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Mexican Supreme Court Decision to Facilitate Prosecution of 'Dirty War' Participants - 2003-11-06

The Mexican Supreme Court has opened the way for prosecution of officials who participated in the country's so-called "dirty war" against political insurgents and activists during the 1960s and 1970s. But some members of victims' families are still doubtful that justice will be done.

The court ruling on Wednesday concerned the case of Jesus Piedra Ibarra, who disappeared in the northern city of Monterrey in 1975. The court ruled that there is no statute of limitations for cases in which the victim is still missing.

The ruling sent the case back to a court in Monterrey, where two police officers could now face trial for the abduction of Mr. Piedra Ibarra.

Human rights activists hailed the ruling as a major step toward resolving the hundreds of cases of alleged torture, abduction, and murder that took place during that turbulent time. The ruling was also seen as a victory for President Vicente Fox, who appointed a special prosecutor to look into the cases.

But the mother of Jesus Piedra Ibarra, Rosario Ibarra, says she is not yet ready to celebrate.

She says this was an essential step, but that it comes very late. She says she wants to see all the officials responsible for the illegal actions against activists go to jail, and she also wants to know what happened to her son and other victims of the dirty war. She also expresses fear that some other legal action will occur to block the court's ruling.

There is speculation here in Mexico that the court ruling could lead to further prosecution against former police and military officials. There is also the possibility of legal action against former President Luis Echevarria and other government officials from that time.

Many of the victims of the Mexican dirty war were political activists who opposed the one-party rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ended with the July 2000 election that Mr. Fox won.

But many of the victims, like Mr. Piedra Ibarra, were members of communist insurgent groups that were involved in bank robberies and other violent acts. Human rights activists say it is important that the current government and justice system pursue these cases in order to show that there is no justification for official actions that violate the law and international human rights standards.