Board Upholds Decision to Remove Former Salvadoran Minister of Defense from the U.S.

On December 15, 2015, the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals upheld and finalized the removal order of former Salvadoran Minister of Defense General José Guillermo García.  The decision affirmed the extensive findings of Immigration Judge Michael C. Horn that García assisted or otherwise participated in some of the most heinous human rights crimes committed in El Salvador in the 1980s, including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the killing of four American churchwomen and two U.S. labor advisors, the massacre at El Mozote, and the torture of Salvadoran citizens like CJA client Dr. Juan Romagoza Arce.  In addition, the Board relied on its precedent ruling in the case against former Minister of Defense Eugenio Vides Casanova for its decision.

CJA Legal Advisor Carolyn Patty Blum said: “Minister of Defense Jose Guillermo García was the most powerful man in El Salvador during a reign of state terror in which tens of thousands of innocent Salvadorans were slaughtered.  CJA applauds the Department of Homeland Security for its vigorous pursuit of García before the Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals and thanks our client Dr. Juan Romagoza, once again, for testifying in court proceedings against General García, as he had in the case of former Minister of Defense Eugenio Vides Casanova, deported earlier this year. We hope that García can be swiftly removed from the U.S. and face justice in El Salvador for the El Mozote massacre and the many other crimes committed under his command. It has been a long battle for justice for our clients and other victims who suffered horrendous repression during García’s rule in El Salvador.”

In 2014, Judge Horn’s decision ordering García’s removal from the U.S. catalogued the extent of the killings and torture in El Salvador during the time García was Minister of Defense from October 1979 to April1983.  The judge found that these atrocities were “deliberate military policy.” The judge cited the testimony of CJA client Dr. Juan Romagoza Arce, who was interrogated and tortured at the National Guard headquarters in San Salvador, and found that García should have known of these abuses and prevented them or punished the perpetrators.  Instead, García “fostered and allowed to thrive an institutional atmosphere in which the Salvadoran Armed Forces preyed upon defenseless civilians under the guise of fighting a war against communist subversives.”

The Board’s decision affirms that García must be removed.  The Board’s decision was not made public, and The New York Times will seek to ensure that it becomes available. The New York Times previously won public access to the Immigration Judge’s decision.

CJA has fought to bring García to justice since 1999, when he was the defendant in CJA’s civil case on behalf of torture survivors Carlos R. Mauricio, Dr. Romagoza and Neris Gonzalez.  CJA’s civil case resulted in a multi-million dollar judgment against General García, as well as General Vides Casanova, for the torture of CJA’s clients.

About the Center for Justice and Accountability
The Center for Justice and Accountability is an international human rights organization dedicated to deterring torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other severe human rights abuses around the world through litigation, policy advocacy and outreach in pursuit of truth, justice and redress for victims and survivors.