The authorities in El Salvador have been criticised for failing to establish the fate of thousands of children who went missing during the country's civil war in the 1980s.
The civil war in El Salvador took its toll on civilians
A report by human rights group Amnesty International accuses past and present Salvadoran governments of not carrying out thorough investigations into the disappearances, and of not supporting relatives in their efforts to find the children.
It is estimated that more than 70,000 people died or went missing during the 12-year conflict between government forces and left-wing rebels in El Salvador.
Amnesty says there is documented evidence that many of the missing children are still alive and some have been found in El Salvador, as well as in Italy, France, the United States and other countries.
The report says the first four years after the conflict started in 1980 were one of the worst periods of
repression in the country, as the armed forces carried out "cleansing" operations of the civilian population.
Amnesty says that during the massacres that took place in that period, families became separated, parents were murdered and the surviving children were often taken away by soldiers.
Some children are said to have ended up in orphanages and other institutions, while others were kept at military bases or in the houses of the soldiers and their families. Others were reportedly put up for adoption in El Salvador or abroad.
Many of the families who survived have been searching for them ever since, the report says.
"Those relatives have suffered for too long and deserve to know where their children are. The failure of the authorities in El Salvador is only adding insult to injury."
Amnesty, in the report entitled El Salvador: Where are the disappeared children?,
says the authorities' neglect has been so extreme that on 18 June 2003 the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights submitted the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The report calls on the authorities of El Salvador to:
- Support the creation of a national search committee
- Fulfil their obligations under international human rights standards on reparation to victims of human rights violations
- Ratify the Inter-American Convention on Enforced Disappearance of Persons.