Human Rights Breakthrough: U.S. Justice Dept. Supports Deportation of Foreign Defense Minister who Oversaw Murder of American Nuns

Sunday, March 15, 2015
Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova (photo: Marta Lavandier, AP)

The El Salvadoran defense official who oversaw his country’s national guard when four American churchwomen were raped and murdered 35 years ago is facing deportation from the United States.


The Board of Immigration Appeals, part of the Department of Justice, ruled (pdf) that General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova should be kicked out of the country for violating a 2004 federal human rights law.


A three-judge panel determined that Vides “through his ‘command responsibility’ in his role as Director of the Salvadoran National Guard and as Minister of Defense of El Salvador, he participated in the commission of particular acts of torture and extrajudicial killing of civilians in El Salvador, in that they took place while he was in command, he was aware of these abuses during or after the fact, and through both his personal interference with investigations and his inaction, he did not hold the perpetrators accountable,” according to the ruling.


Vides, 77, served as defense minister from 1983 to 1989, when he retired. He later

relocated to the U.S. and became a legal resident living in Florida.


“The United States is not a safe haven for human rights abusers,” Sarah Saldaña, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which prosecuted the case, told The New York Times. “The passage of time will not preclude us from pursuing these cases.”


The ruling against Vides could result in other foreigners living in the U.S. accused of violating human rights being deported. Vides may still avoid deportation if he successfully appeals the ruling. But, the Times’ Julia Preston reported, “the written decision by the board will still stand for other immigration cases.”


Three American nuns, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, and Dorothy Kazel, and laywoman Jean Donovan, were raped and murdered on December 2, 1980, by members of the Salvadoran National Guard, which was under the command of Vides, who has also been named in torture allegations by others.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

General in El Salvador Killings in ’80s Can Be Deported, Court Rules (by Julia Preston, New York Times)

Matter of Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, Respondent (U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review Board of Immigration Appeals) (pdf)

Immigration Judge Orders First Deportation of Foreign Military Commander for Human Rights Violations (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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