Mexico City, May 17, 2016. Magistrate Adalid Ambriz Landa of the Sixth Unitary Tribunal in Mexico State ordered the liberation of the remaining three soldiers who faced charges for homicide and concealment (alteration of the scene of the crime) for the killings of civilians in Tlatlaya, Mexico State, on June 30, 2014. With this judgment, all the accused are now free.
This result contrasts markedly with the findings of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which found in its Recommendation 51/2014 that at least 12 to 15 of the civilians had been extrajudicially executed. The three surviving women all testify that while there was an initial exchange of gunfire, the majority of the 22 civilians were unarmed and kneeling when they were executed at close range by the armed forces.
In his judgment of May 13, 2016 in appeal number 247/2015, Magistrate Ambriz found that “somebody” murdered the civilians, but stated that there was insufficient evidence to accuse the soldiers.
This decision highlights that the federal Judicial Branch is not an effective forum to resolve cases of serious human rights violations, but also stems from the deficient work and lack of investigation by the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR), which to this day has not even investigated the chain of command involved in the Tlatlaya soldiers’ standing orders to “kill criminals in the darkness of the night”.
The judgment may be appealed by the victims named in the casefile, and the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims (CEAV) can provide them with legal advice in this regard.
It is also important to note that the judgment orders the liberation of the soldiers on the grounds of insufficient evidence to try them, meaning that the PGR could carry out a rigorous investigation and charge these and other individuals implicated in the case.
For Clara Gómez González, surviving victim and eyewitness who brought the case to light, this ruling is yet another confirmation of the lack of justice mechanisms in Mexico, as well as a worrying development for her personal security and that of her family. We join her in calling for the government to guarantee her safety as she continues to seek truth and justice.
The undersigned organizations also express their concern over the use of various newspaper columns to seek to cast doubt on the killings committed in Tlatlaya and the legitimacy of those who have denounced these grave abuses. We reiterate that even the CNDH has concluded that the majority of the civilians were victims of extrajudicial execution, and that these facts must be fully investigated and punished.
We are deeply concerned by this new confirmation that justice for victims of human rights violations and military abuses is very far from being a reality in Mexico, a country ruled by impunity.