Monday, February 23, 2009

Former Salvadoran Official Charged with Immigration Fraud

From the Center for Justice and Accountability:

Dear Friends of CJA,

CJA is pleased to report that today, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Jose Guillermo García, the former Minister of Defense of El Salvador, with two counts of immigration fraud.  If convicted, García faces up to ten years in prison for using a passport procured illegally and up to five years for making a materially false statement to a federal officer.  It is also possible that Garcia will be deported.

This indictment should be viewed in the context of the larger struggle to bring General García to justice.  As many of you know, it was ten years ago that CJA along with pro bono co-counsel from Morrison & Foerster and James Green filed a human rights case against Generals García and Vides Casanova on behalf of our courageous clients Neris Gonzalez, Carlos Mauricio and Dr. Juan Romagoza.  After a jury trial, the Generals were ordered to pay $54.6 million to our clients for their role in their torture.  The verdict was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit in 2006.

While the immigration charges do not fit the severity of García's human rights crimes, this indictment is an extraordinarily important step for accountability for those who suffered unspeakable atrocities committed by government and paramilitary forces in El Salvador.  It is also an important step in our country's efforts to combat immunity for human rights abusers who seek safe haven here.  It is also worth noting that Al Capone was ultimately convicted on tax fraud charges.

To our knowledge, General García is the highest ranking perpetrator to be charged by the U.S. government to date.  García was in charge of the military forces responsible for the infamous El Mozote and Sumpul River massacres where over 1367 civilians were killed.  He was also the Minister of Defense when Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated and blocked any attempts at an investigation.

We continue to work in solidarity with our allies in El Salvador for justice and for the repeal of the amnesty laws that prevent in-country prosecutions for civil war-era abuses.  We also continue to work with U.S. law enforcement on accountability for other high level perpetrators in the U.S. such as General Vides Casanova and Vice Minister of Defense Carranza.

In addition to Neris, Carlos and Juan, I would like to thank all of you who have worked with CJA on the "Generals Case" including Patty Blum, Shawn Roberts, Josh Sondheimer, Terry Karl, Beth Van Schaack, Jim Green, Peter Stern, Michael McClintock, Argentine Colonel Jose Garcia, Ambassador Robert White, Roberto Alvarez, Father Paul Schindler, Lauren Gilbert, Bob Kerrigan, Ken Hurwitz, Glenn Caddy, Matt Eisenbrandt, Almudena Bernabeu, Sandy Coliver, Chris McKenna, Morrison & Foerster, the International Human Rights Clinic at Boalt Hall School of Law, and the late Margaret Popkin.  Apologies if I missed anyone.

We would also like to thank Senator Richard Durbin and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law for their efforts to encourage the prosecution of General García and other human rights abusers in the U.S.

Please click here for more information on CJA's case against General García.

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