Friday 14 May 2021

MPs demand action as man behind 1982 Dutch journalist murders is found

Dutch MPs have urged the government to undertake steps to have the man responsible for the murder of four Dutch journalists in El Salvador in 1982 brought to justice.

On Monday, investigative journalism programme Zembla  revealed that the man, Mario Reys Mena, is a alive and well and living in the US.

Mena, a former colonel in the El Salvadorean army at the time of the country’s civil war, was never prosecuted even though a report by the UN Truth Commission identified him as the man who gave the order to kill the four.

When confronted by Zembla journalists, 79-year-old Mena said the case had been investigated. ‘I was never indicted. You are part of a communist plot to take revenge.’ The journalists tracked him down via the social media activities of his grown up children.

The Dutch public prosecution department has also confirmed it has been investigating the case since 2013. Mena could also face justice in El Salvador whose amnesty law was abolished two years ago, Zembla said.

Official version

The official version at the time was that the four journalists, who worked for now defunct broadcaster Ikon, had been killed during an exchange of gunfire between guerrilla fighters and the army. But the 1993 UN investigation found that the murder had been premeditated and the four were ambushed when they were on their way to guerrilla territory.

According to secret reports by the UN Truth Commission, which have come into the hands of the Zembla journalists, an American military trainer called Bruce Hazelwood, who was stationed at the same base as the soldiers who killed the journalists, knew about the plans. An anonymous source is quoted as saying that ‘Reyes Mena told Bruce Hazelwood about the plan to kill the journalists’.

Investigation

Zembla also uncovered an email conversation in which Hazelwood writes to a fellow El Salvador veteran about the day of the murder: ‘That night my conversations with Mena were very frank and he followed my recommendations – unlike his former actions.’

Confronted with this information by Zembla, Hazelwood denied he was present that day.

According to Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America the alleged involvement of Hazelwood warrants an investigation by the American congress. He also said the Dutch government should act.

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