Ejido Morelia: Impunity for the Army
The victims’ family members attend the recognition of responsibility in San Cristóbal. Photo: Chiapas Paralelo
By: Miguel Angel de los Santos*
In January 1994 an internal armed conflict began in Chiapas, when the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, its initials in Spanish) declared war against the Mexican National Army and took various municipal capitals. Armed conflicts are governed by the rules of International Humanitarian Law, among them the Geneva Conventions and their protocols, which establish, among other things, that the parties in conflict must respect those who do not take part in the hostilities, and those who, having taken part, are injured or have been taken prisoner. Those who do not comply with these norms incur war crimes and violate human rights.
It was within the above context that a Mexican National Army brigade entered the Ejido Morelia, in the municipality of Altamirano, Chiapas, the morning of January 7, 1994. They detained 33 indigenous men, who they submitted and laid face down on the basketball court. They also detained Severiano Santiz Gómez, Sebastián Santiz López and Hermelindo Santiz Gómez, who were separated in order to take them to the sacristy of the church, where they were tortured, for allegedly belonging to the EZLN. This was the last time they were seen or heard. A few weeks later, their remains appeared near the ejido. They had been executed by their captors in violation of the norms of International Humanitarian Law.
Despite clear evidence, the Mexican National Army has denied responsibility for the acts and the Mexican State continues protecting it, refusing to investigate or simulating doing so, in order to avoid punishing the military personnel involved and responsible for the arbitrary execution.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had already pointed out the Mexican State’s international responsibility for the violations that the soldiers incurred. Such reproach is clear in the background report number 48/97, derived from case 11.411, known as Severiano and Hermelindo Santiz Gómez “Ejido Morelia.” 
Almost twenty-two years later, the State has accepted its international responsibility in the human rights violations that the Mexican National Army committed, and in the terms in which the IACHR would point it out. Nevertheless, this admission has not represented punishment of those responsible.
On November 10, the signing of an Agreement for Attention to the Background Report No. 48/97 was carried out. Representatives of the Mexican State and the widows of the three victims signed the agreement.
Starting with the international principle that one who violates an international obligation, like the rights provided in the American Convention on Human Rights, is obliged to make reparations, the agreement contemplates the reparations measures agreed to by the parties, and that the State has to implement.
About the factual basis for the referenced background report, the ministerial investigation will continue until the complete clarification of the facts and the sanction of those responsible. They also agreed on diverse rehabilitation measures for family members of the victims; a public act of recognition of responsibility; the construction of a community park and corresponding compensatory indemnifications.
The path of justice is open, and the agreement represents an important gesture from the Mexican State to recognize and admit its responsibility in the deprivation of the lives of Severiano Santiz Gómez, Sebastián Santiz López and Hermelindo Santiz Gómez; nevertheless, it turns out that the human rights violations will only be resolved and compensated for when those responsible are taken to the courts and a sanction is imposed on them.
* Miguel Angel de los Santos is the lawyer for the victims’ families.
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, November 13, 2015