U.S. officials said they removed a former defense minister of El Salvador Friday for his role in human rights violations committed during the 1980-1992 civil war in the Central American nation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers arrested Gen. José Guillermo García-Merino, 82, in Florida on Dec. 17 and returned him Friday to El Salvador using an ICE Air Operations charter aircraft.
On Dec. 8, Garcia’s appeal was dismissed, upholding a February 2014 immigration judge’s decision to remove him from the U.S.
“The immigration judge found Garcia removable for assisting or participating in the commission of numerous acts of torture and extrajudicial killings in El Salvador while he was in command. The immigration judge determined, and the BIA [Board of Immigration Appeals] upheld, that Garcia knew or should have known about extrajudicial killing and torture, under the theory of command responsibility,” ICE officials said Monday in a statement.
“ICE is committed to ensuring that the United States does not become a safe haven for human rights abusers. No matter how long it takes, we will work to bring perpetrators of such acts to justice and to preserve the sanctity of the immigration system,” Thomas Homan, executive associate director of ERO, said in the statement.
About 70,000 civilians died in El Salvador’s civil war.
Anyone who has information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes can call the toll-free ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also email HRV.ICE@ice.dhs.gov or complete ICE’s online tip form. ICE’s tip line is staffed around the clock, and tips may be provided anonymously.