August 9, 2005

Mexico lax in pursuing ‘dirty war’ crimes-Amnesty

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Foot-dragging by prosecutors and a
lack of government interest could mean Mexico will fail to try
former officials for "dirty war" human rights atrocities, the
head of Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary general, said the rights
group was worried a much-vaunted government program to punish
those responsible for Mexico's 1960s and 1970s campaign of
repression against students and activists had failed.

"We are very disappointed that there has been so little
progress on the dirty war," she told Reuters in a telephone
interview during a visit to Mexico.

"We fear that the window is basically closing now on that
issue for this administration," she said.

There was no immediate reaction from the Mexican government
to the Amnesty official's remarks.

In July, a Mexican court ruled there was insufficient
evidence to try former President Luis Echeverria for genocide,
ending a long legal battle to put him behind bars for bloodshed
during his rule.

It was a major setback in President Vicente Fox's drive to
punish those responsible for state repression during 71 years
of single-party rule that ended with his election in 2000.

Unlike neighboring nations in Central America, Mexico was
never under military rule, but in the late 1960s and 1970s the
Institutional Revolutionary Party cracked down on leftist
dissidents and hundreds were killed.

Special prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo, appointed by Fox to
investigate "dirty war" crimes, still plans to charge
Echeverria in a 1968 massacre considered the bloodiest single
moment of the crackdown, when he was interior minister.

However, Amnesty says official inertia and a lack of
planning mean it is unlikely that officials will be punished
before Fox leaves office in 18 months' time.

"Mexico has taken a very strong and positive stand on human
rights issues internationally but there is not the same
intensity ... domestically," Khan said.

"The special prosecutor has done very little in terms of
developing a strategy of how to address (impunity)."

Amnesty also said Fox had not made sufficient progress on
stopping rights abuses by officials like the police, known for
arbitrary detentions and corruption

"The major human rights concern that we continue to have is
the endemic human rights problems at the level of the state,"
Khan said. "That is the level at which the majority of the
population come into contact with abuses by authorities."