The United States of America via the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has completed a widespread criminal investigation into foreign leaders that they say were involved in a massive international criminal syndicate and cover up that lead to the deaths of multiple people.
According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), former Salvadoran government officials including 75-year-old Inocente Orlando Montano, who once hailed in Massachusetts, have now been indicted in Spain with orders to extradite.
Along with Montano, 19 other former Salvadoran military officials were indicted in Spain for the 1989 murders of five Spanish Jesuit priests during the 10-year Salvadoran civil conflict, a nearly thirty year investigation reaching the final stages of justice.
“This extradition, and the investigation and prosecution that preceded it, marks the culmination of longstanding and significant collaboration among HSI Boston, ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Boston and Raleigh, and DOJ’s Office of International Affairs,” said ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan.
Deputy Director Homan continued, “We are grateful for the support of our law enforcement partners, DOJ, and our Department of State colleagues to ensure that Montano will face justice in Spain for his crimes and will not find safe haven in the United States.”
“Criminals and those lawfully charged with criminal offenses overseas should not be able to find safe haven in the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Acting Assistant AG Cronan continued, “Today’s extradition demonstrates our firm commitment to honoring our obligations under extradition treaties. As a result, an alleged human-rights violator will now face justice in Spain.”
As a widespread response to the government of Spain’s request, pursuant to all extradition treaties between both the United States of America and Spain, the U.S. Department of Justice filed its own complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in April of 2015 seeking Montano’s extradition to Spain to be arraigned on formal charges.
According to the complaint, between the years of 1980 and 1991, El Salvador was engulfed in a civil conflict between the military-led government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) which resulted in catastrophic losses on both sides.
During that conflict however, in the early morning hours of November 16th of 1989, several members of the Salvadoran military then murdered six Jesuit Priests, their housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s 16-year old daughter in cold blood at the Universidad Centroamericana.
Five of those same Jesuit Priests were Spanish Nationals, and the remaining victims were from El Salvador, all of whom were executed in a way that was terrifying and barbaric.
At the time of the murders Montano was a citizen of El Salvador, who had served in the Salvadoran military for nearly 30 years prior, rising to the rank of Colonel.
Through the years of 1989 to 1992, the final years of a decade-long civil war, he served as the Vice Minister for Public Security.
In the year 1993, after the war had finally come to an end, the United Nations Truth Commission on El Salvador found overwhelming evidence that Colonel Montano was part of an elite crime syndicate of powerful officers who were responsible for the November 1989 murders, commonly referred to as the “Jesuit Massacre.”
Those signature murders constitute one of the most notorious human rights crimes in El Salvador's history. The United Nations Commission at the time also named Colonel Montano as one of two top officials who pressured other lower-level soldiers to cover up the military’s role in the killings, as determined in their testimony to the Salvadoran court investigating the crime.
In August of 2013, following an extensive investigation conducted by HSI Boston, with assistance from ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC), Montano was sentenced in a Massachusetts Federal Court to 21 months of prison on three counts of immigration fraud and three counts of perjury.
The United Nations argued that those crimes stemmed from several false statements Montano made to obtain Temporary Protective Status (TPS) in the United States.
The original trial<a href="https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/us-extradites-former-salvadoran-official-spain-following-ice-investigation"> documented </a>more than 1,150 human rights violations committed by units or troops under his command, including 65 extrajudicial killings, 51 disappearances and 520 cases of torture against innocent civilians including many who were murdered in such a heinous fashion that some details are considered redacted.
The HRVWCC was then established in 2009 to further ICE’s efforts to identify, track and prosecute human rights abusers.
It leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence, research specialists, historians, and a multitude of analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Since the year 2003, ICE has arrested more than 380 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes both inside the United States and abroad.
During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders towards and physically removed 785 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States of America.
Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 108 such individuals from the United States of America in their efforts to remove the dangers from American society.
Currently, ICE via the Homeland Security Investigations branch has and ongoing 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is now pursuing more than 1,750 leads into those cases as well as removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries.
Since the year 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 70,400 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped 213 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the United States of America.
ICE continues to urge both American citizens and those abroad who have any information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes to call the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423).
Callers may remain anonymous. To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact ICE’s confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973.
This brings into part the closing of another chapter in the book of justice, one that can turn the pages towards the end of the novel.
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