Human Rights Group Taps Moakley Archives

Moakley Archives at Suffolk University has provided documents and information to help the Center for Justice and Accountability build a criminal case against 15 people for their roles in the 1989 Jesuit massacre at the University of Central America in San Salvador during the height of the Central American nation’s civil war.

In the aftermath of the murders, U.S. Rep. John Joseph “Joe” Moakley directed a Congressional investigation that implicated the military in the deaths of the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. His efforts led to the cessation of U.S. aid to the Salvadoran military and an end to civil war in the impoverished Central American country.

In 2008, the Center for Justice and Accountability, or CJA, an international human rights group, filed a criminal case in Madrid against former Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani Burkard and 14 former military officers and soldiers connected to the slayings.

Charge: Crimes against humanity

The Spanish National Court formally charged the former officers with crimes against humanity and state terrorism in January 2009 and reserved the right to indict Cristiani, depending on the evidence.

CJA gave the judge Congressman Joe Moakley's Task Force interim report, according to CJA Senior Legal Adviser Carolyn Patty Blum. 

Researching Moakley documents

“We are continuing to review the materials we obtained from the Moakley Archive,” said Blum. “We hope to conduct interviews with some of the people whom Congressman Moakley and the task force interviewed. And we will use the materials to help us prepare for those interviews.”

To assist with the research, thousands of documents were scanned by the Boston law firm Mintz Levin Cohen Glovsky & Popeo PC, which is helping with the case on a pro bono basis. These documents now will be readily available to researchers.

“Joe Moakley had a passion for justice and a great love for the Salvadoran people, so it is fitting that his papers are being used in this case,” said Suffolk University Archivist and Moakley Institute Director Julia Collins. “Other researchers also will benefit, as the papers have become more accessible through the collaboration between CJA and Mintz Levin.” 

Spanish judge investigating

Spain adheres to a civil law system; thus, at this stage of the proceedings, the judge is conducting an investigation of the defendants. He has agreed that there is sufficient evidence warranting this investigation, but the case has not yet been bound over for the trial phase, said Blum. The investigation is analogous to the discovery phase of an American civil case.

CJA expects that the investigation will proceed over the course of one to two years, at which point the judge will decide whether the defendants should face a full criminal trial. Because Spain does not allow for trials in absentia, the court would have to obtain jurisdiction over one or more defendants to proceed.