Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo won’t face trial for the 1997 massacre of 45 people in a Mexican village. The Acteal massacre was allegedly condoned by the former president, who is said even to have aided it; but despite these allegations, a court in Connecticut dismissed the suit saying that Zedillo, who is now a professor at Yale, has immunity.
Mexico’s foreign ministry has said that immunity of heads of foreign courts “is based on international custom, with the aim of ensuring respect for the equal sovereignty of states,” or in other words, the man cannot be charged in terms of the state he lead.
And the U.S. seems to agree. State Department legal adviser Harold Hongju Koh wrote a letter to the U.S. District Court in Hartford, Connecticut, saying that “This complaint is predicated on former President Zedillo’s actions as President, not private conduct.”
If the plaintiffs, unnamed relatives and survivors represented by Rafferty, Kobert, Tenenholtz, Bounds & Hess, wish they can appeal the ruling made by U.S. District Judge Michael Shea.
The massacre in question pertained to the armed uprising of the Zapatistas, who arose in 1994 seeking more rights for Indians in Southern state of Chiapas. Catholic activists sympathetic to the Indians’ plight were the target of a paramilitary attack that is alleged to be tied to the government. The massacre attacked and killed 45 people, who were praying at a church, including many children, some as young as 2 months old.
Zedillo called the massacre criminal and sought government investigation, but a 2011 lawsuit involving 10 unnamed plaintiffs alleged that he was part of a plan to train local militias to stage the attack. They thus have sued Zedillo for $50 million.
“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,” Amnesty International said in a 1998 statement on Acteal, as reported by Fox News.
Zedillo has called such charges “slanderous” and “unfounded.”