Chiapas: Acteal, Site of Conscience, Impunity and the Other Justice

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“We took our case before the highest court in the nation, (…) but all we encountered there was supreme impunity.”

On Dec. 22, 1997, 300 people prayed for peace when 45 of them were massacred by paramilitaries, a result of the low intensity warfare that the government implemented against the zapatista rebels and their sympathizers.

Twelve years later, this “State crime” which has been denounced by General J.F. Gallardo, continues in impunity. None of the planners of the massacre were found guilty and this year several of those who carried out the massacre were released. Denied justice and an official history, the Abejas Civil Society (La Sociedad Civil Las Abejas) held the Forum of Conscience and Hope, Building the Other Justice… (Foro de Conciencia y Esperanza, Construyendo la Otra Justicia…) on Dec. 21, 2009. The Other Justice (A grassroots alternative to the official justice system)is that which remains in the historic memory of the people. The Other Justice does not seek punishment but rather repentance and reconciliation as was stated by the president of the Abejas. “The conscience is a very strong force in the construction of the other justice,” he said, “we have to begin with our own conscience,” “continue with the conscience of the people in general,” and “Finally, although it is the most difficult, (…) to touch the conscience of the aggressors.” As a result, the following day Acteal was declared a “Site of the Conscience of Humanity,” according to the banner hung above the entrance to the site “for inspiration for all of those that struggle for peace and an indelible memory for future generations.”

To make sure that the massacre at Acteal is never forgotten, on Dec. 21 the director of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (CDH Frayba) read the names of each of the 45 victims aloud. On Dec. 22, the representative from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico defined the massacre as “the bloodiest event in Mexico’s recent history” and denounced: forgetfulness and impunity are not the response expected from a democratic State which respects human rights. The bishop of the San Cristobal de Las Cases diocese, who celebrated the commemorative mass on Dec. 22, stated in his homily “It is a mockery and shameful that due to minor legal issues, 29 individuals have been exonerated [after committing] this horrendous crime (La Jornada, 23/12/09).

In the presence of more than 600 peoples, a large number of priests and social organizations from Chiapas and other states, in addition to a strong presence of international solidarity, the Abejas shared their path, their pain and their hope through a small theatre production and a long declaration in which they reiterated their vindication not solely for justice, but for peace. “We don’t want a war that will cost the blood of millions of brothers and sisters. We want a new revolution, but not a violent one, so that we can have liberty, justice and peace and to take back the land from those who are plundering and destroying it.”

Listen to the Forum of Conscience and Hope, Building the Other Justice (in Spanish):

Ponencias del “Foro de Conciencia y Esperanza, Construyendo la Otra Justicia…”, 21 de diciembre de 2009 (blog de Las Abejas)

Programa de Radio con las conclusiones del encuentro (blog de Las Abejas)

For More Information:

Acteal: sembrando paz y esperanza (artículo de Milenio Online, 21/12/09)

Acteal, sitio de conciencia (Boletín 41 del Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, 22/12/09)

Acteal sitio de conciencia: un recordatorio de la impunidad en México (artículo de La Jornada, 22/12/09)

“Una burla”, el desenlace jurídico del caso Acteal: Arizmendi (artículo de La Jornada, 23/12/09)

Pide Alto Comisionado de ONU al Estado poner fin a impunidad en caso Acteal (artículo de La Jornada, 22/12/09)

Foro de Conciencia y Esperanza, la Otra Justicia (artículo de Indymedia Chiapas, 22/12/09)

Sites of Conscience webpage

For More Information from SIPAZ:

The Massacre at Acteal (SIPAZ documents)

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