by Cristina Odone AS military raids on civilians in guerrilla-controlled areas of El Salvador continue unabated, human rights activists have come under increasing attack by Salvadoran security forces.
The El Salvador Committee for Human Rights reported last week that three recent incidents bear witness to an escalation in the military campaign to crush non-governmental human rights groups.
A leading member of Comadres, the Committee of Mothers of Political Prisoners, Disappeared and Assassinated of El Salvador, was abducted on May 6, and subjected to interrogation under torture before her release. The offices of four human rights organisations were surrounded last month by 400 armed National Policemen and although no one was injured, members of the organisations condemned the action as "a calculated excercise in intimidation".
Two members of the nongovernmental human rights committee, CDRES, were arrested at the end of last month, and both are still being held without trial in San Salvador prisons.
Sr Pamela Hussey, of the Catholic Institute for International Relations told the Catholic Herald that attacks on human right activists have been carried out "intermittently over the past few years". Sr Pamela, who visited El Salvador earlier this year as part of a fact finding mission organised by the Church Action for Cental America, said that "the country is under a state of siege", as the USbacked army seeks to crush the guerrilla troops of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.
In their attempts to destroy the guerrilla strong-holds in the north, the Salvadoran military has repeatedly attacked civilian areas, forcing the displacement of over 500,000 Salvadorans.
Catholic MP David Alton, one of the sponsors of the El Salvador Human Rights Committee, told the Catholic Herald that he wrote to Sir Geoffrey Howe last week, asking for the Government to take "a stronger stand with regards to the situation in El Salvador. England enjoys a special relationship with the US, and in view of this, we should attempt to put pressure on the American government against their continuing aid of Duarte's regime."
Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas of San Salvador has repeatedly attempted to promote peace talks between the miltary forces and the National Liberation Front.
One measure of the Archbishop's key role as mediator between the warring factions, is the successful resettling of Tonancingo. The town, bombed out by the army in 1983, had been evacuated of all civilians, until last year, when the Archbishop asked both the military and the guerrillas to allow the townspeople's return, and not to set up any military bases in Tonancingo.