5. The Inter-American Commission assigned number 708-03 to the petition and requested that the Salvadoran State provide information on the pertinent parts of the complaint on December 24, 2003. The State responded on March 5, 2004 (received at the Executive Secretariat on March 10, 2004). On April 22, 2004, the petitioners submitted their observations on the information provided by the State, which was duly transmitted to the State. III. THE PARTIES’ POSITIONS A. The petitioners 6. The complaint received at the IACHR alleges that the siblings Gregoria Herminia, Serapio Cristián and Julia Inés Contreras were victims of forced disappearance, presumably at the hands of members of the Salvadoran Army. With respect to the facts of the case, the petitioners state as follows: On August 24, 1982, a large-scale military operation was deployed, from south of the hamlet of San Juan Buenavista and probably affected part of the hamlets of El Socorro, San Andrés de Achiotes, and San Jacinto, all in the jurisdiction of Tecoluca, department of San Vicente. The operation was called by the civilian population “The invasion of the Ring,” for it was mobilized so as to form a military cordon, so as to prevent the targets from taking flight. In response to the operation, the population fled from their dwellings to the bush, as they tried to hide. A group of persons sought refuge at the place known as “La Conacastada,” situated to the north of San Juan Buenavista. The Contreras siblings took refuge in this place, along with a family group made up of their mother, Mrs. María Maura Contreras, their father, Mr. Fermín Recinos, and their siblings Marta Daysi, 10 years of age, and Nelson Geovany, eight years of age. The second day of the operation, the group of persons who had hidden in La Conacastada was discovered and attacked indiscriminately by the military forces, causing the deaths of many persons. Afterwards, the members of the military proceeded to pursue small groups of persons, among them the family group of Ms. María Maura Contreras. As people fled, the children remained behind, they couldn’t keep up; Ms. María Maura Contreras saw how a soldier grabbed her daughter Gregoria Herminia by the hair, and took her with other children; she also saw that they took Serapio Cristián; and since she couldn’t walk with all the children because she had her daughter Julia Inés, four months old, in her arms, when she had to climb an incline she slipped and dropped the little girl when the soldiers had almost reached her – she was forced to leave the child on the ground so as to continue running, and the child was taken by the soldiers. Ms. María Maura Contreras, her common-law husband, and their two children continued running and hid in the bush for several days. Once the military operation was over, they began the search for the persons who had disappeared, to which end they went to La Conacastada, where they found that many people had died, including elderly and children, yet the bodies of the three minors were not found. Accordingly, it is thought that her children survived the operation. In addition, approximately 15 days after the disappearance of her children, Ms. Contreras received news that they had been seen at the military post of Río Frío, in the northern part of the municipality of Tecoluca, and that they were there for several days, and that they were later taken away in a truck. 7. As for the investigation, the petitioners indicate that the various entities that were involved in El Salvador have been ineffective and insufficient. The children’s mother first went to denounce the facts in 1993, to the Truth Commission, after the peace accords were signed in El Salvador. In addition, the same year she went to the Comisión de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador (CDHES). When the Asociación Pro-Búsqueda was formed, she recurred to it as well. And in 1996 she turned to the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos). The resolution of the Ombudsman’s office, of March 30, 1998, was certified and sent to the Office of the Attorney General, without any results. On 2

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