Rights court condemns Mexico in 'dirty war' case

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2009 8:31 PM

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned Mexico on Tuesday for failing to adequately investigate the 1974 disappearance of a guerrilla sympathizer during the country's "dirty war."

The decision marked the first time an international court has ruled against Mexico in a human rights case stemming from the conflict with leftist guerrilla groups in the 1970s.

The Costa Rica-based court ordered Mexico to thoroughly investigate and punish those responsible for the Aug. 25, 1974, disappearance of community leader Rosendo Radilla in the southern state of Guerrero. Radilla, 25, was allegedly detained by soldiers in the city of Atoyac, then a hotbed of activity by leftist guerrilla groups.

The court ordered Mexico to pay $238,000 in damages and reparations to relatives of Padilla and the rights groups that introduced the case. It also ordered the government to recognize its responsibility at a public event and reform its laws on "forced disappearances" to conform with international standards.

"Forced disappearance" is a term frequently used in Latin America to describe the cases of people who vanish after being detained by security forces.

The Mexican Interior Department, which had argued in the court that it should not be condemned for a 35-year-old case, pledged in a statement to abide by the ruling.

Radilla's daughter, Tita, said she was satisfied with the ruling but would keep the pressure on Mexican authorities to resolve her father's disappearance.

"We hope that the state complies, especially with the investigation. We want to know what happened," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The human rights group that filed the complaint on behalf Radilla expressed hope that the ruling would serve as a precedent for other "dirty war" disappearances.

"The case of Mr. Radilla is a paradigmatic because it was not an isolated case," said Maria Sirvent of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights. "It represents hundreds of cases."

Mexico's governmental National Human Rights Commission said in a 2001 report that an estimated 275 people had been disappeared, mainly in the 1970s and 80s, though other rights activists say the figure could be 1,200 or more.