HLP on paramilitary and amnesty

La Jornada
December 14, 2000
Correo Ilustrado

HLP's concerns regarding possible benefits to the paramilitary under an amnesty in Chiapas

Señora directora:

The Humanitarian Law Project (HLP) is encouraged by some of the developments in recent days that lend themselves to progress in the peace process with regard to the civil war that exists in Mexico. We are particularly looking forward to a significant reduction in the military presence in Chiapas. We urge compliance with the provisions of the San Andres accords which assure existing international human rights standards relating to indigenous peoples and to which the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) and Mexican government are signatories

An area of concern for HLP, is the status of the paramilitary in Chiapas, Such formations have absolutely no legal standing under international and humanitarian law. Therefore, such groups have no place in the negotiations between the EZLN and the Mexican Government and should not be used as manipulated leverage in peace negotiations. There are two parties to the conflict and they are neither.

HLP is also alarmed to read that the Fox administration will propose an amnesty in Chiapas, which could potentially benefit the perpetrators of heinous crimes and human rights abuses. Such an amnesty is not necessary for those who are truly political prisoners, for real or alleged support of the Zapatistas, as these should be released immediately as victims of a gross miscarriage of justice, not as pardoned criminals. Even if combatants of the EZLN were, at some point to be imprisoned for combat participation, then under international armed conflict law, they can only be held as prisoners of war until the conflict is resolved at which time the government would be obligated to release them immediately.

Also, it is internationally customary for the issue of amnesty to be among the topics of negotiations in the peace process and therefore curious that there would be a proposal to preempt that prerogative which should rightfully include the EZLN.

Humanitarian Law Project¹s Law Commissioner, Todd Howland adds, "An amnesty law would be detrimental to Mexico¹s ability to transcend its history of impunity for human rights violations. To the contrary I would hope that the peace accords would ultimately be designed to end impunity and gain compliance with the rule of law. The purposeful omission of an amnesty in the peace accord process will be crucial for Mexico to begin a new page in its history on solid legal ground and one that should not be undermined by legislative prerogatives."

It is our hope that both parties to the conflict will review their obligations under international humanitarian laws and avail themselves of their value as they proceed on the road toward a lasting peace.


Lydia Brazon
Executive Director
Humanitarian Law Project
Los Angeles, California