[JURIST] The Miguel Agustin Pro human rights center [official website] in Mexico on Thursday announced that there is evidence that high-ranking Mexican officers gave soldiers orders to kill criminals prior to an army mass slaying of suspected cartel members in June 2014. The military documents indicate [AP report] that the soldiers may have been following orders during the incident, where at least 12 civilians were killed. The report issued by the human rights center calls into question the government’s use of armed forces since 2006 to help combat drug cartels. The report also states that high-ranking military officers must be scrutinized and investigated for their participation in the 2014 Tlatlaya crackdown [El Pais backgrounder] which left 22 cartel suspects dead in a warehouse. The documents show that military officials were aware that something had gone wrong during the crackdown. The news release issued the following day, however, said the suspects died as a result of a gun battle that began when suspects fired on the soldiers. A National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) [official website] investigation revealed that between 12 and 15 of the victims were killed unarmed or after surrendering. The defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos [official website], disputes the alleged human rights violations, stating that “people and groups who perhaps don’t like what the army is doing have already convicted the soldiers.”
The Mexican military’s actions from last June have been put under a microscope by numerous organizations during the past year. Last October the NHRC released a report [JURIST report] detailing the military cover-up that occurred when 22 cartel suspects were executed by soldiers in the warehouse in the municipality of Tlatlaya. In 2013, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Mexican lawmakers to reform the nation’s military justice system to combat human rights abused committed by army and navy personnel. Also in 2013, AI requested the Mexican government [JURIST report] to investigate the disappearances of thousands of people and acknowledge the government’s involvement in the search for missing persons. That same year the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns [official website], urged Mexico’s government [JURIST report] to better protect against human rights abuses, specifically with respect to the military’s use of force against civilians.