights workers

, N° d'index: AMR 29/010/1991

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 29/10/91
Distr: UA/SC
UA 314/91 Death threats/Harassment 20 September 1991
EL SALVADOR: Mirtala LOPEZ and other human rights workers
Amnesty International is concerned at the continuing wave of death threats
and other forms of harassment directed against human rights workers and members
of grassroots organizations in El Salvador.
On 12 September 1991 a letter from the Frente Anticomunista de El Salvador
(FAS), the Salvadorian Anti-Communist Front, was delivered to the offices of
the Comité Cristiano Pro Desplazados de El Salvador (CRIPDES), the Christian
Committee for the Displaced of El Salvador, addressed to "the terrorist leader
Mirtala López - front organization CRIPDES" [Sp: cabecilla terrorista Mirtala
López - organización de fachada CRIPDES]. In the letter, the FAS stated that:
"just as we eliminated the Jesuits from the UCA, we are firm in our
determination to end the lives of those who are said to be leaders
of machiavellian organizations of the FMLN-FDR... Your youth IS
ON THE VERGE OF DANGER, YOUR END IS NEAR". [Sp: Así como eliminamos
a los Jesuitas de la UCA, estamos firmes en nuestro compromiso
por terminar con la vida de los que se dicen ser dirigentes de
los maquiavélicos organismos del FMLN-FDR...Tu juventud ESTÁ AL
(Six Jesuit priests and two staff of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA)
were murdered by army troops in November 1989. Prior to their death the Jesuits
were publicly accused by the military of having links with the armed opposition
group, the FMLN-FDR.)
On 18 September, Mirtala López received a second letter from the FAS,
addressed to "Terrorist Mirtala López", which states:
"We are going to decapitate the terrorist leaders...The moment for justice
to be done approaches. YOUR YOUTH ENDS TODAY." [Sp: Vamos a
descabezar a los dirigentes terroristas...El momento de hacer
justicia se acerca, TU JUVENTUD TERMINA HOY.]
Mirtala López, who has recently been vocal in denouncing human rights
abuses by the military against repopulated communities, had been the object
of threats prior to this incident. CRIPDES claim that a commander of a local
military brigade in Chalatenango had threatened to arrest her on 3 September
during a visit by CRIPDES workers to repopulated communities in the area. On
7 September she was followed in the streets of San Salvador by a vehicle with
tinted windows. Mirtala López is also active in the Comité Permanente para
el Debate Nacional (CPDN), the Committee for the National Debate, a coalition
of grassroots and church organizations which in recent
weeks has been repeatedly accused by the Minister of Defence of being a front
group for the FMLN. Mirtala López was previously arrested in April 1989 following
a raid by police on the CRIPDES offices. She and seven other CRIPDES workers
were severely tortured during police detention before being released without
page 2 of UA 314/91
The Comisión de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador (CDHES), the
non-governmental Human Rights Commission of El Salvador, has also recently
reported incidents of threats and intimidation directed against its staff.
On 22 August, a group of CDHES workers (trabajadoras) were followed as they
left the CDHES offices by armed men in civilian clothing. On 4 September Zuleyma
Argueta, an ex-member of staff of the CDHES, was detained without warrant by
men in civilian clothing and taken to the National Police, where she was
interrogated regarding the work of the CDHES and the identity of other staff
members. She was reportedly consigned to Ilopango prison on 7 September accused
of possession of subversive documents. Amnesty International is currently
looking into her legal situation. The day after her arrest, the house of a
female member of the CDHES' legal department was searched without warrant by
uniformed members of the National Police. The CDHES offices have reportedly
been under surveillance since the end of August by men in civilian clothing
believed to be members of the National Police.
In recent months Amnesty International has documented a resurgent pattern of
threats and intimidatory acts carried out openly by government security forces
or by clandestine groups, such as the FAS, which Amnesty International believes
are acting with their acquiescence. These threats are directed at groups and
individuals perceived by the authorities as sympathising or having links with
the FMLN armed opposition group. CRIPDES and the CDHES are amongst many
Salvadorian humanitarian organizations whose criticism of human rights
violations by the government has led to their being identified with the FMLN
in the eyes of the authorities.
In June 1991, the FAS issued leaflets threatening members of opposition
groups and several popular organizations reported that their staff had received
death threats by telephone (see UA 223/91 AMR 29/08/91). Amnesty has documented
numerous cases in the past where people who receive threats of this kind are
subsequently arrested and tortured or extrajudicially executed. The
organization is concerned that the most recent incidents may lead to further
serious human rights violations against members of human rights and other
humanitarian organizations.
RECOMMENDED ACTIONS: Telegrams/Telexes/Faxes/Express Letters:
- expressing your concern at the recent death threats by the Frente Anticomunista
Salvadoreño against Mirtala López of CRIPDES, the surveillance of human rights
workers by armed individuals and the search without warrant of the house of
a CDHES member by the National Police;
- saying that these incidents appear to be part of a pattern of harassment
and intimidation of human rights workers by unidentified individuals and
uniformed members of the National Police;
- urging that these incidents be immediately investigated and that those found
to be responsible be brought to justice;
- asking that steps be taken to ensure that Mirtala López and other Salvadorian
human rights workers are able to carry out their work without threat to their
physical security.
page 3 of UA 314/91
(Vice Minister of the Presidency)
Lic. Ernesto Altschul Señor Viceministro
Viceministro de la Presidencia
Mnisterio de la Presidencia
Casa Presidencial
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telegrams: Sr. Viceministro Presidencia, San Salvador, El Salvador
Telexes: 30344 RS SAL
Faxes: + 503 22 91 09
(Minister of Defence)
Gral. René Emilio Ponce Señor Ministro
Ministro de Defensa
Ministerio de Defensa y de Seguridad Pública
Km. 5 Carretera a Sta Tecla
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telegrams: Ministro Defensa, San Salvador, El Salvador
Telexes: 20446 MINDEF
Faxes: + 503 22 85 14
(Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs)
Lic. Ricardo Valdivieso Señor Viceministro
Viceministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Bld. Manuel Enrique Araujo Km6
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telegrams: Viceministro RR.EE., San Salvador, El Salvador
Telexes: 20179 RREE SAL
Faxes: + 503 98 17 74
Comisión de Derechos Humanos
de El Salvador (CDHES)
Urbanización la Esperanza
Pasaje 1, no 117
San Salvador, El Salvador
Faxes: + 503 25 92 32
Comité Cristiano Pro Desplazados
de El Salvador (CRIPDES)
Aptdo. Postal 614
San Salvador, El Salvador
Faxes: + 503 26 35 60
Comision de Derechos Humanos, gubernamental
Paseo Gral. Escalón 87
Av. Sur Bloque 2, 226
Colonia Escalón
San Salvador, El Salvador (Governmental Human Rights Commission)
Faxes: + 503 24 09 92
and to diplomatic representatives of El Salvador in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat
or your section office if sending appeals after 1 November 1991.

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