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Justice & The Generals
El Salvador
U.S. LAW
Around the World
About the Film
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About The Film
Introduction Broadcast Schedule Credits Meet The Filmmaker Key Issues Viewer's Guide


In late 1980, the bodies of four American women were exhumed from a crude grave in war-torn El Salvador. The women -- three Catholic nuns and a lay missionary -- had been abducted, raped, and murdered. An investigation led to the trial and imprisonment of five Salvadoran National Guardsmen convicted of committing the crime.

But who was behind the murders? The families of the victims believed the orders to kill came from high up in the military, but after 20 years of pressuring the State Department for information, they still had no direct evidence of higher orders. They did, however, have enough circumstantial evidence to take two Salvadoran generals to trial. In a second case, a group of Salvadoran torture survivors are set to bring the same two generals to court as well. In an unusual legal move, both cases are being decided not in international war tribunals, but in American civil court.

These historic cases -- which not only herald a radical change in the way human rights violations are redressed but also provide disturbing insight into the political forces that can shield the military from any legal responsibility -- are the subject of JUSTICE & THE GENERALS. The 90-minute documentary, presented by Thirteen/WNET New York, premiered Thursday, February 21, 2002 on PBS. (Check local listings for possible rebroadcasts.)

In exploring these two historic cases, JUSTICE & THE GENERALS offers unique insight into a new chapter in international human rights law, an important step forward in the campaign to bring military commanders to justice for crimes committed within their ranks. At the same time, as it follows efforts to hold human rights abusers accountable, JUSTICE & THE GENERALS also maps the confusion, barbarism, and, ultimately, the tragic heart of a conflict whose wounds, two decades later, are far from healed.

JUSTICE & THE GENERALS is a production of Gail Pellett Productions, Inc. in association with Thirteen/WNET New York. Gail Pellett is producer, director, and narrator. Alison Amron is editor and Sidney Beaumont is associate producer. For Thirteen, Stephen Segaller is executive producer and Miriam Reinharth is supervising producer.

Major funding for JUSTICE & THE GENERALS was provided by The Florence and John Schumann Foundation. Additional funding was provided by The Jacob Burns Foundation and The Soros Documentary Fund.


Meet the filmmaker, Gail Pellett, and listen to an interview about the making of JUSTICE AND THE GENERALS. >>

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Learn about key issues filmmaker Gail Pellett addresses in JUSTICE AND THE GENERALS. >>

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Harold Koh, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, provides a revealing analysis of the events in JUSTICE AND THE GENERALS. Download the Viewer's Guide for discussion questions posed by Mr. Koh, or request a printed copy by e-mail. >>