Did the 5 November amnesty in El Salvador offer any protection to conscientious objectors and deserters? Information on conscription practices in El Salvador [SLV2745]

1) According to one source, the 60-member Salvadorean National Assembly approved on 27 october 1987, in compliance with the Esquipulas Agreement for peace in Central America, an amnesty that went into effect on 5 November 1987 pardoning "any crime committed by anyone for the motive, occasion, or as a consequence of the armed conflict". [ Keesing's Record of World Events, (London, Longman Publishing Group), May 1988, p. 35891.] The same source provides more detail stating the following: [Ibid.]

"The law applied to leftist guerrillas, members of the military accused of massacres and rightist death squads. At the insistence of the Roman Catholic Church it specifically excluded those responsible for the 1980 killing of Archbishop Romero. The amnesty also excluded those involved in drug trafficking, extortion and crimes committed since October 22, 1987. Leftist rebels who wished to avail themselves of the amnesty had to present themselves to the authorities within 15 days of the date on which the amnesty went into effect."

In late November 1987, President Duarte threatened with withdrawing the amnesty if the rebels did not cease their armed struggle, [ Latin America Weekly Report, (London, Latin America Newsletters), 3 December 1987, p. 2.] and by early December of that year Duarte insisted that the rebels should accept the amnesty before accepting to engage in peace talks with them. [ Latin America Weekly Report, 10 December 1987, p. 3.] By mid-December the ceasefires declared by both sides of the conflict had reportedly collapsed and talks were stalled, although by January 1988 approximately 450 people had been released under the amnesty. [ Latin America Weekly Report: 24 December 1987, p. 9; 21 January 1988, p. 12; Keesing's Record of World Events, June 1988, p. 35956.] For additional details on the results of the referred amnesty, please find attached a copy of Keesing's Record of World Events, (London, Longman Publishing Group), June 1988, p. 35956.

Additional articles corroborating the details contained in the attachment are not available at this time to the IRBDC.

2) According to information from The Civilian Toll, (Washington: Americas Watch, August 1987), pp. 108-111, and Conscientious Objection to Military Service, (United Nations, 1985), p. 23, El Salvador has a compulsory military service, with no provisions for conscientious objection. Conscientious Objection to Military Service, p. 31, states Salvadorean law allows exemptions to military service based on family or health reasons; page 28 indicates that objectors may be imprisoned and treated as deserters. According to The Civilian Toll and a New York Times article ("Salvador Army fills ranks by force", 21 April 1989, p. A3), forced recruitment is practised, reportedly most frequently among lower-income men of draft age (18-30 years) or younger, although omission from military service reportedly can be bought. Both sources report a draft system in which no prior notice is given to the conscripts; rather, young men are rounded up when leaving movie theatres or while riding on buses, etc. According to The Civilian Toll, pp. 108-111, military commanders claim this system reduces the possibility of infiltration by guerrilla members or collaborators.