June 30, 2016
Today, June 30th marks the two-year anniversary of the massacre of 22 innocent civilians, including children, at the hands of Mexican military in the small town of Tlatlaya in the State of Mexico. LAWG condemns the setbacks to justice made in recent months in the investigation and calls on the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la Republica or PGR) to ensure that those responsible do not go unpunished and that the survivors receive justice immediately.
“It is completely unacceptable that after two years no one is being held responsible for this crime. Even worse, courts are now trying to block access to important files in the case. The Mexican government needs to be held accountable for not investigating the excessive use of force by its military, the torture of survivors, and the chain of command responsibility. Until it does, the Tlatlaya massacre will continue to be one more example of Mexico’s repeated failure to investigate grave human rights violations,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate for Mexico, Migration, and the Border.
Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos or CNDH) had concluded that 12 to 15 civilians were extrajudicially executed by the military on June 30, 2014, in an order to “take down criminals in the darkness of the night” and that soldiers then altered the crime scene to make it appear as if the victims were killed in a confrontation. This past May, three military soldiers who had been accused of homicide were released without punishment due to alleged insufficient evidence to find them guilty, in addition to the other four soldiers who had already been acquitted. For the evidence to release the soldiers, judges used false testimony which three survivors, all women, were forced to sign under the use of torture—another example of the systematic and pervasive use of torture in Mexico. These decisions were made despite the extensive CNDH investigation, witness testimony, and multiple pieces of forensic evidence. Clara Gómez González, one of the survivors whose fifteen-year-old daughter was executed in Tlatlaya, has been repeatedly re-victimized in the past two years. She has not been recognized officially as a victim in the trials and has been denied access to the files on her case by the CNDH. Just a few days ago, the Fifth Administrative Tribunal Court in Mexico City (Quinto Tribunal Colegiado en Materia Administrativa del Distrito Federal) blocked the release of the criminal file with information pertaining to the accused military soldiers, overruling a previous decision by another judge granting access to NGOs and reporters at the end of last year.
LAWG joins with Mexican civil society groups in calling for justice in the Tlatlaya case and demanding that the PGR act immediately. In the last year, the PGR has refused requests by Mexican NGOs that it investigate the chain of command in the case. Now the PGR has stated that it will provide new evidence to prosecute soldiers so that the crimes committed in Tlatlaya don’t remain in impunity. The latest court rulings, however, point to a different message—a direct refusal to hold the accused soldiers accountable, provide transparency on their abuses, or provide justice to survivors.