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The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center

Mexico: authorities should investigate new evidence that a military order could have led to the massacre of 22 people

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Mexican civilian authorities must urgently investigate a recently revealed military document suggesting that the massacre of 22 people committed in June of 2014 was not the result of a confrontation between soldiers and a criminal group, as the military said, but rather of an order to “kill criminals,” said Amnesty International.

“This military order has come to light in the midst of the most severe human rights crisis in the recent history of Mexico, with thousands of murdered and disappeared persons. It is essential that President Enrique Peña Nieto publicly condemn this act and make a commitment to human rights by ordering a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation by civilian authorities on how the armed forces are implementing the security policies of the government,” stated Erika Guevara-Rosas, director Amnesty International’s America program.

On June 30, 2014, 22 people suspected of belonging to an armed group in Tlatlaya (Mexico) died at the hands of soldiers in what authorities assured had been a confrontation with gunmen. However, the National Human Rights Commission and a special congressional investigative commission concluded separately that the majority of those people had not died in a confrontation, as claimed by the Defense Minister, but were shot dead when they no longer posed a threat to the soldiers.

Yesterday, Mexican human rights organizations publicly made known the order that preceded the operation. On June 11, 2014, the 102nd Infantry Battalion issued a military order that stated the following: “Troops should operate massively at night and reduce activities during the day, in order to kill criminals in the darkness of the night, given that most crimes are committed during those hours.”

This order was the basis of the operations that were carried out by the military unit in the specific area of Tlatlaya when the massacre took place. After the operation of June 30th, the soldiers reported that they had killed 22 offenders.

In the context of this case, there is no doubt that the term used to mean “kill” (“abatir”) refers to the deprivation of life, as the term is used with this precise meaning in various military documents. The same terminology has been used for many years in multiple press releases with this meaning. Amnesty International has not found a single example in which “abatir” has not been synonymous with kill. There are grounds for believing that the military order encouraged the extrajudicial killings.

“Although the order has several general appeals to respect human rights standards, the language used in the crucial part of the document suggests that the soldiers were instructed to kill suspected offenders,” Erika Guevara-Rosas has explained.

The organization asks that the military personnel involved in the Tlatlaya massacre be subject to an impartial, independent and effective investigation. This should include any military commander or other person responsible in the chain of command who knew, or should have known that the armed forces were committing, or were going to commit such crimes and did nothing to prevent this crime nor brought this matter to the competent authorities for the purpose of investigation and prosecution.

Amnesty International has documented cases for years in which Mexico’s armed forces have participated in extrajudicial killings of civilians, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, crimes of sexual violence and other human rights violations and crimes under international law.

The Mexican government has either denied involvement in such crimes, or has classified them as isolated incidents committed by people acting out of their own accord. This latest revelation has placed in grave doubt this official version and it should lead to civilian authorities opening a serious investigation into the actions, strategies and policies of the armed forces.

The Mexican government should guarantee the immediate cancellation of any similar standing order and put an immediate end to the armed forces performing police functions, such as arrest, investigation and interrogation.

For interviews or additional information, please contact Sergio Ortiz at cell number + 521 (55) 6091 6477.

You can also contact Amnesty International’s Mexican office at +52 (55) 4747 1659.

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