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Report: Mexico military attempted to cover up civilian murders

[JURIST] Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday released a report [text, PDF, in Spanish] detailing the military cover-up that occurred after June 30, when 22 criminal suspects were executed by soldiers in an empty warehouse in the municipality of Tlatlaya. Official reports detail an alleged confrontation between the soldiers and the civilians. However, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] visited the warehouse site and expressed concern with the official account [AP report], noting that they did not find signs of stray bullets of the type that would be left by soldiers shooting automatic weapons from a distance. The NHRC accused the soldiers of arranging the bodies to mimic a shoot-out, and detailed the inconsistencies with the official report of events. The NHRC elaborated that many of the victims were beaten with blunt objects before they were shot, and the neck of one victim was broken. The NHRC report criticized the the federal attorney general's office, the defense department and the State of Mexico prosecutors office, who have changed the account of events numerous times. First, prosecutors denied the killings altogether, though they later blamed the actions on three rogue soldiers. According to the report, three surviving women who became witnesses to the executions were tortured and threatened to agree with the army's version of events.

Last year Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Mexican lawmakers to reform the nation's military justice system to combat human rights abuses committed by army and navy personnel. Also last year AI called on the Mexican government to investigate the disappearances [JURIST report] of thousands of people and acknowledge the government's involvement in the disappearances. AI's report stated 26,121 people were reported disappeared or missing between December 2006 and December 2012, but 40 percent of the cases were not investigated. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns urged [JURIST report] Mexico's government to better protect against human rights abuses, particularly with respect to the military's use of force against civilians. Earlier that year Human Rights Watch reported [JURIST report] that Mexican security forces have enforced or participated in widespread "disappearances" in which individuals are taken against their will.

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