After the 2006 verdict, CJA and our clients engaged in an extensive campaign to persuade the U.S. government to initiate removal proceedings against the Generals García and Vides Casanova .
In 2007, CJA client Dr. Juan Romagoza and former Executive Director Pamela Merchant testified before the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. The hearing, “No Safe Haven: Accountability for Human Rights Violators in the U.S.,” examined what could be done on the level of policy, legislation, and enforcement to hold human rights abusers who have settled in the U.S. accountable for their conduct.
As a result of that testimony, Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Coburn (R-OK) wrote a letter to DOJ and DHS urging those departments to investigate the prosecution and removal of the Generals. In 2009, as a result of that letter and CJA’s continued behind-the-scenes efforts to encourage criminal prosecution, DHS announced that it had initiated deportation proceedings against Generals García and Vides Casanova for assisting in the torture of Salvadoran civilians.
After many delays, the trial against General Vides Casanova began in April 2011 and two of our clients testified. CJA assisted in preparing our clients to serve as witnesses, and CJA attorneys were present for the trial, which lasted one week. CJA also provided the U.S. government with evidence and exhibits used during our civil case against the Generals.
On February 23, 2012, the immigration judge ruled that General Vides Casanova could be removed under U.S. immigration law for the torture of Salvadoran citizens, the 1980 killings of four American churchwomen, and the 1981 killings of two Americans and a Salvadoran land reformer. This historic decision marks the first time that federal immigration prosecutors have established that a top-ranking foreign military commander can be deported based on human rights violations under a law passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which was intended to bar human rights violators from coming to or living in the United States. The decision also confirmed that General Vides Casanova could be removed to El Salvador based on the human rights charges brought by the U.S. government.
In late 2012, the DOJ denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the New York Times to release the immigration judge’s ruling. The Times filed a lawsuit in federal court on April 3, 2013, and the case was calendared for a scheduling conference before Judge Richard Sullivan in the Eastern District of New York.
After the lawsuit was filed, the DOJ reversed its decision to deny the FOIA request. A version of the decision was released on April 4, 2013.
» Click here to read the decision.
» Click here to read the letter from the DOJ that accompanied the decision.
» Click here to read a summary of the decision by CJA Senior Legal Adviser Carolyn Patty Blum
On May 29, the New York Times sought federal court review of it’s FOIA request seeking disclosure of the full record (transcripts and documents) in the removal proceedings against general Vides-Casanova. CJA applauds the Times’ commitment in transparency of the removal proceedings. The removal cases have become an important means to end the impunity of the Salvadoran military leadership during the state terror of the 1980s and to contribute to the accuracy of the historical record of the Salvadoran conflict.
Vides Casanova was finally deported to El Salvador on April 10, 2015.