Massachusetts Congressman James P. McGovern to Receive First Ever Cristosal Human Rights Award

Cristosal to honor Congressman McGovern at Northeastern University’s Alumni center, October 26, 2017 with reception and Cristosal fundraiser


Boston, MA –  Cristosal, a leader in human rights in Central America, is honoring Congressman James P. McGovern with the first ever Cristosal Human Rights Award at a reception on October 26, 2017 at the Northeastern Alumni Center in Boston. The award will highlight individuals and organizations who share Cristosal’s mission to advance human rights in Central America from different fields: academia, politics and foreign policy or grass-roots advocacy. Now more than ever, we believe we need to lift up leaders who defend human rights principles in the Americas and the world.

Massachusetts Congressman James P. McGovern exemplifies that kind of inspiring leadership. McGovern has advocated for the protection and advancement of human rights for over three decades. He co-chairs the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is dedicated to promoting, defending and advocating for international human rights. McGovern also holds an honorary degree in human rights from the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, el Salvador. In 2016, he co-authored the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which grants the U.S. President power to deny visas to and freeze U.S. assets of human rights violators.

McGovern recognizes the importance of affirming our commitment to human rights standards in today’s world. He spoke out decisively against inviting Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, infamous for his violent “war on drugs,” to the White House. “We ought to be on the side of advocating for human rights, not explaining them away,” McGovern declared.

McGovern’s dedication to human rights has taken him to El Salvador many times since the early 1980s. Serving as an aide to Congressman Joe Moakley (Boston), McGovern helped draft the law that would become Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadoran and other Central American refugees. In 1989, he was the lead staffer on the investigation into the 1989 murders at the UCA of six Jesuit priests and two laywomen.  These investigations were instrumental in Congress's decision in 1990 to cut aid to the brutal Salvadoran army.  McGovern travels frequently to El Salvador to honor the memory of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter who, it was revealed, were killed by US-trained Salvadoran troops. Earlier this year, McGovern attended the Forced Disappearance During the Salvadoran Armed Conflict forum at the University of Central America. He has called for the release of classified U.S. documents on the Salvadoran Civil War, noting that "much has been accomplished by the Salvadoran people in the past 25 years – but so very much is left to do."  He also urged Salvadoran President Sanchez Ceren to establish a national commission to investigate and result the thousands of cases of the missing and disappeared from the period of the Salvadoran civil war. 

Cristosal is honored to work with such an active champion for human rights. In addition to honoring Congressman McGovern at the reception, Cristosal will be raising funds to conduct participatory research, empower families to seek justice, partner with communities to build resilience, and pilot innovative approaches to addressing complex human rights problems. Cristosal’s work on behalf of victims of contemporary and historic abuses in Central America is essential for establishing a human rights climate in which peacemaking is possible. One case at a time, we are protecting and empowering families of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

For more information about the event, sponsorship opportunities, and tickets, please visit or email


About Cristosal

Cristosal is a nongovernmental organization based in El Salvador advancing human rights in Central America through rights-based programming, research, and learning. We work alongside victims of human rights violations and violence, equipping them with tools and resources to access justice and build strong communities and societies.

Currently, Cristosal is a leading member of the legal team representing the victims of the El Mozote Massacre. Seeking justice for historic war crimes is essential to the struggle against the culture of impunity in contemporary El Salvador. In December 1981, soldiers from the Salvadoran Army massacred more than 1,000 people, including many children, in the village of El Mozote, Morazan. A post-war amnesty law blocked justice for victims and their families. In 2016, the Supreme Court of El Salvador overturned this law, reopening the possibility to seek justice. On March 29, eighteen Salvadoran military officers were arraigned at a court in the department of Morazan for the massacre in El Mozote. Cristosal’s Human Rights Director, David Morales, is representing victims and their families. Cristosal is raising funds to support these efforts in the El Mozote case as well as other human-rights based work.

About the 2017 Cristosal Human Rights Award

Our first award celebrates those with an unwavering commitment to justice and democracy in Central America that spans decades. The atrocities of the civil wars in the 1990s have been replaced by a new epidemic of violence today orchestrated by gangs, organized crime and the authorities. This violence has fueled the mass migration of primarily women and children from their homes. Cristosal’s Human Rights Award acknowledges those efforts to carry forward the work of the past to both advocate for policies and programs for today’s victims and address the root causes of violence.

For more information on Cristosal please visit and follow us on social media.

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Media Contact: Alex Gaiser, Resource Development Coordinator,

Hannah Rose Nelson