6. The IACHR transmitted those observations to the State on April 12, 2000; it in turn
submitted the corresponding information on July 11, 2000, the pertinent parts of which were
sent to the petitioners on July 25, 2000. On August 22, 2000 the petitioners requested a
hearing at the 108th regular session; they presented their observations on August 30, 2000.
The IACHR called the parties to a hearing through a letter dated September 8, 2000.
7. On October 10, 2000 a hearing on the case was held at OAS headquarters, in the framework
of the 108th regular session of the IACHR, at which it received updated information on the
position of the parties regarding the admissibility and merits of the complaint. CEJIL,
representatives of Pro Búsqueda, and Suyapa Serrano Cruz, the sister of the victims,
participated in the hearing.
III.

POSITION OF THE PARTIES

A.

The petitioners

8. The complaint sent to the IACHR alleges that Ernestina and Erlinda Serrano Cruz were the
victims of forced disappearance, allegedly at the hands of members of the Salvadoran army.
Regarding the facts of the case, the petitioners maintain the following:
At the time of their detention/disappearance on June 2, 1982, the sisters Ernestina and Erlinda
Serrano Cruz, ages seven and three respectively, were captured by the Salvadoran military
during a raid by the Atlacatl Battalion on the municipality of San Antonio La Cruz, in the
Department of Chalatenango.
Like dozens of other families living in rural areas victimized by military attacks, the sisters fled
their home for the mountains with their father, Mr. Dionisio Serrano (deceased); their sister,
Suyapa Serrano Cruz, age 17, and their brother, José Enrique, age 12. The family sought
refuge in the Los Alvarenga mountains, in the jurisdiction of Nueva Trinidad, in the Department
of Chalatenango. On the third day, Mr. Serrano and his son José Enrique went to look for
water, which is why they were separated from the girls when the soldiers detained them. The
girls’ older sister, Suyapa, hid in a thicket near the girls; the soldiers heard their cries. When
they drew near, she became frightened and fled to another thicket. The older sister has
testified that after the soldiers left she returned to the site where she had left the girls, but
they were no longer there.
Witnesses say they saw the Serrano sisters being transported by military helicopter to the city
of Chalatenango, where they were turned over to Red Cross relief workers and brought in a
Red Cross vehicle to an unknown location. That was the last anyone knew of the girls’
whereabouts. 1
9. Regarding the investigation, the petitioners claim that the different jurisdictions that
intervened in El Salvador have been ineffective and insufficient. The girls’ mother and sister went
to several hospitals, orphanages, morgues, and other places looking for them, to no avail. On
April 30, 1993, after the end of the domestic armed conflict in El Salvador, Mrs. María Victoria
Cruz Franco filed a complaint against members of the Atlacatl Battalion with the Court of First
Instance of Chalatenango for the kidnapping of her daughters.
10. The petitioners indicate that domestic proceedings began in June 1993, but were set aside
on two occasions. The first was on September 22, 1993, for the following reasons:
Since there has been sufficient review of this investigation and the individual(s) who kidnapped
the minors Ernestina Serrano and Erlinda Serrano have not been identified, this investigation is
closed; a note to that effect will be made in the respective register… 2

1
2

Letter from the petitioners dated February 16, 1999, pages 1 and 2.
Letter from the petitioners dated March 28, 2000, page 1.

2

Select target paragraph3