Rights group cites abuses in El Salvador

Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, has again accused El Salvador government forces of engaging in systematic killings and terror against unarmed civilians.

The organization's latest findings contradict President Reagan's contention, made to the US Congress last month, that there has been a decrease in alleged human rights abuses by the Salvadoran military and security forces.

In its first report on human rights around the world, the Reagan administration asserted Feb. 7 that while human rights violations by both the right and left continued in El Salvador, there was a ''downward trend in political violence.'' On Feb. 7, Amnesty International (AI) stated in a telegram to President Reagan that the pattern of abductions, torture, and murder described in its 1981 annual report remained unchanged.

On March 8, Amnesty issued a new statement based on a ''catalog of atrocities'' in El Salvador, which it said was derived from interviews with Salvadoran refugees in Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Those interviews were conducted last year, but AI says later reports have indicated that the pattern of violence has continued into this year.

The State Department takes Amnesty International seriously enough to quote frequently from the human rights reports it prepares for Congress. But an official in the department's Bureau of Inter-American Affairs said Amnesty International is basically a ''watchdog of governmental behavior'' and, therefore, does not apply the same level of scrutiny to opposition groups or guerrillas, such as those in El Salvador, as it applies to governments.

The issue of human rights abuses in El Salvador is important not only because of humanitarian considerations. Some US senators and congressmen have based much of their opposition to the Reagan administration's Salvador policy on grounds that the Salvadoran junta is not worthy of being supported by the United States. Some believe that unless the violence perpetuated by Salvadoran military and security forces is halted, it will merely hasten a guerrilla victory in El Salvador.

In its latest statement, Amnesty International said the victims of government repression in El Salvador have included ''not only people suspected of opposition to the authorities, but (also) thousands who were simply in areas targeted for security operations, whose death and mutilation seems to have been completely arbitrary.'' The organization said many victims bore scars that seemed to bear out their accounts.

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