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RIC Query - El Salvador (6 September 2002)

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El Salvador



Response to Information Request Number:SLV02004.ZAR
Date:September 06, 2002
Subject:El Salvador: Information on Human Rights Record of the Batallón JRRL, JRRL Battalion, of the Destacamiento Militar 2 (DM2), Military Detachment 2
From:INS Resource Information Center
Keywords:El Salvador / Human rights violators / Military repression / Guerrilla warfare / Terrorism / State terror / Extrajudicial executions




What is known about the Batallón JRRL, JRRL Battalion, of the Destacamiento Militar 2 (DM2), Military Detachment 2, and its human rights record during 1981-1987?


The Batallón JRRL, JRRL Battalion, was one of three battalions (along with the Victoria and Cabañas Battalions) that were the principle counterinsurgency units of the Destacamiento Militar 2 (DM2), Military Detachment 2. DM2 was the main military installation in the department of Cabañas and was located in Sensuntepeque, the departmental capital. Cabañas was one of the most conflictive departments in El Salvador during the war, as can be seen from the number of rights violations recorded by the El Rescate Database. It is located in the north-central part of the country in between Chalatenango and Morazán departments, and in the 1980s there was constant FMLN guerrilla movements in and around Cabañas and frequent engagements with the military. (Jane¿s 14 April 1990; El Rescate Database 1992)

During the war the Salvadoran military operated according to a counterinsurgency strategy of terrorizing the civilian population to keep them from supporting the guerrillas. Among the army tactics were "zone killing" and "sweeps," operations which caused the deaths of many civilians who, during the period 1980-1983, were dying by the thousands annually at the hands of the military. From 1984, the use of terror tactics by the military¿indiscriminate killings and extrajudicial executions of prisoners or suspected guerrilla sympathizers¿became more selective, but aerial bombing escalated sharply and illegal detentions and torture continued to be widespread. (Danner 1994, 43; Montgomery 1995, 152, 173; Stanley 1996, 3, 225, 229-231)

As stated by Human Rights Watch, ¿During the first several years of the civil war, the Salvadoran armed forces made little attempt to distinguish between the guerrillas and civilians¿The scale of the killing was enormous¿From 1980 to 1983 most civilian deaths took place in ground sweeps by the armed forces; sometimes the sweeps were supported by aerial attacks on fleeing peasants.¿ (Human Rights Watch 1991, 47)

With specific regard to Cabañas, a 40-year-old man described in late 1984 the army¿s counterinsurgency operations in that department from the perspective of a civilian. His testimony was taken by Tutela Legal, the human rights office of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador and reported by Americas Watch, a division of Human Rights Watch. He said, ¿When the planes and soldiers arrive, people disperse and run to the mountains, and they die wherever a bomb gets them or the soldiers find them. This is the normal thing. They don¿t leave anybody in peace. They destroy houses, fields, animals and clothes.¿ (Bergen Record 3 September 1985)

Col. Sigfredo Ochoa Pérez was commander of the DM2 from 1981 to 1983. He had a reputation as one of the most aggressive commanders in the Salvadoran military and is listed as a rights violator in the El Rescate Database. In November 1981 an army sweep in Cabañas left at least 100 civilians dead, according to a Salvadoran army surgeon. Ochoa Pérez claimed that hundreds of guerrillas had been killed but was able to show journalists only fifteen captured weapons, half of them virtual antiques, suggesting that most of those killed in the sweep were unarmed. Ochoa Pérez went on to become commander of the Fourth Brigade in the neighboring department of Chalatenango from 1984 to 1986. (United Press International 22 December 1981; El Rescate Database 1992)

In a 1987 report Human Rights Watch stated that the Salvadoran army continued to engage in the forced relocation of citizens from zones of conflict and the destruction of peasant food supplies, particularly in the departments of Cabañas, Morazán and San Vicente. (Inter Press Service 30 August 1987

The El Rescate Database and searches of news sources do not reveal abuses specifically attributed to the Battalion JRRL. However, the database does indicate that the DM2 overall was responsible for many abuses in Cabañas from 1985 (the first year the database specifically refers to the DM2) to 1987. Prior to 1985, the database shows many violations committed in Cabañas by the ejército, army, which could include the JRRL Battalion as it was one of the main units of the DM2. The database often does not differentiate violations by specific units, as witnesses to abuses during the war often were unable to identify specific military units, particularly during heated or ugly incidents. Finally, it should be remembered that the database is by no means comprehensive, and that other unrecorded violations also may have occurred.

Some of the more serious incidents attributed by the El Rescate Database to the DM2 from 1985 include:

--The torture and extrajudicial killing of two people in Cantón Tronalagua on 29 September 1985.

--The extrajudicial killing of three people in the proximity of Cantón Culebrilla and Cantón Caleras on 1 June 1986.

--The extrajudicial killing of three people in Cantón Azacualpa on 12 July 1986.

--The extrajudicial killing of two people near Ilobasco in 12 April 1987.

There were also two serious incidents in Cabañas in early 1985 attributed simply to the ejército, army:

--The extrajudicial killing of eight people including five children in Cantón San Nicolás on 16 February 1985.

--The extrajudicial killing of three people in Jutiapa on 15 March 1985.

Some of the massacres attributed by the database to the army in Cabañas prior to 1985 include:

--The extrajudicial killing of seven people in Azacualpa in June 1981.

--The extrajudicial killing of five people in Santa Olaya in August 1981.

--The extrajudicial killing of four people in San Francisco, Tetutepeque in June 1982.

--The extrajudicial killing of six people in Cantón Guadalupe in February 1983.

--The extrajudicial killing of nine people in Cantón Tortuga, Sensuntepeque in July 1984.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


BERGEN RECORD. ¿Salvador: The Killing Goes On¿ (Hackensack, New Jersey: 3 September 1985).

Danner, Mark. THE MASSACRE AT EL MOZOTE (New York: Vintage Books, 1994).


Inter Press Service. ¿El Salvador: As War Heats Up, Civilian Suffering Increases¿ (Washington DC: 30 August 1987).

JANE'S INTELLIGENCE REVIEW. English, Adrian. ¿Policing the State of El Salvador¿ (London: 14 April 1990).

Montgomery, Tommie Sue. REVOLUTION IN EL SALVADOR: FROM CIVIL STRIVE TO CIVIL PEACE, Second Edition (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995).


United Press International. Tamayo, Juan O. ¿Who¿s Winning in El Salvador? Reagan Administration Says War ¿Stalemated¿¿ (San Salvador: 22 December 1981).

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