Socorro Juridico Arzobispado (Christian Legal Aid of San Salvador) began as a small human rights organization in 1975 at the outset of the Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1992). Socorro Juridico Arzobispado is a non-governmental human rights organization that works to provide both legal counsel for those whose rights have been violated and to report on those violations. During the Salvadoran Civil War, Socorro Juridico conducted investigations into human rights abuses exclusively by the military and para-military forces in the urban areas. Basing their methods on oral testimony from family members and eyewitness accounts, Socorro Juridico released monthly reports on incidents of disappearance, torture and other human rights abuses. In 1982, the organization came under pressure from the Archdiocese for not including killings committed by the leftist guerillas, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), in their monthly reports. This task was sanctioned to the other Archdiocese organization, Tutela Legal Arzobispado. However, Socorro Juridico continued to report on human rights violations and served as an important precursor to the successes of Tutela Legal and the Salvadoran Truth Commission in 1993.
The Socorro Juridico case files in the Spanish language document killings, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, and other human rights abuses in El Salvador 1977-1987. Case files are categorized into four headings: assassinated, captured, disappeared, and liberated. The files are sorted by date from earliest to latest within these four categories. The case files are broken down into four numbered sections with the following fields: name of the captured, age, occupation, marital status, residence, location of work, father’s name, mother’s name, spouse’s name, number of siblings – oldest to youngest, date of capture, time, location, was there a witness?, circumstances of the arrest, name of the witness, relation to the captured, contact location, status of witness, age, occupation, location of residence, ID number, place and date of petition, other institutions that have been petitioned, and the petitioners signature. Other forms included in the case files are the additional petitions filed to the Supreme Court on behalf of the captured.
Copies of the records of the Socorro Juridico records came to the archives as a gift on November 24, 1997. Curator of the Archives Bruce P. Montgomery and Library Instructor Yolanda Maloney of University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries traveled to San Salvador to arrange the photocopying of the records in order to bring back a copy of these records for preservation.
The Socorro Juridico records have multiple uses for various fields of study and legal causes. Scholars can utilize this collection for such fields as Latin American studies, peace and justice studies, and gender and human rights in the Archives. The originating purpose for these records was to record and bear witness to the atrocities committed during the civil war period. Thus, in post-conflict El Salvador, these records stand as primary evidence for legal forums.
Graham P. Stinnett
University of Manitoba