HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A lawsuit against former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo that accused him of crimes against humanity in connection with the 1997 killings of 45 people in a Mexican village has been dismissed in a U.S. court.
A legal doctrine giving former heads of state immunity from lawsuits applies to Zedillo's case, U.S. District Judge Michael Shea in Hartford ruled Thursday in throwing out the lawsuit. Zedillo has denied the allegations, and the State Department backed his immunity claim.
The lawsuit was filed in Connecticut because Zedillo, president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000, is an international studies professor at Yale University in New Haven.
The massacre on Dec. 22, 1997, was the worst instance of violence during a conflict that began when the Zapatista movement staged a brief armed uprising in early 1994 to demand more rights for Indians in the southern state of Chiapas. During a prayer meeting in Acteal, paramilitaries with alleged government ties attacked Roman Catholic activists who sympathized with the rebels. The assailants killed 45 people over several hours, including children as young as 2 months old.
After the killings, Zedillo denounced them as criminal and urged government and human rights officials to investigate.
But 10 unnamed plaintiffs who say they are survivors of the killings sued Zedillo for $50 million in 2011. Their lawsuit alleges that Zedillo's administration ended peace talks with the Zapatistas and launched a plan to arm and train local militias to fight them. It also claims Zedillo was aware of the actions in Acteal, covered them up and broke international human rights laws under the Geneva Conventions as well as a host of other laws.
When the lawsuit was filed, Zedillo called the allegations slanderous and groundless.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday. It's not clear whether they will appeal Shea's ruling.