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8 April 1999

Impunity Ranks Above Human Rights, Says Amnesty

MEXICO CITY, Mar 24 (IPS) - Human rights violations in Mexico will not end while impunity persists, stated Amnesty International (AI) secretary general, Pierre Sane.

The London-based human rights watchdog classed Mexico a particular ''case country in the Americas,'' as the legal mechanisms supposed to protect human rights victims ''are simply sidestepped.'' And the same term was applied to Colombia and the United States.

When talking of the Mexican government, the document released by AI on March 9 states it could not see any official advances made toward preventing the violation of individual rights.

Mexican authorities ''can say what they like,'' but while ''those responsible for the killings'' are not either behind bars or standing trial ''the situation will remain unchanged,'' Sane told Mexican daily La Jornada.

AI secretary general referred to the cases of Acteal in Chiapas, and Aguas Blancas and El Carco, in Guerrero, where rural and indigenous people were massacred by paramilitary groups and army personnel in recent years.

''What is still respected is not human rights, but impunity,'' stressed Sane.

The relation between the Mexican government and non-governmental organisations have always been difficult, but they have become particularly thorny since the emergence of the Zapatista guerrilla group in Chiapas on January 1, 1994.

Human rights groups turned all their attention onto the southeastern state of Mexico, where reports of violations of basic rights have proliferated.

The biggest massacre referred to by Sane was that of Acteal, in the Chiapan municipal area of Chealo on December 23, 1997, where 45 indigenous people were killed. Sane complained the perpetrators of these crimes had not been brought to justice, even though it was known ''that army officers and paramilitary groups protected by official institutions'' were involved.

Amnesty International stated Mexico's government is not ''compromised in human rights violations,'' but accused it of not carrying out in-depth investigations of cases in order to find those guilty, explained Sane.

In the document ''Mexico, in the shadow of impunity,'' AI indicated that the National Human Rights Commission is playing the ''double role of defending the victims of low intensity violations and lowering the intensity of criticism of the authorities."

From 1994 to 1998 there was ''a serious deterioration in the human rights situation in Mexico,'' says the report. Torture, extrajudicial executions, disappearances and arbitrary detentions are systematic and occur throughout the country, being ''particularly serious in Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, where armed opposition groups are present,'' it adds. In Mexico, the ''perpetrators of violatory acts frequently act with impunity,'' it points out.

Speaking in an interview with the Mexican daily, Sane also mentioned the United States. In this country, ''violations are persistent, massive and disproportionately affect the ethnic groups and racial minorities,'' he said. And this is caused by there being inherent ''racism in the police forces and the legal system,'' which also discriminates against women.

Sane is participating in the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva, which has been looking into the world human rights situation since Monday.

On his last visit to Mexico last year, Sane was snubbed by President Ernesto Zedillo and other government officials who refused to receive him. But Sane stressed that he feels he will always be well received by the Mexican people and that he is very keen to return to the country.

[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)