Ex-Salvadoran Defense Minister Vides Casanova Ruled Deportable for Human Rights Abuses
On February 23, 2012, a U.S. immigration judge ruled that Gen. Eugenio Vides Casanova, the former defense minister of El Salvador, can be removed under U.S. immigration law for the torture of Salvadoran citizens, the 1980 killings of four American churchwomen, and the 1981 killings of two Americans and a Salvadoran land reformer.
The removal order caps off CJA's long struggle to bring Vides Casanova to justice for his crimes. In 1999, CJA filed suit against Vides Casanova for human rights abuses. Our courageous clients, Dr. Juan Romagoza Arce, Neris Gonzalez, and Carlos Mauricio, endured torture at the hands of troops under Casanova's command. In 2002, a West Palm Beach, Fla., jury returned at $54.6 million judgment against Generals José Guillermo García and Carlos Vides Casanova, a verdict that led to the deportation proceedings against Vides Casanova. In January 2006, the 11th Circuit court upheld the verdict on appeal and, in July 2006, Vides Casanova was forced to relinquish over $300,000 of his assets.
For over a decade our clients, partners, and staff have worked diligently to ensure that the Generals are fully held to account. With the support of Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Coburn (R-OK), CJA requested that DHS and DOJ review prosecution and/or deportation against the defendants.
The removal order against Vides Casanova is an important step towards accountability. A separate removal order against General Garcia is being sought.
CJA client Juan Romagoza described the true significance of the judge's ruling: “This victory is not just my own. It is a victory for the entire country of El Salvador. . . . The torture I suffered was not unique to me. It was the suffering of many innocent Salvadorans.”