Center Prodh

The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center

Tlatlaya: three years of impunity

  • The lack of justice has facilitated the repetition of arbitrary executions by the Armed Forces.
  • The Attorney General has not done what is necessary to clarify the real number of victims in Tlatlaya, the alteration of the crime scene, or the covering up of the crime.
  • Those responsible for giving the order to kill criminals under cover of darkness have not been held to account for their actions.
  • Clara Gómez, a survivor and witness, has presented a constitutional challenge (amparo) for the lack of required due diligence in the investigation.

Mexico City, June 29, 2017. Three years ago, in the town of San Pedro Limón, municipality of Tlatlaya, State of Mexico, in one of the most notorious cases of human rights violations in Mexico’s recent history, between 8 and 12 civilians were arbitrarily executed by soldiers, in an incident that, despite its infamy, has not been duly investigated.

The impunity with which the Tlatlaya massacre has been covered up is an example of what would happen if attempts to pass the Internal Security Law were successful. The law would give more authority to the Armed Forces to operate in the name of public security, a task reserved for civilian forces and contrary to the formation of the Army and Navy. This has been recognized by the Armed Forces’ own officers, and demonstrated by the recent events in Palmarito, Puebla.

It is important to remember that in the case of Tlatlaya, which occurred against the backdrop of the so-called “War against drugs,” authorities maintained a version of events where the civilians had died during a confrontation with soldiers from the 102nd Infantry Battalion, until the testimony of one of the witnesses and survivors, together with evidence collected by journalists, revealed that the majority of the 22 deaths occurred after the civilians had surrendered, and that authorities had covered up what had happened and coerced witnesses to keep quiet about what they had seen.

Despite the fact that Mexico’s own National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), in its Recommendation 51/2014, certified that the civilians suffered extrajudicial executions, the minimal work of the Attorney General’s Office and the tolerance of the Federal Judiciary has meant that those responsible have not paid for this crime.

The first aspect to underscore in this lack of due diligence is that not even the true number of victims has been brought to light. In May of 2016, the Sixth Unitary Tribunal of the Second Circuit revoked the criminal trial against the three soldiers accused of homicide, deciding that more proof was needed to demonstrate their responsibility, without the Attorney General exerting any additional effort to provide such evidence. The court’s decision is not an exoneration, but despite the proof offered and investigative proposals suggested by the victim’s lawyers, the case has not made any substantial progress.

Secondly, the alteration of the crime scene – which the CNDH noted occurred “to such an extent that some of the cadavers were moved, and weapons were placed on all the bodies laying dead on the ground” – has also not been clarified or resolved, nor have those responsible for the cover-up been identified[1], despite existing evidence.  The CNDH’s November 29, 2016 official report CNDH/CGSRAJ/USR/2648/2016 presented the Attorney General with proof in the form of photographic images from the website Aristegui Noticias, and Clara Gómez’s own defense counsel identified at least 19 alterations of victims’ bodies when comparing the photographs contained in the military criminal case file 338/2014, accepted in the Sixth Military Tribunal, and those in the case file of the CNDH.

Thirdly, there has been a lack of investigation into the order to kill criminals during cover of darkness, an order revealed by Center Prodh two years ago. Immediately after the exposure of this military order, an order that incentivizes the commission of grave human rights violations, Clara Gómez and Center Prodh offered evidence to demonstrate responsibility along the chain of command, with clear indications of which officials should be subpoenaed to testify and determine the origin of the order. Twenty-four months later, the Attorney General, in its preliminary investigation PGR/SDHPDSC/DGASRCMDH/DDMDH/CNDH-1/298/2014, still has not called the officers identified in the order to testify, with the exception of Lieutenant Colonel of Infantry Sandro Díaz Rodríguez, who declared that the document is a “template”, that is, that there are other orders with the same instructions. If this declaration is true, the Public Prosecutor should identify the author of said “template” or the officer who supervises these orders.

Facing these investigative omissions, Clara Gómez has had to present a constitutional challenge (amparo) for the lack of due diligence, filed before the Fourteenth District Court specialized in criminal justice headquartered in Mexico City, under the case number 545/2017.

This lack of due diligence is one of the forms in which impunity takes hold in cases of grave human rights violations, especially those committed by Armed Forces under the framework of the so-called “War against drugs.” The impunity that characterizes this and other incidents demonstrates that giving greater authority to the military to intervene in public security is a path that will only deepen the grave human rights crisis Mexico is already suffering.

The lack of justice three years after such an emblematic incident as the Tlatlaya massacre is a warning sign of what will occur if legislators pass the Internal Security Law, and a wake-up call to the structural failures of the prosecution and provision of justice in Mexico, especially when public servants are involved in the commission of serious crimes.

 

[1] Recommendation 51/2014, paragraph 368

 

Organizations

Cauce Ciudadano AC

Causa en Común AC

Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Frayba)

Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Francisco de Vitoria O.P. A.C

Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, A.C. (CMDPDH)

Instituto De Liderazgo Simone de Beauvoir (ILSB)

Instituto de Justicia Procesal Penal, AC

Instituto para la Seguridad y la Democracia A.C. (INSYDE)

Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS)

Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación AC

Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho

Enjambre Digital

Instituto Mexicano de Derechos Humanos y Democracia (IMDHD)

Instituto de Justicia Procesal Pena, AC

México Unido Contra la Delincuencia (MUCD)

Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano de Seguridad Justicia y Legalidad, AC

Participando por México AC

R3D: Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales

Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos “Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos” (conformada por 84 organizaciones en 23 estados de la República mexicana).

 

Individuals

Alberto Athié

Carlos Cruz Santiago

Carlos Brito

Catalina Pérez Correa

Denise Dresser

Ernesto López Portillo Vargas

Guadalupe Barrena

Jorge Javier Romero

José Antonio Guevara

Luis Fernando Fernández Ruiz

Mariclaire Acosta Urquidi

 

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