Supreme Court declines to hear case involving ex-Mexico President Zedillo and 1997 massacre

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the appeal of 10 people who tried to sue former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo on allegations he bore some responsibility for a 1997 massacre in Mexico and tried to cover it up.

The court didn't give a reason for declining to hear the case. A federal judge in Connecticut and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York dismissed the lawsuit, saying Zedillo has immunity as a former head of state.

The unnamed plaintiffs say they survived the massacre of 45 people in Acteal, a village in the southern state of Chiapas, by paramilitaries with alleged government ties. They say Zedillo, who was president from 1994 to 2000, knew about the paramilitary actions in Acteal, covered them up and broke international human rights laws.

The lawsuit originally was filed in Connecticut, where Zedillo is an international studies professor at Yale University.

Zedillo has called the allegations groundless and slanderous.

"The Supreme Court has finally put this frivolous lawsuit to an end," Zedillo's lawyer, Jonathan M. Freiman, said in an email to The Associated Press. "Mr. Zedillo served his nation with 'tremendous vision and courage,' as President Clinton once noted."

The massacre occurred during a conflict that began three years earlier when the rebel Zapatista movement staged an armed uprising to demand more rights for Indians in Chiapas. Paramilitaries accused of having government ties attacked Roman Catholic activists who sympathized with the rebels, killing the 45 people, including children as young as 2 months old.

The lawsuit alleged that Zedillo's administration ended peace talks with the Zapatistas and launched a plan to arm and train local militias to fight them.

After the killings, Zedillo denounced them as criminal. Messages seeking comment were left with Zedillo on Monday.

The plaintiffs' lawyers, Edward Guedes and Roger Kobert, also argued that a Department of State recommendation backing Zedillo's immunity claim was based on an illegal and unauthorized letter by the Mexican ambassador to the U.S.

"It is a shame that the doctrine of sovereign immunity ... has, for the most part, evolved to the point that the courts of this country believe themselves incapable of even questioning the legitimacy of any State Department invocation of the doctrine," Guedes said Monday.

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