New Urgent Action Request: Acteal Massacre (English Translation)

Human Rights Center
Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas,
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
October 5, 2009
Possible Release of 31 people recognized by the victims as the paramilitaries who committed the Acteal Massacre
The Human Rights Center, has received information that on 14 October this year, Ministers of the First Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN) discussed the legal status of the 31 people who were sentenced by federal judges as responsible for the Slaughter of Acteal and who victims and survivors identified as the perpetrators.  In this situation, we express our concern as it has folowed the decision of August 12 where the SCJN decided to release 20 of those sentenced who also participated in the slaughter, giving them early release, which would mean another event of denial of justice in this crime against humanity.
The SCJN deliberation could possibly go the same way as the 20 already released, freed by officers seconded to the Attorney General of the State (PGJE) and  supported by federal judges and magistrates. The release of the first 20 people has resulted in a climate of fear and insecurity in the region of the Highlands of Chiapas, particularly in the communities inhabited by members of Civil Society ‘Las Abejas’ (The Bees).  The climate of fear that would increase by a  similar SCJN decision on 14 October.  On this occasion,  murderers could be released who confessed  responsibility for the slaughter, and who are considered, along with others,  “criminally responsible for homicide”, and who carried firearms exclusively used  by the Mexican Army.
The SCJN decisions of 12 August, brought out so convincingly, that the State breached its duty of ensuring access to justice for the victims and survivors, by ignoring their right to truth, justice, reparation, and measures of non-repetition, and by not making  a serious and effective investigation in order to punish those intellectually and materially responsible, and therefore avoiding impunity.
Imminent risk
Given these actions of impunity, coupled with the release of 20 perpetrators,  this Center fears reactive violence against members of the Civil Society Organization ‘Las Abejas’, acts that endanger their lives and personal integrity, by having been witnesses in
domestic criminal proceedings.  Whether it is announced or not by the state government of Chiapas that aggressors have not returned to their place of origin, it should be noted that relatives and other members of this group continue inhabiting these communities, which is precisely where the weapons are, as so far the State has not demonstrated that it has dismantled and disarmed paramilitaries who continue to live in the Chenalho municipality.

The members of Civil Society Las Abejas, learned that the municipal authorities of Chenalhó, have informed local officials that the now freed have implemented  measures against survivors and witnesses in proceedings in which the SCJN granted their application because they have passed more than 11 years in prison.  This has not been considered by the Mexican state which also did not have the necessary diligence for appropriate criminal prosecution and has demonstrated over the years, that it fails to implement any measures that avoid violence and rebuild the social fabric of indigenous communities in Chiapas. The  most notable example of this is that the ‘Las Abejas’ members who currently live in the Internal Displaced Persons camp known as Acteal, are still displaced from their original communities, coupled with the presence of Mexican Army has contributed to the breakup of social fabric as in other parts of the country.
In that sense there is imminent danger that goes with the high vulnerability of victims and survivors who do not currently have any mechanism for protecting themselves and who also have not seen their right to justice.  Whereas the non-release of the 31 people, as  aggressors identified by survivors, would be the only measure taken to safeguard the rights of victims.
It should be noted here that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has indicated that the State has an obligation to combat impunity by all legal means available, since otherwise it fosters the chronic repetition of human rights violations and the total helplessness of the victims and their families (IACHR, case Paniagua Morales and Others Case of 8 March 1998, para 173).
For these reasons, the Center requires the following:
That the Mexican government does not release the 31 people sentenced for committing the slaughter of Acteal,  whose legal status will soon be decided by the Supreme Court’s Office.
Historical background
On Monday, 22 December 1997, a group of about 325 people were gathered in the Acteal chapel, making a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the municipality of Chenalho, Chiapas, Mexico, given the violence in the area and rumors of attacks by paramilitaries.  These people were members of Civil Society ‘Las Abejas’, mostly displaced persons who had reached the Acteal camp seeking refuge.  About eleven o’clock in the morning, a group of men armed with machetes, knives and firearms
exclusively used by the Mexican Army, arrived at the Hermitage.  These paramilitaries surrounded the shrine and fired at the
people who were outside and inside, the displaced fled to the bottom of the Hermitage, hiding in trenches and among the trees, but the attackers heard the crying of children and slaughtered them right there. The result of this brutal assault was the death of 45 indigenous Tzotziles (19 women, including 4 pregnant women, 8 men, 14 girls, and 4 boys), and 17 people injured, mostly children.

Please send appeals to:

Ministro Presidente Guillermo I. Ortiz Mayagoitia
Supreme Court of the Nation
Pino Suarez No. 2,
Colonia Centro, Delegación Cuauhtémoc,
CP 06,065,
Mexico, Distrito Federal.
Minister Sergio Armando Valls Hernández
Supreme Court of the Nation
Pino Suarez No. 2,
Colonia Centro, Delegación Cuauhtémoc,
CP 06,065,
Mexico, Distrito Federal.
Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa
President of the Republic
Official Residence of Los Pinos
Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec,
CP 11850, Mexico DF
Tel: (52.55) 2789.1100 Fax: (52.55) 5277.2376
Email:  felipe.calderon @
Dr. José Luis Soberanes Fernández
National Human Rights Commission
Peripherals Sur 3469,
Col. San Jeronimo Lidice
Delegation Magdalena Contreras,
CP 10200, Mexico DF,
Phones (55) 56 81 81 25 54 90 74 00, Toll Free 01800 715 2000
Mr. Fenando Gomez Mont
Secretary of the Interior
Bucareli 99, 1er. Piso, Col. Juárez,
Del. Cuauhtemoc
CP 06600 Mexico DF
Fax: (52.55) 50933414
Sr. Santiago A. Cantón
Executive Secretary Human Rights
Alberto Brunori
Rpte. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico
Dirección : Alejandro Dumas #165
Col. Polanco Delegación Miguel Hidalgo
CP 11560 México DF
Tel: + 52 (01 55) 5061-6350 Fax: 5061-6358
Send a copy to:
AC Human Rights Center Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, AC
Calle Brasil 14, Barrio Méxicanos, 29240 San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México
Tel: 967 6787395, 967 6787396, Fax: 967 6783548

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