Former Salvadoran colonel to go on trial in the US

Victims of El Salvador’s bloody civil war are prepared to tell a federal jury about the torture they endured and deaths they witnessed more than two decades ago.

Nicolas Carranza, a former Salvadoran army colonel who has lived a quiet life in Memphis since 1985, was set to go on trial on Monday in a US District Court.

He is accused of crimes against humanity by letting soldiers under his command torture and kill civilians regarded as enemies of El Salvador’s military-dominated government in the 1980s.

“This is a first opportunity for our clients to finally have a chance to say what happened to them, to explain to a jury and to the world,” said Matthew Eisenbrandt, a lawyer for the Centre for Justice and Accountability who represents seven current or former Salvadorans in the lawsuit.

Federal law allows US courts to assess damages in human rights violations abroad and seek unspecified damages. Peace accords at the end of the war led to an amnesty that bars legal action in El Salvador against suspected war criminals.

Carranza has declined to talk about the allegations and denies wrongdoing.
He has been an American citizen since the early 1990s.

Calls to his lawyer were not returned.

The lawsuit says Carranza commanded military and police units that took part in a “deliberate reign of state terror” with the “widespread and systematic” use of torture and murder.

He was El Salvador’s vice-minister of defence and public security from October 1979 to January 1981 and director of the Salvadoran Treasury Police from June 1983 to April 1984, the lawsuit said. Experts say as many as 12 000 unarmed civilians were assassinated in 1980 alone, according to the lawsuit.

The Centre for Justice and Accountability, headquartered in San Francisco, successfully sued two former Salvadoran generals in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 2002. Carranza’s whereabouts were discovered during the Florida litigation. - Sapa-AP

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