Mexican army accused of abuses

MEXICO CITY - The Mexican army, deployed across the nation as part of the government's campaign against drug cartels, has murdered prisoners, tortured civilians, and captured suspects illegally, Amnesty International said yesterday.

In a scathing report, the human-rights organization was especially critical of Mexico's civilian authorities for failing or refusing to investigate or prosecute military abuses.

"The abuses we have seen contribute to the deterioration of the security situation in Mexico," Kerrie Howard, deputy director of Amnesty's Americas Program, said in a statement. "By failing to take action to prevent and punish serious human-rights violations the Mexican government could be seen to be complicit in these crimes."

The government said it would examine Amnesty's findings but defended its respect for human rights. The army's role in fighting drug traffickers was necessary but temporary, a government statement said, to "rescue public spaces seized by criminals." - Los Angeles Times

Ex-Nazi admits killing 3 civilians

AACHEN, Germany - A former member of the Nazi SS being tried for murder admitted in court yesterday that he killed three Dutch civilians during World War II but said he was following orders.

Heinrich Boere, 88, told the Aachen state court in a statement read by attorney Gordon Christiansen that he had killed a bicycle-shop owner, a pharmacist, and another civilian in 1944 as a member of a Waffen SS hit squad. "As a simple soldier, I learned to carry out orders," Boere said.

Boere has not entered a plea, as is usual under the German court system, but Christiansen said after the hearing that he would argue for an acquittal based on the assertion that Boere had to follow orders. - AP

U.S. and Russia debate Kosovo

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The United States and Russia faced off over Kosovo at the United Nations' highest court yesterday, with U.S. officials arguing the world should honor Kosovo's declaration of independence while Russia insisted it was still part of Serbia.

The International Court of Justice has been asked to give its opinion on whether Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence was legal. The United States and Russia are two of 29 countries weighing in on the matter before the court rules next year.

The case is being watched not only because the decision has the potential to upset the delicate peace in the former Yugoslavia but also because other countries with independence-minded provinces, such as Russia, China, and Spain, fear Kosovo could set a precedent. - AP

Elsewhere:

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday lamented what he described as a steady diet of news about evil in the world, saying it hardens hearts, as he prayed at Rome's Spanish Steps. "Every day, through the newspapers, television, radio, evil is reported, repeated, amplified, making us used to horrible things, making us become insensitive, and, in some way, poisoning us," the pope said before a statue of the Virgin Mary to mark the Dec. 8 Catholic feast day in her honor.