On July 19, 1996, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
(hereinafter “the Commission” or “the IACHR”) received a
petition from the Zapatista National Liberation Army (hereinafter “the
EZLN”) and the Miguel Agustin Pro Juárez Human Rights Center
(hereinafter “the petitioners”) claiming that the United States of
Mexico (hereafter “the State”, “the State of Mexico”, or
“Mexico”) has incurred in international responsibility for the
violation of various rights enshrined in the American Convention on
Human Rights (hereafter “the American Convention”) by
extrajudicially executing Sebastian Sánchez López and Sebastian López
López and causing the forced disappearance of Mateo Jiménez López.
The petitioners initially claimed violation of the rights to life
(Article 4), to equal protection before the law (Article 24) and to
judicial protection (Article 25). They later added violations of the
rights to physical, mental and moral integrity (Article 5), personal
liberty (Article 7), freedom of conscience and religion (Article 12),
freedom of thought and expression (Article 13) and freedom of
association (Article 16).
According to the petition, on May 24, 1996, a paramilitary group
ambushed several indigenous persons in the municipality of Tila, state
of Chiapas, killing Sebastian Sánchez López and Sebastian López López
and depriving of liberty Mateo Jiménez López, who has since not
reappeared. The petitioners filed a complaint with the Office of the
Public Prosecutor of Chiapas. Receiving no response, they took it that
the authorities did not have the desire to clarify the facts. For its
part, the State claims that all domestic remedies have not been
exhausted and that the reasons for exception cited by the petitioners
are not admissible. It asks the IACHR to declare the case inadmissible
on this basis and on the basis of the absence of any violation of human
The Commission concludes in this report that the case meets the
requirements for admissibility established in the American Convention.
However, the Commission rejects the parts of the petition
pertaining to Articles 12, 13, 16 and 24 of the American Convention,
since the information presented does not state a colorable claim of a
violation of any of the rights enshrined in the aforementioned articles.
Thus, the Commission declares the case admissible, informs the
parties of its decision and continues its examination of the alleged
violations of Articles 4, 5, 7, 8, and 25 of the American Convention.
At the same time, it places itself at the disposal of the parties
to undertake a friendly settlement procedure and makes the present
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION
On April 2, 1997 the Commission requested information of the Mexican
State on the pertinent parts of the petition.
After receiving the observations from the petitioners, the IACHR
forwarded them to the State on October 7, 1997 and it gave the case
The State forwarded its observations to the Commission
on February 5, 1998, April 22, 1998, June 12, 1998, and September
The petitioners sent their observations on April 22, 1998 and
August 6, 1998.
By virtue of these communications, the Commission gathered the
information necessary to complete the procedure set forth in Article 48
of the American Convention.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
The position of the petitioners underwent changes between the time the
original petition was made and their final observations were received on
August 6, 1998.
The initial petition cited alleged violations of Articles 4, 24 and 25
of the American Convention. In regard to the facts, the original
May 24, 1996, a group of heavily armed persons identified as members of
the self-proclaimed “Peace and Justice” paramilitary group ambushed
a group of indigenous peasants near Comunidad Usipá, Municipality of
Tila, Chiapas, shooting dead Misters Sebastian Sánchez López and
Sebastian López López.
addition to the death of these two peasants and also as a result of the
ambush, 19 year-old student Mateo Jiménez López disappeared and has
not reappeared since.
The petitioners added that charges were brought before the Office of the
Public Prosecutor of Chiapas, but that they never received any further
information from that office. They also undertook to talk with members
of “Peace and Justice”, but that organization escalated its acts of
violence nonetheless. The
petition contains information on Peace and Justice, including names of
members and activities attributed to that group: “repression of
villages or individuals that have expressed their discontent with the
reigning violence, or who have participated actively in the opposition,
or who simply have not expressed support of the group.”
The first communication of the petitioners presents information
on various acts of violence and harassment that they attribute to
“Peace and Justice”. These were allegedly carried out in northern
Chiapas around the time of the events forming the basis of the petition
and were presented as examples of violations that would continue to go
With regard to the exhaustion of domestic remedies, the petitioners
Observations to the State’s reply
The observations to the initial response by the State broadened the
petition by claiming violations of Articles 5(2), 7 (paragraphs 1 to 6),
12(1), 13(1), 16(1) and 25 of the American Convention.
The petitioners said that the response received from the State was
“brief, evasive and incomplete.” They claimed that preliminary
inquiry 1338/CAJ/4B/96, mentioned in the response, was previously
unknown to them; that the State never informed them of the “supposed
investigation”; and that “without further explanation” the State
suddenly said that one Rubén López Pérez had been charged with the
murder of Sebastian Sánchez López and Sebastian López López.
The petitioners said that the State of Mexico never referred to this
fact in its response and that “so far nothing is known about it and as
was said, there has not even been an investigation of the case”. In
regard to the petition on the disappearance of Mateo Jiménez López,
the Mexican government contradicts itself when it says that there has
not been any delay in this case, because the State itself reports that
after more than one year since the two homicides were committed, it is
clear that it has not been possible to apprehend the alleged
perpetrator. And in regard to the disappearance, there is not even any
sign of an investigation having begun.
In response to the State’s claim that all domestic remedies have not
been exhausted, the petitioners maintained that they are not obliged to
go before the National Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the
CNDH”) as “the proceedings and rulings of such Mexican bodies are
not binding and thus should not be considered requirements for
The petitioners added that the only remedy available to them through
Mexican law is the preliminary inquiry (“averiguación previa”)
before the Office of the Public Prosecutor, and that such remedy is
“neither easy, ideal, nor effective…”
The submission in question also contains an extensive section providing
information on “Peace and Justice” and that group’s alleged
connections to the Government of Mexico and paramilitary organizations.
That section includes 23 statements and complaints made by inhabitants
of northern Chiapas between June 30, 1996 and May 26, 1997, and extracts
from articles published by Mexican newspapers with national circulation
between September 6, 1995 and July 18, 1997.
In communications received on April 27 and June 12, 1998, the
petitioners stated their position of refusing to submit their
observations to the reports presented by the State of Mexico, as they
considered that “it did not offer information on the substance of the
question.” This position was confirmed in a communication received by
the IACHR on August 6, 1998.
The Mexican State reported that the Office of the Public Prosecutor of
Chiapas (hereinafter “the PGJ”) initiated preliminary inquiry 1338/CAJ/4B/96
on May 24, 1996, “against the person or persons responsible for the
crime of HOMICIDE of the persons known in life as SEBASTIAN SANCHEZ
LOPEZ AND SEBASTIAN LOPEZ LOPEZ.”(sic).
Later, the investigation was begun by the competent judge,
against Rubén López Pérez “as the probable perpetrator” of the
homicide of Sebastian Sánchez López and Sebastian López López.
The State further informed that an arrest warrant was issued for
the prosecuted individual and that later a formal request was made to
the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Tabasco for the execution of that
measure, since the authorities of Chiapas had learned that Rubén López
Pérez had fled to that state.
As to the requirements set out in Article 46(1)(b) of the American
Convention, the State held:
the petitioners themselves show by not invoking it, the exception stated
in Article 46.2 of the Convention does not apply, since Mexican domestic
legislation does provide remedies and legal processes to protect the
right or rights that they claim have been violated. This means that
effective legal remedies have always been available to the petitioners
and if they did not avail themselves of them, it is for reasons
imputable only to them.
petitioners try to limit the concept of remedy to legal challenge
through the courts, although they tacitly recognize that there are other
administrative and jurisdictional remedies available to them within the
Mexican legal system. Such remedies make it possible for the competent
State authorities to hear the populace’s complaints of actions carried
out by governmental bodies and persons in their employ.
the existence of said remedies and legal processes make it clear that
the petitioners could have used them, since nothing was keeping them
from doing so. If they did not avail themselves of them, it was by their
Therefore, the exception stipulated in Article 46.2.b of the
Convention cannot be invoked either, since they were never impeded in an
attempt to seek remedy, but rather access to said remedies was actually
On this basis, it asked the IACHR to declare the case inadmissible, as
it maintained that:
The State also countered the petitioners’ allegations concerning the
“Peace and Justice” organization, which it described as an
“organization voluntarily founded by certain groups of farmers and
cattle-raisers discontent with the illegal occupation of private lands
by various civil associations.” After justifying the activities of
said organization, the State went on to clarify that the organization
has no connection whatsoever with the Government of Mexico. The State
also objected to the “the vague nature of the evidence and the
speculations” put forward by the petitioners regarding alleged
governmental implication in the events.
With regard to the forced disappearance of Mateo Jiménez López, the
State did not address the subject in its initial communications.
In comments dated February 5, 1998, it simply noted that the name
of Mr. Jiménez López was not registered in the “Program of
Disappeared Persons” run by the National Commission on Human Rights
(hereinafter “the CNDH”).
On September 10, 1998, the State informed the IACHR that the
person in question “is incarcerated in Yajalón, Chiapas for the
murder of José Tila López Gracia and thus there is no disappearance
involved as the petitioners erroneously and groundlessly claim.” To
clear up this apparent confusion, on December 21, 1998, the Commission
requested information from the State on the circumstances surrounding
the arrest of Mr. Mateo Jiménez López.
The State replied to the request on February 5, 1999, and informed that
Mr. Mateo López Pérez had been placed before the first instance judge
in the city of Yajalón on February 25, 1998. On March 18, 1999, the
IACHR asked the State of Mexico to explain the difference in names in
order to determine if the person in question was the same person being
claimed to have disappeared.
The State informed the Commission on April 1st, 1999
that it was actually the same person, and that the confusion had
happened for the following reason:
its deposition before the agent of the Office of the Public Prosecutor,
Mr. José Torres López, father of the deceased, mentioned the names of
Mateo López Perez and Mateo Jimenez López. However, in a later stage
of the procedure, Mr. Torres clarified that the correct name of the
person in question was Mateo López Pérez.
Torres also declared that Mateo López Pérez lived in the community of
Panchuc, Municipality of Tila, Chiapas.
This information matches that given by Mateo López Pérez
himself in a recent interview carried out in the CERESO penitentiary at
Cerro Hueco, Chiapas, where he is currently detained.
Competence of the Commission ratione
materiae, ratione personae, et ratione temporis
The submissions made in this case describe acts that would violate
various rights recognized by and enshrined in the American Convention.
Such acts occurred at a time when Mexico had the obligation to respect
and guarantee all the rights established in the aforementioned
Therefore, the IACHR is competent ratione
materiae, ratione personae, and
ratione temporis to examine the facts and substance of the petition.
Admissibility requirements for the petition
Exhaustion of domestic remedies
States party to the American Convention must ensure observance of the
rights enshrined in it and provide domestic remedies for the effective
investigation of violation of such rights, punishment of those guilty of
violating them and compensation for victims.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has pointed out:
the generally recognized principles of international law and
international practice, the rule which requires the prior exhaustion of
domestic remedies is designed for the benefit of the State, for that
rule seeks to excuse the State from having to respond to charges before
an international body for acts imputed to it before it has had the
opportunity to remedy them by internal means.
Here the State argues that the petition is inadmissible because domestic
remedies have not been exhausted.
The Inter-American Court has established that when a State argues
that this requirement for admissibility has not been met, it is up to
the other party to show that such remedies were in fact exhausted or
that the exceptions cited in Article 46(2) of the American Convention
Article 46(2)(c) of the American Convention includes as an exception the
unjustified delay in the decision concerning domestic remedies.
According to the petition, the extrajudicial execution of
Sebastian Sánchez López and Sebastian López López and the illegal
deprivation of liberty of Mateo Jiménez López occurred in May of 1996.
A preliminary analysis of the record of the case before the
Commission shows that during the aforementioned period, the
jurisdictional bodies have not acted with the due diligence required in
the obligation to investigate in a serious, impartial and complete
manner the violations of human rights allegedly committed in the instant
As regards the admissibility of the instant case, the Commission
determines prima facie that
there has been an unreasonable delay in the decision on the
jurisdictional remedies presented by the petitioners in Mexico.
Therefore, the IACHR applies the exception of Article 46(2)(c) of
the American Convention.
The Commission shall rule on the allegations regarding the
violation of the right to judicial protection (Article 25 of the
American Convention) after a full analysis, in its decision on the
merits of this case.
To that effect, the IACHR shall weigh the arguments regarding the
facts, the evidence presented by the parties, as well as the legal
Period for presentation
The State did not cite among its arguments the requirement stipulated in
Article 46(1)(b) and it is not appropriate to analyze it in this report
as both parties agree that the internal legal proceedings have not
Duplication of proceedings
The exceptions under Articles 46(1)(d) and 47(d) have not been cited by
the State of Mexico and do not arise from the information in the record.
Characterization of alleged violations
The Commission considers that the petition describes, in principle, acts
that could constitute a violation of the rights guaranteed under
Articles 4, 5, 7, 8 and 25 of the American Convention.
The petitioners have also alleged the violation of the rights to freedom
of conscience and religion; freedom of thought and expression; freedom
of movement and residence; and the right to equal protection.
However, the record shows that the petitioners have failed to
state a colorable claim of a violation of the rights protected,
respectively, in Articles 12, 13, 16, 22 and 24 of the American
Therefore, the petition is manifestly groundless as to such
The Commission concludes that the petition is admissible as far as the
accusations of alleged violations of the rights to life, to humane
treatment, to freedom, to a fair trial, and judicial protection under
the American Convention.
Accordingly, the Commission shall focus its considerations and
its decision on such allegations when it rules on the merits of the
As to the other facts alleged in the initial petition and those added to
it at a later date, the Commission considers that the requirements set
forth in Article 47(b) of the American Convention have not been met.
Therefore, the IACHR concludes that the petition is inadmissible with
respect to the alleged violations of the rights protected by Articles
12, 13, 16 and 24 of the American Convention.
Based on the arguments of fact and law set out above, and without
prejudging on the merits of the case in any way,
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS,
To declare the instant case admissible and to proceed to the analysis of
the merits of the matter, as to the alleged violations of the rights
enshrined in Articles 4, 5, 7, 8 and 25 of the American Convention.
To declare inadmissible the allegations in this case regarding
violations of Articles 12, 13, 16 and 24 of the American Convention.
To notify the parties of this decision.
To place itself at the disposal of the parties with a view to reaching a
friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for the human
rights recognized in the American Convention and to invite the parties
to present their respective opinions on this possibility, and
To publish this decision and include it in its Annual Report to be
presented to the OAS General Assembly.
Done and signed at the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in the city of Washington, D.C., on this 4th day of May 1999. (Signed): Robert K. Goldman, Chairman; Hélio Bicudo, First Vice-Chairman; Claudio Grossman, Second Vice- Chairman; Commission Members Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Carlos Ayala Corao and Jean Joseph Exumé.
The State expressed that it was the same person identified in the
original petition as Mateo Jiménez López, supposed victim of
State of Mexico deposited the instrument of ratification of the
American Convention on 3 April 1982.
Court of Human Rights, Case of Viviana Gallardo et.al, No. G 101/81,
Resolution of 13 November 1981, para. 26.
Along the same lines the Court established that:
rule of prior exhaustion of domestic remedies allows the State to
resolve the problem under its internal law before being confronted
with an international proceeding. This is particularly true in the
international jurisdiction of human rights, because the latter
reinforces or complements the domestic jurisdiction (American
Court of Human Rights, Velásquez Rodriguez Case, Judgment of 29
July 1988, para. 61.
previous occasions the IACHR has concluded that some parts of a case
are admissible under Article 47(b) of the American Convention, while
other do not meet the requirements of the self-same Article. See,
for example, IACHR, 1998 Annual Report, Report Nº 33/98 (Case
10.545 – Clemente Ayala Torres et. al), Mexico, 5 May 1998, par.
44 and 47.