Retired Salvadoran military officer arrested for involvement in El Mozote Massacre
April 10, 2023

Roberto Antonio Garay Saravia accused of participating in the El Mozote massacre, where over 1,000 civilians, half of them children, were killed by U.S.-trained Salvadoran army units

In a long-awaited move, a retired Salvadoran military officer has been arrested in New Jersey for his alleged involvement in one of the most brutal massacres in Latin American history.

Roberto Antonio Garay Saravia is accused of participating in the El Mozote massacre, where over 1,000 civilians, half of them children, were killed by US-trained Salvadoran army units in late 1981. His arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Removal Operations officers, with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations agents, marks a significant moment in the decades-long search for justice for the victims and their families.

He was arrested on charges of taking part in extrajudicial killings and knowingly lying about this in his immigration application. The Department of Homeland Security stated in a press release that “individuals who have committed atrocities overseas will not find safe haven in the United States”. The investigation was initiated and developed by Homeland Security Investigations’ Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center.

According to the press release, Garay Saravia was a section commander in a specialized counterinsurgency unit known as the Atlácatl Battalion from 1981 to 1985. The press release goes on to claim that the unit was directly involved in various atrocities, including the El Mozote massacre. Additionally, Garay Saravia was also deployed in three other operations that led to the killing of hundreds of noncombatant civilians.

The arrest of Garay Saravia serves as a reminder that justice can be slow but not elusive. The U.S. government’s efforts to hold accountable human rights abusers and war criminals, regardless of where they may be found, must continue.

Those who commit or are complicit in such atrocities must be brought to justice, and the survivors and the families of the victims deserve no less. The case of Garay Saravia is a step towards justice for the victims of the El Mozote massacre and a reminder that impunity has no place in a just society.

The El Mozote massacre is one of the most significant massacres in Latin American history, and this arrest is a step forward in holding those responsible for these atrocities accountable.

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