Archbishop shuts Salvadoran human rights office

The Sept. 30 decision by Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar of San Salvador, El Salvador, to close its human rights office, Tutela Legal, has produced an outpouring of protest from organisations and individuals in many countries concerned with the protection of rights.

They recognize Tutela Legal as a particularly valiant part of their movement that played a crucial role in establishing its legitimacy and in gaining respect for efforts to protect rights even in the midst of a civil war.

As one who has known Tutela Legal from its earliest days more than 30 years ago, collaborated with it closely during the organization’s difficult and dangerous formative years, and had a hand in shaping its work, I am especially disturbed by the archbishop’s sudden and poorly explained decision to shut it down.

Tutela Legal was established in 1982 by Salvadoran Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas.

His predecessor as archbishop, Oscar Arnulfo Romero, had been murdered by a sniper on March 24, 1980, as he was saying Mass.

The murder of Romero, whose candidacy for sainthood is being promoted by Pope Francis, was one of thousands of death squad killings in that period that helped plunge El Salvador into a terrible civil war that lasted 12 years. Continue reading

Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar of El Salvador recently closed the diocesan human rights office, Tutela Legal, with little explanation. People and organisations across the world have protested against the decision.

Aryeh Neier, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, shares the history of Tutela Legal, and argues that the creation and work of the office during the civil war in El Salvador “should be a matter of great pride for the Catholic church in Latin America”, with the office’s files protected to support those people still ensuring justice is done for the tens of thousands of victims of crimes during that period.

Source: National Catholic Reporter

Image: Open Society Foundations

Aryeh Neier is the former executive director of Human Rights Watch and president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations.


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