the americas

Mexico Sued in Rights Case

MEXICO CITY -- The government of President Vicente Fox has been sued in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights over the case of a U.S. citizen convicted of murder 11 years ago solely on the basis of a confession obtained by torture, officials said yesterday.

The case of Alfonso Martin del Campo Dodd marks the first time a complaint has been filed against Mexico in the court, an arm of the Organization of American States. The case was brought on Thursday by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the court's sister organization, which reviewed the Martin del Campo case last year and recommended it be reopened. The commission also recommended the release of Martin del Campo and that he be compensated for his decade behind bars.

The Mexican government did not comply, so the commission filed its complaint with the court. Mexico is legally bound by treaty to comply with the court's ruling. Proceedings of the commission and the court are confidential, but details were provided by officials familiar with the case.

Fox took office in December 2000 promising to clean up Mexico's record of human rights abuses and torture, which has long been practiced by Mexican police and soldiers.

Mariclaire Acosta, Fox's top human rights adviser, said in an interview last year that if the rights commission recommended Martin del Campo's release, Fox would find a way to comply. Acosta could not be reached for comment. But an aide, Juan Jose Gomez Camacho, said the government was "still working to resolve" the case.

Kevin Sullivan


Toll in Ferry Wreck Raised

DAKAR, Senegal -- Nearly 1,900 people appear to have drowned when a Senegalese ferry capsized in heavy seas last September, almost double the initial estimate, the prime minister said.

Only 64 people escaped from the Joola, which was built to carry 550 passengers and turned over after being caught by gusts of wind and heavy rain. It was one of Africa's worst maritime disasters.

"As I speak to you, we have counted 1,863 victims," Prime Minister Idrissa Seck told parliament. Earlier counts put the toll at around 1,000.

The wreck lies on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Gambia, with most of the bodies still inside. Senegalese authorities plan to tow it to their territorial waters and turn it into a memorial.



U.S. Soldier Hurt in Shooting

BERLIN -- A U.S. soldier was seriously wounded by gunfire after he pulled his car off the road in southern Germany to clear ice from the windshield, police said. There were no arrests, and German investigators and U.S. military officials said there were no indications it was a terrorist attack.

The 26-year-old private first class from the Army's 1st Infantry Division was wearing civilian clothes when he was shot in the left hand and leg while on his way to barracks at Schweinfurt, 60 miles east of Frankfurt, police said. Police investigators are focusing on a personal motive for the attack.

Associated Press

Serb Convicted of War Crimes

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- A Serbian former mayor was found guilty of war crimes for the deportation and forced labor of ethnic Albanians during Kosovo's war.

Andjelko Kolasinac was sentenced to eight years in prison at a retrial held at a local district court in the U.N.-run province, said Andrea Angeli, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Kosovo.

A panel of international judges convicted Kolasinac on three counts, including deportation and registration of ethnic Albanians for forceful displacement, forced labor and failure to prevent looting in the southern town of Orahovac.

Associated Press

Schroeder Reacts to Election

BERLIN -- Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder accepted personal responsibility for two state election defeats on Sunday for his party -- including in his native Lower Saxony -- but rejected the possibility that the vote would result in realignments at the national level or even his resignation.

"I'm not thinking about it, and others are not thinking about it," he said.

His Social Democrats suffered the worst electoral losses since 1945 in Hesse and Lower Saxony states. Schroeder acknowledged the election was a strong voter rebuke of his government's performance on economic and labor reforms.

In an attempt to regain voter confidence, he pledged to speed labor, health and pension reforms and said the government had done a bad job explaining its reform agenda.

Associated Press


A court in Serbia issued an arrest warrant for Slobodan Milosevic's son Marko, who has been charged with assault and is believed to be hiding in Russia. . . . The deaths of seven teens in a massive avalanche in British Columbia this weekend, less than two weeks after an avalanche in the same area killed seven adults, prompted urgent calls for vastly improved systems for predicting danger in the Canadian "high country."