10 Years Since Acteal
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On December 22, 1997, a paramilitary group shot, indiscriminately, at the inside of a church in the community of Acteal, Chiapas. The shots took the lives of 45 indigenous Tzotzils, 16 girls, boys and adolescents, 20 women, and 9 men. Four of the women were pregnant.
The massacred people belonged to a civic group known as Las Abejas, The Bees, dedicated to defending their rights as an indigenous community. On the day in which they were brutally assassinated, they were found meeting in prayer for peace in their community and for their neighbors who had been displaced for supporting the EZLN (National Zapatista Liberation Army.).
In the last 10 years, Acteal has brought to mind multiple violations of human rights in different places, with various actors. In Atenco, in Oaxaca, in Guerrero, in Mexico City, in Juarez- women and men, indigenous and mestizo, journalists, students, defenders of human rights, campesinos ; femicide, forced disappearances, illegal detentions, use of child labor, attacks against peoples physical, psychological and sexual integrity, violations of the rights to cultural identity, work, education, health, home, to a fair trial, and of the rights to political participation.
Despite the efforts of consecutive Mexican governments to present these human rights violations as isolated incidents on the one hand and as the result of conflict between individuals or between rival communities on the other, their insistence points to structural causes and to concrete institutional responsibilities of the Mexican government.
The severe human rights violations in Mexico are a direct consequence of an intersection of factors, clearly interrelated, that can be situated in three different areas; a) the consolidation of a socio-economic model that is profoundly unequal, incapable of satisfying the basic needs of the majority of the population, despite the fact that the Mexican economy is situated among the most powerful in the world; b) the inexistence or extremely weak available channels for broad, conscientious, and determined political participation ; c) the impunity that penetrates the different branches of national security, including the Mexican army which is linked to the lack of independence of the Judicial branch of power.
In such a context, the responsibility should be assigned principally to Mexican institutions: the reports and recommendations made by different special reporters from the United Nations, by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, much like the pronouncements endorsed by the European Parliament, or the denunciations from various Human Rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch…) have not been able to provoke from these governments more than timid or empty gestures, when governments have not outright denied allegations or shown silent indifference.
In the context just described, the Civil International Commission of Human Rights Observation (CCIODH) works to continue to raise up the voices of those who have witnessed human rights violations in Mexico. Protected by the legitimacy authorized in 5 observation missions (between February 1998 and May 2007) the CCIODH considers itself obligated to remind others that, unfortunately, the denunciations and recommendations that took place through each one of the visits (to Chiapas, during the first three, to Atenco, on the fourth, and most recently, to Oaxaca) are still real and valid today.
Judging by the CCIODH, the enforcement of human rights in Mexico depends on overcoming a series of powerful obstacles, among those:
1. A situation of profound political disintegration and of worrisome social deconstruction. The institutional spheres do not enforce the Rule of Law, due to a lack or will, creating a context in which the most underprivileged in society, and especially in the indigenous communities, suffer the consequences of a situation of generalized violence and impunity.
2. A judicial and political strategy in which the principal objective is to achieve the control and disempowerment of the civil population, particularly in areas where citizen have organized or social movements have developed outside of the political party structure. Numerous cases have been documented of denying the right to assemble, to protest, and denying the freedom of expression and information, through the use of police and military abuse and discrimination.
Ten years after Acteal it is still necessary to remember the murders, its causes, and the protagonists. The work of avoiding new Acteals involves the persistent fight against intentional impunity in a broader sense- no more violations of social, cultural, economic, political and civil rights may occur without consequences. For this, the CCIODH seeks the protection of all the social and political actors, Mexican as well as international, so that they are able to exercise active control and supervision of the activities of the public and private powers. To this end, the Commission makes public its commitment to continue its work as civil observers, started ten years ago.
Commission for International Civil Observation for Human Rights
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