Mexico vigilantes bring 'charges' against 53
By Mark Stevenson ,APMEXICO CITY -- Vigilantes who have taken up arms against drug cartel violence and common crime in southern Mexico announced Thursday they will bring charges ranging from organized crime to kidnapping and extortion against 50 men and three women who they have been holding prisoner at improvised jails.
February 2, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
Villagers armed with hunting rifles, old pistols and small-bore shotguns set up armed patrols and roadblocks in the township of Ayutla almost one month ago to defend their communities against crime, saying authorities have failed to bring peace and safety to the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. So far, the state government has tolerated but not formally recognized the self-defense squads.
The growing movement toward self-policing, which has since spread to other towns in Guerrero, has sparked concern among human rights officials who say residents shouldn't be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
“What is happening in Guerrero state is a warning sign that should alert authorities to do their duty and guarantee public safety, to avoid having these (vigilante) activities grow and outstrip the power of official institutions,” said the head of the National Human Rights Commission, Raul Plascencia. But in townships like Ayutla, it is clear the vigilante movement already has authorities cowed.
Villagers in squads of about a dozen patrol roads and search passing motorists, checking their identification against handwritten lists of “bad guys.”
On Thursday, the unbound, unsmiling detainees were marched between rows of armed, masked vigilantes in the town square of El Meson, in the township of Ayutla. While the detainees appeared to be clean and adequately fed, and bore no obvious signs of mistreatment, reporters at the scene were not allowed to speak with them.
Two weeks before, angry villagers had turned back a team of Guerrero state human rights officials who had gone to visit the detainees and ensure they were being properly treated.
Bruno Placido, the head of a community activist group and a leader of the vigilantes' movement, said the detainees, whom the movement refers to as “people under investigation” not prisoners, would be given a trial by an assembly of villagers.
But Placido did not say what procedures would be used or what kind of defense the detainees would be allowed to mount. “All that will be decided by the assembly,” Placido said.
The trials are expected to start next week.