An immigration appeals court has upheld the deportation of a former Salvadoran general living in Florida, finding him complicit in the rape and murder of three American Maryknoll nuns and the torture of political prisoners.
Testimony in the case pitted dueling versions of the Salvadoran civil war from 1980s-era U.S. Ambassadors who served under Democratic and Republican administrations. Republicans supported the military dictatorship in El Salvador in its fight against left-wing insurgents, while Democrats decried the use of killing and torture sanctioned by government officials.
The Board of Immigration Appeals ruled on Wednesday that there was ample evidence that Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, as head of the National Guard and then minister of defense, assisted in or condoned the killing of the three nuns -- Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Dorothy Kazel -- in 1980, as well as a fourth American, Jean Donovan.
The four were kidnapped by national guardsmen under Vides command from the airport in San Salvador, taken by van to the countryside and raped and shot.
It said he was also directly or indirectly responsible for other deaths and the torture of two Salvadoran students, who testified against him.
Interpreting a 2004 human rights law for the first time, the court found that “Congress clearly intended that commanders should be held accountable if their subordinates commit torture and extrajudicial killings.”
It also rejected a defense contention that Vides was only doing what American officials wanted him to do, saying there was no legal principle supporting such a defense.
Vides, who is 77, can still appeal the ruling the federal courts.