Mexico's Congress is demanding that President Felipe Calderon sign into law a bill requiring the federal government to protect and pay compensation to victims of organized crime and rights abuses by authorities, the legislature said in a statement.

The Permanent Committee, which assumes legislative duties when Congress is in recess, said the executive branch issued its objections to the bill after the allotted time for such observations had passed.

It therefore voted to return the legislation to Calderon's desk for his signature.

The bill, which received final legislative approval in April, would create a national registry to keep track of crimes such as kidnappings and forced disappearances and provide compensation of up to $70,000 per claim to victims or their relatives.

Some members of the governing National Action Party, or PAN, argued during Wednesday's legislative session that Calderon made valid observations but in the end joined in the unanimous passage of the resolution.

"The fundamental issue is that we legislated to protect the victims and if there were errors attributable to the legislative (branch), the executive (branch), whomever, those mistakes cannot harm those the bill seeks to benefit - who are the victims. If this bill is imperfect, as many are, it can always be improved," PAN Sen. Teresa Ortuño said.

For his part, poet turned peace activist Javier Sicilia, one of the bill's main proponents, said his Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, or MPJD, had lost nearly all faith in the president and hopes the fate of the Victims' Law is not decided by the Supreme Court.

In an interview with a local television station, Sicilia said he expects the president "to keep his word and stop stalling (the Victims' Law), to enact it and then we'd be glad to sit down and look at the observations."

Sicilia blasted Calderon last week for going back on his word and effectively "vetoing" the bill by returning it to Congress with objections on July 1, weeks after a deadline passed for making those observations.

Emilio Alvarez, an MPJD member, said last week the administration should not have waited until nearly 8:30 p.m. on July 1 - after the polls closed in Mexico's general elections - to return the bill to lawmakers.

"Calderon didn't want to veto the bill within the scope of the election process" to avoid harming his National Action Party's interests so he opted for an illegal procedure that left the legislation in limbo for 20 days, Alvarez said then.

Among other observations, Calderon proposed a constitutional change to assert that the responsibility of protecting and compensating victims should fall not only to the federal government but also state and local governments as well.

The lower house gave final legislative approval for the bill on April 30 and it was initially sent to Calderon in early May.

Since the conservative Calderon took office on Dec. 1, 2006, as many as 60,000 people have lost their lives in turf battles among drug cartels and clashes between the gangs and the security forces.

But despite the high murder toll Calderon has consistently defended his government's decision to militarize the struggle against the mobs.

Sicilia, who formed his movement after his son was murdered last year by suspected drug-gang members, is demanding an end to Calderon's strategy of deploying tens of thousands of army soldiers and federal police to drug-war flashpoints, saying it has only made the country less safe.

The candidate of Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, Josefina Vazquez Mota, finished well behind winner Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in the presidential balloting.

Peña Nieto's victory has been attributed in part to voter frustration over persistently high levels of drug-related violence during the tenure of Calderon, who was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

In addition to Sicilia's movement and other civic organizations in Mexico, international human rights groups also have slammed the military deployment.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, for example, said in a report last year that Calderon's war on drugs has led to a "dramatic increase in killings, torture, and other appalling abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country."

It also raised serious doubts about Calderon's claims that criminals account for "90 percent of the victims of drug-related deaths." EFE