By Edward Shore
Unfinished Sentences is an initiative of the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) to encourage public participation in support of human rights in El Salvador. The campaign aims to document and share the stories of survivors of crimes against humanity committed in El Salvador’s civil war (1980-1992) while supporting Salvadoran efforts for truth and accountability. In February 2015, a team of U.S. and Salvadoran researchers led by University of Washington sociologist Angelina Snodgrass Godoy published a report detailing gross human rights violations in a November 1981 military operation in Cabañas province in northern El Salvador. The Santa Cruz Massacre included the indiscriminate killings of civilians, including women and children, by forces commanded by retired Col. Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez, currently a member of the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly.
Through close collaboration with attorneys at the Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas,” members of Unfinished Sentences met with survivors of the Santa Cruz Massacre in both El Salvador and the United States, some of whom have given public testimony about the events. Unfinished Sentences also filed more than a hundred Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to various U.S. government agencies to obtain classified documents related to the case. In October 2015, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights sued the CIA for illegally withholding information about Col. Ochoa Pérez, who was trained by the U.S. military at the Inter-American Defense College. The lawsuit managed to apply pressure on CIA officials, who gradually declassified documents related to Ochoa Pérez.