Immigration Judge Orders First Deportation of Foreign Military Commander for Human Rights Violations

Saturday, February 25, 2012
General Vides with Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger
El Salvador’s former defense minister has become the first foreign military leader ordered to leave the United States for human rights violations.
General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, who ran the military during El Salvador’s turbulent civil war in the 1980s, will be deported after an immigration judge, James Grim, concluded he was responsible for multiple killings and tortures under his command.
The ruling marks the first time that federal immigration prosecutors have established that a top-ranking foreign military officer can be kicked out of the country for violating a 2004 U.S. law intended to bar human rights violators from residing in the United States.
Among the crimes Vides is considered responsible for are the murders of three American nuns, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford and Dorothy Kazel, and an American lay missionary, Jean Donovan, in El Salvador in December 1980, while he was head of the Salvadoran National Guard. Five soldiers serving under Vides were eventually convicted of the killings.
Judge Grim also ruled that Vides was involved in the torture of Salvadoran surgeon Juan Romagoza, who was raped and had his arm mutilated s so that he could never perform surgery again.
Prosecution of the case against Vides was complicated by the fact that President Ronald Reagan and his administration considered him an ally despite the atrocities he committed. For example, Reagan’s choice to be ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, insisted that the Salvadoran military was not involved in the murder of the nuns and declared that, “The nuns were not just nuns; the nuns were political activists.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Salvadoran May Face Deportation for Murders (by Julia Preston, New York Times)
Romagoza Arce et al. v. Garcia and Vides Casanova (Center for Justice & Accountability)

For Torture Victim, Justice in a Florida Courtroom (by Ralph De La Cruz, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting) 


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