Human Rights

Massacre at Acteal, Chiapas: No More Impunity!

  The open letter send to the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, against the impunity for the paramilitary groups that massacred 45 tsotsiles indigenous in the town of Acteal, Chiapas, seven years ago.
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To: The President of Mexico Vicente Fox Quezada

The National Supreme Court of Mexico

The Office of the Attorney General of Mexico

The Federal Congress of Mexico

To: The Governor of the State of Chiapas

The Attorney General’s Office for the State of Chiapas

First District Judge of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas

Second District Judge of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas

No More Impunity!

On December 22, 1997, in the town of Acteal, near San Pedro Chenalhó, Chiapas, Mexico, 45 tsotsiles indigenous were massacred after three days of fasting and praying for peace, including 15 children, 21 women (4 of them between ten weeks and five months pregnant), 9 men and an additional 25 injured, by a group of men armed with high caliber, specialized bullets for the exclusive use of the Mexican military. Public Security Police just 200 meters from the incident did not come to the assistance of the community during the massacre which lasted more than 7 hours. The existing paramilitary groups in this region killed, displaced, threatened and harassed communities constantly in the months before to the massacre, thus had lead to seek a pact of non-aggression, the motivation for the vigil that ended on December 22nd.

The victims of the massacre were already displaced from their original home communities by general violence as a product of the strategies for the low-intensity war after the rise of the EZLN in 1994.

Through the strategy of counterinsurgency and the creation of paramilitary groups, the State of Mexico forced the displacement of thousands of people who were then strained to live in sub-standard conditions, violating their rights to own and possess their land, together with their right to live with dignity, work, food, health, and education, among others. In addition to these displacements, there were other violations such as the right to life, and to personal integrity and security, in the form of executions and disappearances that have occurred in the state of Chiapas from 1994 to 1999 and still have not been clarified.

State and federal governments have refused to recognize the evidence that the origin of the massacre rests in the context of the low-intensity war. This has permitted the defense of the accused to confuse public opinion about the true causes of the massacre, indicating that they were religious problems and using legal loopholes for that purpose, since there is no legal framework to address specific crimes of paramilitary groups, and the terms available like “armed civilian groups” continue to be used, minimizing the characteristics of these counterinsurgency organizations.

The massacre on December 22nd initiated a long pilgrimage in search of justice for the victims in the Mexican justice system, which to this day has not concluded. Multiple human rights of the victims have been violated by the Mexican State. The delay and refusal of justice is evident.

The Massacre at Acteal constituted a brutal violation of the victim’s rights to life and physical integrity, as well as rights of women, children and to the protection of the family, among others.

The right to justice has been completely violated since the occurrence of the massacre. The truth remains illusive, intellectual authors have not been investigated, justice has not been realized in a timely and efficient manor, the right to reparation has been denied, and the State of Mexico has given no guarantees that an incident like the Massacre at Acteal will not happen again.

The disappearance of the office of the Special Prosecutor to give special attention to crimes committed in the state of Chiapas, and likewise the disappearance of the Special Unit to address crimes committed by groups of armed civilians demonstrates the intention of the authorities to minimize such acts and the little importance that has been placed on this subject up to now.

The municipality of Chenalhó has the largest relative military presence in the country after Mexico City, despite this, arms, munitions threats and harassment continue, as well as the presence of paramilitary groups.

The impunity and injustice not only remain for the victims of the Acteal Massacre, but for the thousands of displaced persons who today live in inhumane conditions. The United Nations Governing Principles on Internally Displaced Persons together with the recommendations made by the Representative of the UN Secretary General for Internally Displaced Persons, have not been complied with nor followed in the case of returned families, particularly given the risks of violence in communities and the reactivation of paramilitary groups.

The Mexican State has signed and ratified the American Convention for Human Rights, main instrument of the Inter-American System, and as part of this treaty it has the obligation to guarantee to be respected among others, the right to life, the right to justice and the right to truth for all its inhabitants. In this sense the right to life demands from State organs a serious, complete, efficient and impartial investigation of this crime against humanity committed in Acteal, to satisfy the full respect to the rights of the victims and their families.

The course of the investigation of this crime against humanity, as well as their consequences, should be taken as an appeal to the Executive, Judicial and Legislative powers, to address the structural deficiency of the State apparatus, which disturbs directly the fulfillment of democracy and the rule of law. In this sense is important to point out what has been said constantly by the Inter American Court for Human Rights, that a situation of impunity “promotes the chronic repetition of human rights violations”.

As long as there are no effective guarantees for the protection of elemental rights for the most vulnerable populations, truth and justice will continue to be a utopian dream.

• The Mexican State must admit its responsibilities for the grave irregularities committed during the months preceding the massacre at Acteal, during the investigation and the judicial process. We call for institutional reforms aim to give an end to years of impunity in this as in many other cases of human rights violations.

• Of the State and Federal governments we demand thorough investigation and call for intellectual authors on local and federal levels to responsibly bring clarity to the truth of the Acteal Massacre.

This refers to a criminal investigation of those civil employees at the highest levels and the intellectual authors for crimes against humanity: Secretary of the Interior, Emilio Chuayffet, Attorney General of Mexico, Jorge Madrazo Cuellar; Julio César Ruiz Ferro Governor of the state of Chiapas, Doctor Marco Antonio Besares Escobar, Attorney General of Justice for the state of Chiapas; The Secretary of the Interior for the State of Chiapas, Lic. Homero Tovilla Crisitiani, the Subsecretary of the Interior for the State of Chiapas, Lic. Uriel Jarquín, and the Federal Military of Mexico for the formation and tolerance of paramilitary groups.

• We demand that the authorities seek and deliver justice, that they adhere to the fundamental principles of the right to truth, and judicial justice. We demand serious contemplation for integral reparations for victims of the massacre, widows, orphans, and survivors. Finally the guarantee that such an act will never happen again.

• Of the Attorney General of Mexico, we demand the execution of orders pending to apprehend individuals and public servants implicated in the Acteal Massacre.

• Of the Federal and State governments we urge the disarmament and dissolution of paramilitary groups in Chiapas, whose presence was responsible for the tragic events on December 22nd, 1997.

• Of the Federal Congress we ask for a classification in the Federal Penal Code for a crime of massacre and also paramilitarization to ensure that these grave crimes do not remain unpunished in the future.

Please send your appeals to:

• Presidente Vicente Fox Quesada,

Residencia Oficial de Los Pinos,

Colonia San Miguel Chapultepec, Ciudad de México

Fax: ( 01.55) 55 22 94 13

E-mail :

• Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (Federal Supreme Court)

Ministro Presidente Mariano Azuela Güitrón

Conmutador: (01) 51301100 Ext1. 1303 / 1304 / Ext2. 6050 / 6021

Pino Suárez No. 2 Col. Centro

México, 06065, D.F.


• Procuraduría General de la República: (Federal Attorney General)

Rafael Macedo de la Concha,

Reforma Norte esquina Violeta 75. Colonia Guerrero CP. 06300. México DF.

Tel: ( 01.55) 53 46 20 03 y 53 46 20 03 Fax: (525) 3 46 09 06

• Cámara de Senadores (House of Senators)

Coordinación de Comunicación Social

Xicoténcatl 9, mezanine, Col. Centro

06018, México, D.F.

Tel: 51302200 ext. 2081, 90, 91


• Cámara de Diputados (House of Representatives)

Coordinación de Comunicación Social:

Av. Congreso de la Unión s/n

Palacio Legislativo de San Lázaro

Edificio “A”, Planta principal. Col El Parque,

15690, México, D.F.

Tel:,, ext. 3000


• Lic. Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía (Governor of Chiapas)

Gobernador Constitucional de Chiapas

Palacio de gobierno, 1er Piso, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas

Conmutador 61 2-90-47, 61 2-90-48,61 2-10-93, 61 2-33-52 y 61 2-05-28

Correo electrónico:

• Lic. Mariano Herrán Salvatti (Attorney General of Justice)

Procurador General De Justicia

Libramiento Norte Oriente s/n, 3er. Nivel

Infonavit “El Rosario” Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas CP 30064

Conmutador 61 6-53-59, 61 6-53-65, 61 6-53-74, 61 6-53-73 Ext 300 – 303.

• Juez Primero de Distrito del Vigésimo Circuito Judicial (District Judge)

Bulevar Ángel Albino Corzo 2641

Colonia Las Palmas Edificio A Planta Baja.

Palacio de Justicia

Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas

Teléfono: (961) 6178700, 6143448 (Pedir tono de fax)

• Juez Segundo de Distrito del Vigésimo Circuito Judicial (District Judge)

Bulevar Ángel Albino Corzo 2641

Colonia Las Palmas Edificio A Planta Baja.

Palacio de Justicia

Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas

Teléfono: (961) 6178700, 6143448 (Pedir tono de fax)

• Juez de lo Penal San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas (Criminal Judge)

Lic. Isabel Álvarez Ramos

Carretera San Cristóbal – Ocosingo Km. 20 Junto al Cereso No.5

Fax (967) 6743022

Phone: (967) 674321

San Cristóbal de Las Casas Chiapas

Please send copies of your letters to:

Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas

Brasil 14 Barrio de Mexicanos, CP 29240, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México

Teléfonos: (967) 6787395 – 6787396 – 6783548 Fax (967) 678 3551


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