The Miami Herald
Mar. 01, 2005

$55 million torture ruling against Salvadoran generals living in Florida dismissed

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - (AP) -- A federal appeals court reversed a $54.6 million verdict against two retired Salvadoran generals accused of torture during a civil war in their home country two decades ago.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled on Monday that the statute of limitations had expired before the generals were sued for their actions in the 1980s. The court said the three torture victims who sued the generals failed to prove inequitable circumstances prevented them from bringing their case forward before the 10-year statute expired.

The victims -- a church worker, doctor and professor who fled to the United States after being tortured by Salvadoran soldiers -- sued under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act. The act allows U.S. courts to assess damages against perpetrators of human rights abuses committed abroad.

In July 2002, a federal jury found that Gens. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, of Palm Coast, and Jose Guillermo Garcia, of Plantation, ignored massacres and other acts of brutality against civilians during the war.

At trial, their attorney described El Salvador as a chaotic war-torn country, where the generals could not control the actions of all the soldiers under their command.