- Associated Press - Monday, June 2, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Ten people who say they survived a 1997 massacre in Mexico have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate their lawsuit accusing former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo of bearing some responsibility for it.

A federal judge in Connecticut and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York dismissed the lawsuit, citing a legal doctrine that gives former heads of state immunity from such legal actions. Zedillo has said the allegations against him are groundless and slanderous.

The unnamed plaintiffs say they are survivors of the killings of 45 people in Acteal, a village in the southern state of Chiapas, by paramilitaries with 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.

The plaintiffs filed papers on May 16 asking the nation’s highest court to hear their appeal. They say the lower courts were wrong to dismiss their lawsuit without giving them a chance to revise it.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers also have argued that a Department of State recommendation to the court backing Zedillo’s immunity claim was based on an illegal and unauthorized letter by the Mexican ambassador to the U.S.

“The atrocities perpetrated on the plaintiffs and their families in Mexico were unimaginable, and those in the Mexican government ultimately responsible for the planning and implementation of the Acteal Massacre have never been held accountable,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Edward Guedes and Roger Kobert, said in a statement.

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.

After the killings, Zedillo denounced them as criminal and urged government and human rights officials to investigate.

Zedillo’s lawyer, Jonathan Freiman, said the plaintiffs’ latest appeal is “just another stunt to try to keep alive a frivolous lawsuit.”

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