EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 41/04/94
UA 70/94 Harassment of human rights activists 22 February 1994
MEXICO: Church human rights activists and medical personnel
Amnesty International is concerned at reports of the harassment of Church human
rights monitors and medical personnel in the state of Chiapas.
On 20 February 1994, workers of the San Carlos Hospital of Altamirano, state
of Chiapas, were verbally and physically harassed by a mob, allegedly instigated
by local landowners and municipal authorities. It seems that the reason for
this harassment was the hospital workers' non-partisan involvement in the
treatment of people injured during the armed conflict in Chiapas which began
on 1 January. The San Carlos Hospital is run by the religious Compañía de
las Hijas de la Caridad de San Vicente de Paul, Order of the Sisters of Charity
of Saint Vincent de Paul, and has provided medical assistance to the wounded
in this region of Chiapas since the conflict began on 1 January 1994. Some
of the wounded have allegedly been linked to the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación
Nacional (EZLN), Zapatista National Liberation Army.
Amnesty International is also concerned about reports of continuing threats
and harassment by army personnel against members of the Church and other human
rights activists working among the indigenous populations of Chiapas. Amnesty
International continues to fear for the physical safety of human rights monitors
working in the area.
On 1 January 1994, the EZLN, an armed opposition group, took control of several
towns in the state of Chiapas. Heavy fighting ensued for several days. On
12 January the government declared a ceasefire, although there were reports
of continuing land attacks by the armed forces during the following days.
An Amnesty International delegation visiting the area in late January, confirmed
earlier reports of a number of human rights abuses, such as the extrajudicial
executions of at least five rebels and the torture of rebel and civilian
detainees at the hands of the security forces.
Chiapas has long been the scene of continuing human rights violations by the
security forces in the context of land disputes and allegations of electoral
fraud. These violations have included massive and arbitrary arrests, torture,
ill-treatment and political killings. A large number of the victims of such
abuses belong to the poorest sectors of the population. Very rarely have those
responsible been brought to justice.
Members of the Church and grassroots organizations have been active in promoting
and protecting the rights of the indigenous populations of Chiapas for many
decades, frequently encountering opposition from the local authorities and
large landowners. For example, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, director of a local human
rights group in San Cristóbal de las Casas, state of Chiapas, received a number
of death threats in 1993 which it is believed were motivated by his work on
behalf of indigenous populations in Southern Mexico.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes and airmail letters
either in Spanish, English or your own language:
- expressing concern about the harassment suffered by medical personnel and