Last week, Mexico’s independent Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (or Center Prodh) released new evidence that high-ranking military officers gave soldiers orders to kill prior to a mass slaying of more than 20 supposed narco-gang members in June 2014.
The facts surrounding the bloody incident in Tlatlaya have been disputed for over a year now, but the purported documents from the 102nd Infantry Battalion released by the Centro Pro read like extermination orders.
“Troops must operate at night, in massive form, reducing daytime activity, to kill criminals in hours of darkness,” one document said.
This casts further doubt on the official version—that the casualties occurred in a gun battle that began when suspects fired on soldiers in a warehouse raid. An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has already determined that approximately 12 to 15 of the victims were unarmed or killed after surrendering. Yet the defense secretary, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, continues to stand by the official story, charging that “people and groups who perhaps don’t like what the army is doing have already convicted the soldiers.”
The CNDH findings, released last October, also detail how the military covered up the slaying of unarmed captives in the incident. The next month, federal prosecutors charged three soldiers with murder and seven with breach of duty in relation to Tlataya. Their trials have not yet started.
As the Centro Prodh released its explosive findings, México state authorities brought charges against seven police officers for the torture of three women who witnessed the bloodletting at Tlatlaya. Only four of the seven charged officers are in custody. The rest remain at large, and it is unclear if efforts are being made to bring them to justice. México state has agreed to indemnify the survivors of the mass slaying.
Led by U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), 82 members of Congress addressed the surge of violence in Mexico with a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, citing both the Tlatlaya case and the disappearance of 43 college students last year in Guerrero state.
“These two cases are not isolated incidents in Mexico,” the letter stated. “Rather they illustrate a broader pattern of grave human rights violations in the country, including cases of torture, arbitrary detentions, kidnapping and extrajudicial executions.”