Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Human rights in El Salvador

This afternoon there was a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador below Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, who died at the hands of a death squad as he was saying Mass on March 24, 1980. He has been recognised by the Abbey as one of the 10 great Christian martyrs of the 20th century, whose images can be seen above the Door.

We then trooped over to the Palace of Westminster for a reception given by Mr Speaker in his apartments and the presentation by the Ambassador of El Salvador to Sir Peter Bottomley MP, former MP Kevin MacNamara and me of the Dr Jose Gustavo Guerrero Medal for Diplomatic Merit Silver Category, in recognition of the nomination by us and other Members of both Houses from the Parliamentary Human Rights Group of Archbishop Romero for he Nobel Peace Prize in 1980,

As I said in my brief remarks, our nomination was unsuccessful, but his work for peace in El Salvador had now been recognised at an even higher since he had been beatified in May his year.

I recalled that the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHG)had sent a delegation to El Salvador at the end of 1978, headed by the late Lord Chitnis and including Peter Bottomley MP and Dennis Canavan MP, after the assassination of priests and nuns had been launched with the killing of Fr Rutilo Grande in March of that year and leading in the end to the murder by the death squads of more than 9 priests and nuns. It was perhaps the largest number of Christian priests to have been martyred in any internal conflict since the second world war,

You can read the PHRG report on the delegation's visit from 1978 here.

Obviously the PHRG had no power to bring the death squads to justice, but in the long run maybe our voice, together with the voices of other international NGOs, had a little role to play in restoring human rights and the rule of law.

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