The Government of Mexico must “fully investigate, prosecute, and punish” all cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, a United Nations independent human rights expert stressed today, as he welcomed the country’s recent arrest of eight military personnel suspected in the extra-judicial killings of 22 unarmed criminals.
“Intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly necessary to prevent a detained person escaping or when strictly unavoidable to protect life, that means when there is imminent danger of death or serious injury,” said Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
“The arrest of eight soldiers suspected of having been involved in the killing is a step in the right direction towards justice to the victims and accountability for their death,” he continued, adding that the Mexican authorities should conduct a swift and independent investigation into the deaths and guarantee the protection of the surviving victims and witnesses.
The killings occurred on 30 June 2014 in the village of Cuadrilla Nueva, Tlataya, located in the state of Mexico, during a military operation against a group of armed criminals. Three women survived the incident and two of them were subsequently held on charges of firearm possession and organized crime.
Testimony contradicting the official version of events has since surfaced in local and international media indicating that most of those killed during the operation may have been shot after they had laid down their weapons and surrendered.
“The Government of Mexico has the duty to fully investigate, prosecute, and punish all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions,” Mr. Heyns said.
In addition, he called on the authorities to ensure the protection of the witness, survivors and media professionals involved in uncovering the alternate version of events – an appeal that has also been endorsed by David Kaye, the recently appointed Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.
“I will observe closely progress in the investigation and will welcome official information on this and the further steps taken,” said Mr. Heyns.
Independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.