Mexico: New investigation into Acteal massacre is essential

The Mexican authorities must begin a new independent investigation into the Acteal massacre in order to ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice, said Amnesty International today.

The statement follows the Mexican Supreme Court’s decision to release 20 of those convicted for the Acteal massacre, in Chiapas state, where 45 Tzotzil Indigenous people were killed in 1997. The prisoners were released on the grounds of irregularities in the collection of evidence during the investigation and trial.   “This is yet another example of the serious deficiencies of the Mexican justice system, which seems to be incapable of investigating, prosecuting and punishing through a fair trial those responsible for human rights violations,” said Rupert Knox, Mexico researcher at Amnesty International.

According to information obtained by Amnesty International, the irregularities in the investigation into the Acteal case and into many others were apparent from the beginning and led to unsound convictions that could be quashed, leaving the culprits unpunished.

On several occasions, Amnesty International has denounced the investigation carried out by the Federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) into the Acteal case as flawed and continues to urge the authorities to conduct an exhaustive investigation, with all the guarantees necessary to establish the truth and responsibilities at all levels, including the role of the senior officials and members of the army suspected of involvement in the massacre by failing to prevent it or by acquiescing with the perpetrators.

“It is essential to immediately clarify exactly what happened in Acteal, to punish those responsible, after a fair trial, and to provide reparations,” said Rupert Knox. “Without justice, the authorities are condemning the community to the danger of more violence.”

Background Information On 22 December 1997, in Acteal, Chenalhó municipality, Chiapas State, the authorities armed members of the illegal armed or paramilitary groups responsible for the killings and failed to prevent the massacre despite ample opportunity.

The investigation into the Acteal massacre by the PGR resulted in the conviction of approximately 80 indigenous individuals from neighbouring communities directly involved in the attack. Fourteen junior public officials were convicted and served sentences of between three and eight years for murder and wounding by omission or for carrying firearms supposedly for the exclusive use of the army. However, no senior official or member of the army has ever been held to account for their suspected involvement in the case.