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Former Mexican President sued in US for crimes against humanity

Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico is being sued for alleged crimes against humanity for a massacre of 45 villagers in 1997.

The former President from 1994-2000, now a Professor at Yale University, has had the lawsuit filed against him by ten relatives and survivors of the massacre, who claim that Zedillo was both responsible for the attack and helped cover up the killings.

See report by The Associated Press here.

The lawsuit alleges that Zedillo “knew or should have known that his subordinates were committing human rights abuses, and he failed to prevent the abuses or punish those responsible.”

The incident was one of the peaks of violence during the leftist Zapatista uprising, as they demanded more rights for indigenous Indians in the state of Chiapas. Government backed paramilitaries, known as the Mascara Roja (Red Mask), entered the village of Acteal in Chiapas in a counter-insurgency operation and killed the villagers, some as young as 2 months old.

In a 1998 statement on the incident, Amnesty International said,

"Compelling evidence shows that the authorities facilitated the arming of paramilitaries who carried out the killings and failed to intervene as the savage attack continued for hours."

Although the massacre did not occur in the US, a 1991 federal law allows violators of international law to be sued in the US. The prosecution alleges that under laws including the Torture Victim Protection Act, the federal court has jurisdiction to act on the case.

Roger Kobert, an attorney for the plaintiffs said,

"This is an opportunity for these people to get justice."

Earlier this year, three Tamil plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse in the US District of Columbia Federal Court under the Torture Victim Protection Act, for his responsibility in extra-judicial killings of their relatives.

See report from TamilNet here.