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Friday, January 15, 1999 Published at 08:07 GMT

World: Americas

Mexico accused of human rights abuses

The military police is accused of torture, executions and false statements

From Mexico Correspondent Peter Greste

A human rights group has accused Mexico's prosecutors and judges of human rights abuses, including torture and so-called disappearances.

The organisation, Human Rights Watch, has published a damning two-year study of the Mexican justice system which examined abuses by soldiers, state and federal police and public prosecutors.

On paper, Mexico has an impressive array of laws and commissions protecting human rights but the New York-based organisation, Human Rights Watch, spent two years studying what it says is the reality of Mexico's justice system - and it found a very different picture.

[ image: President Zedillo acknowledges human rights abuses]
President Zedillo acknowledges human rights abuses
The organisation discovered what it says were examples of widespread human rights abuses at every level - routine torture of suspects, fabrication of evidence, extra-judicial executions.

Human Rights Watch's executive director for the Americas, Josť Miguel Vivanco, said the justice system is more likely to prosecute a torture victim than send the torturer to prison.

In one case, the organisation found judicial police had been assigned to investigate the shooting of a man they had been accused of murdering.

And in another case, a judge threw out the Spanish-language statements of two witnesses who had accused a fellow Indian of rebel activity. The Indians speak only the native dialect.

Closing rank

Human Rights Watch spokesman Joel Solomon told the BBC that the authorities are more likely to close ranks against allegations of abuses rather than bring the abusers to justice.

But President Ernesto Zedillo has at least acknowledged the problem and has accepted the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The government also pleads a lack of funds to pay for adequate training of police and judges but Mr Solomon said a genuine commitment to protecting human rights costs nothing.

Since 1994, foreign human rights observers have tried to uncover evidence of abuse by the military police in their clashes with left-wing Zapatista rebels in the southern state of Chiapas.

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