The Jesuit Trial

An Observer's Report

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The trial of nine Salvadoran army soldiers and officers accused in the November 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter took place in San Salvador on September 26-28, 1991, in front of a host of international observers including Americas Watch. The jury verdict, reached after a five-hour deliberation, was a stunning blow to justice and proved how little the Salvadoran judicial system actually works. Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno, head of the Salvadoran Military School, was convicted of eight counts of murder and Lieutenant Yusshy René Mendoza Vallecillos, who oversaw the murder operation in the field, was convicted of the murder of one victim, the fifteen year old girl. Yet seven remaining defendants were acquitted, despite their own detailed confessions of participation in the murders. Those acquitted included two lieutenants and five enlisted men, one of whom deserted and was tried in absentia. All but three of these defendants had received military training from the United States, some on U.S. soil.

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