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Human rights prosecutor speaks on campus

Janine King

Janine King

Special to the Connection

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Cosumnes River College’s guest speaker, human rights prosecutor Almudena Bernabeu, caused students to flood the library building on Oct. 12 for a lecture on El Salvador.

The student body’s excitement showed as at least 200 students nestled to floors to hear the firsthand account of bringing criminals of war to justice.

“I wanted to have a better perspective of events from someone who has seen the families of these crimes and has brought justice” said Marouis Marcilous, a 20-year-old international relations and economics major.

Bernabeu is the director of The Center of Justice and Accountability, an organization dedicated to prosecuting individuals for crimes against humanity.

“Being from a country that had a dictatorship for so many years, it made me more aware of these issues and pushed me to my line work,” Bernabeu said.

For the lecture, Bernabeu described a current case seeking to prosecute 25 men for assassinating six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and the housekeeper’s daughter.

This case has its roots in El Salvador’s civil war during the 1980’s, in which the United States heavily funded and trained elite battalions known as “death squads” that devastated the population, resulting in 75,000 deaths and disappearances.

“The horrible crimes that are being discussed here tonight are just one of the examples of some the consequences of American foreign policy” said Martin Morales. chair of international relations, who also organized the event.

Twenty years later, the U.S. government is still somewhat reluctant to fully divulge into the details surrounding the case, Bernabeu said.

“After looking at the documents for the first time, I sent my interns to go take photos of them so we may have copies for our pending case,” Bernabeu said. “When my interns arrived they informed me that two boxes containing information of the assassination were suddenly missing. I was later told that they actually never existed.”

She said the situation shows the level of sensitivity that still surrounds these atrocities. Most ot the documents were later shown to her.

Julian Harris, a 24-year-old international relations major, said he was glad Bernabeu came to speak at CRC.

“The more people that are actively pursuing justice and inform others of this sort of unorthodox information, the more we can make it common knowledge,” Harris said. “So when we’re in places of power on the government we can say ‘I’m not okay with this. People need our help.’”

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Human rights prosecutor speaks on campus