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Mexico: Extrajudicial executions / fear for safety: 45 displaced Indian peasants, including 15 children, reported killed in Chiapas massacre:

, N° d'index: AMR 41/117/1997

These people are reported to have been killed on 22 December 1997 in an attack carried out by paramilitary groups associated with the local and state authorities. There are serious fears that further attacks may take place.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 41/117/97
UA 409/97 Extrajudicial executions / Fear for safety 23 December 1997
MEXICO45 displaced Indian peasants, including 15 children, reported killed
in Chiapas massacre
In an attack on 22 December 1997 lasting several hours, 45 displaced Tzotziles
Indian peasants living in Acteal in the municipality of Chenalhó, in Chiapas
State, are reported to have been killed by paramilitary groups associated with
the local and state authorities.
Twenty-one women, 15 children, including a new-born baby, and nine men were
killed during the attack in Acteal which was reportedly carried out by at least
60 heavily armed members of paramilitary groups, including the groups Paz y
Justicia, Peace and Justice, and Máscara Roja, Red Mask. At least 25 others
were wounded in the attack, 11 very seriously. They are being treated in local
The victims come from among hundreds of internally displaced Indian peasants
from the surrounding communities of northern Chiapas who have settled in Acteal
after being increasingly targeted for threats and human rights violations for
their alleged sympathy for the armed opposition group Ejército Zapatista de
Liberación Nacional (EZLN), Zapatista National Liberation Army. People who
do not support the government are often labelled as EZLN supporters by
paramilitary groups and become vulnerable to human rights violations.
The attack on 22 December began at around midday and continued into the night,
despite the presence of state police units nearby which did not intervene to
stop the attack. The closest unit of the Seguridad Publica, security police,
is said to be less than 200 metres from the community. The attack is reported
to have followed several days of threats against the community of Acteal, which
were denounced to the state authorities by local non-governmental
organizations. However, the authorities failed to act.
There are serious fears that further attacks may take place against surviving
residents and witnesses unless the Mexican authorities take urgent preventive
Amnesty International is seriously concerned about the worsening human rights
situation in the state of Chiapas as a result of growing harassment, threats
and attacks directed against peasant communities by paramilitary groups, in
particular Paz y Justicia and Máscara Roja, acting on behalf of local chiefs
linked to the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), Institutional
Revolutionary Party, the ruling party. Alarmingly, such activities are carried
out with the acquiescence and tacit support, including funding, of the
authorities, whereby most of those responsible remain unpunished. On 4
November 1997, Samuel Ruiz, bishop of the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas,
Chiapas State, well-respected for his efforts to bring peace to the area, escaped
unhurt after the convoy in which he and other members of the clergy were
travelling was ambushed, reportedly by members of Paz y Justicia near the
community of Tila, Chiapas State (see UA 351/97, AMR 41/103/97, 6 November
1997). To Amnesty International’s knowledge there have been no attempts by
the authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
Spanish or your own language:
- expressing the deepest concern at the killing of 45 people in the community
of Acteal, including 15 children, by paramilitary groups;
- calling for an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the
massacre and for those responsible to be brought to justice;
- calling for immediate measures to guarantee the safety of surviving community
members and witnesses;
- seeking assurances that all injured are receiving appropriate medical care;
- expressing alarm at the increasing reports of serious human rights violations
in Chiapas State, reportedly be members of paramilitary groups particularly
Paz y Justicia and Máscara Roja, and the lack of effort to bring them to account
for their acts.
President of the Republic
Lic. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León
Presidente de la República
Palacio Nacional, 06067 México D.F., MEXICO
Telegrams: Presidente Zedillo, México D.F., México
Faxes: (+ 52 5) 515 1794 / 542 1648 (voice line: ask "me puede dar tono de
fax, por favor")
Salutation: Sr. Presidente / Dear President
Governor of the State of Chiapas
Lic. Julio César Ruiz Ferro
Gobernador del Estado de Chiapas
Palacio de Gobierno
Av. Central y Primera Oriente
Colonia Centro, 29009 Tuxtla Gutiérrez
Estado de Chiapas, MEXICO
Telegrams: Gobernador Ruiz Ferro, Chiapas, México
Faxes: +52 961 20917 (if voice, ask "me puede dar tono de fax, por favor")
Salutation: Sr. Gobernador/Dear Governor
Human Rights Organizations
Comisión de Derechos Humanos "Fray Bartolomé de las Casas"
Apartado postal 178
San Cristóbal de las Casas
29250 Chiapas
Centro de Derechos Humanos
"Miguel Augustín Pro Juárez" A.C.
Puebla No. 153
Col. Roma, 06700
México D.F. MEXICO
and to diplomatic representatives of MEXICO accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 15 February 1998.

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