UW Center for Human Rights accompanies children of Salvadoran disappeared in D.C. briefing

The University of Washington Center for Human Rights accompanied a delegation in Washington D.C. during April 13-15, calling for the release of U.S. government documents regarding human rights abuses in El Salvador. Convened by the Mauricio Aquino Foundation’s Our Parents’ Bones campaign, the delegation of children of men and women who were forcibly disappeared during the 1980s met with Members of Congress to ask: “Where are the files on our parents? Where is the truth on El Salvador’s Disappeared?”

The delegation hosted several public events, including a forum, “Digging for the truth: Access to information about forced disappearances in wartime El Salvador,” on the evening of April 13 from 5:30-7:00pm at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at 1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Butler Room; and a public briefing to Members of Congress and their staffs on the morning of Thursday, April 14 at 10:00am at 2456 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. To learn more about the forum and briefing, please see a media advisory from the Mauricio Aquino Foundation and Our Parents’ Bones.

Angelina Snodgrass Godoy, Director of the University of Washington Center for Human Rights, joined the D.C. delegation. As part of its Unfinished Sentences project, the Center has submitted dozens of Freedom of Information requests seeking declassification of U.S. government documents regarding historic human rights cases in El Salvador. In 2015, the University of Washington sued the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act following the denial of documents relating to a Salvadoran military officer accused in multiple grave human rights violations.

The Our Parents’ Bones campaign’s call for declassification of documents relating to the conflict in El Salvador has a recent precedent for success. In early 2016, the Obama Administration moved to declassify documents relating to U.S. involvement in the “Dirty War” in Argentina during the 1970s. The United States provided extensive support for the government of El Salvador during the country’s civil war from 1980-1992, including over $4 billion in military aid.

In addition to calling on both the U.S. and Salvadoran governments to declassify files on civil war human rights abuses, the delegation also called for the creation of a Salvadoran National Commission to search for forcibly disappeared people, and urged the Attorney General of El Salvador to demonstrate progress in its investigations of forced disappearances and other human rights abuses.

Our Parents’ Bones was represented by surviving children Alexandra Aquino-Fike, Sara Aguilar and Jimmy Ortiz. In addition to the UW Center for Human Rights, they were also joined by El Salvador’s current Human Rights Ombudsman, David Morales, as well as representatives of the Due Process of Law Foundation and the Washington Office on Latin America.