A Mexican military document has surfaced implying that soldiers were ordered to kill during an operation last year. The order had only been sent out weeks before the alleged extrajudicial execution of several suspects.
The Prodh Human Rights Center in Mexico published a report on Thursday urging several top military officers be investigated for their culpability in last year's Tlatlaya case.
It referred to a June 30, 2014 military operation when 22 suspected gang members were killed inside a warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya, a small town in central Mexico State.
With just one soldier injured in what the military has described as a shootout, and evidence at the warehouse not indicating a gun battle, questions have been raised over the official version of events ever since.
"Take down the criminals"
The Prodh Center pointed out that the standing orders dated June 11, 2014 used the Spanish phrase "abatir delincuentes en horas de oscuridad" to issue troops with the alleged kill order.
The phrase literally translates as "take down the criminals during the hours of darkness." The Prodh center says the military uses the Spanish euphemism "abatir" (take down) to mean "kill." However, the document also told soldiers that "operations should be carried out with strict respect for human rights."
But it appears that despite an attempt to create a balance in wording, the orders may have resulted in many rights violations. Three women who survived the attack later came forward to say that agents of the Mexico State prosecutor's office had tortured them to support the army's version of self-defense.
The mother of a 15-year-old girl who was among those killed later reported that soldiers had executed several members of the drug cartel who had surrendered. Another woman, Clara Gomez, spoke out for the first time since the incident, saying that she now wanted justice to be done, "justice for what they did to my daughter."
Following kill orders
The governmental National Human Rights Commission had already established in October that at least 12 people had been killed extra judicially during the operation. But the attorney general's office has since only charged three soldiers with the murder of eight people, while four others, including an officer, were charged with failing to respect public service. There have been no trials or verdicts in the case to date.
But the latest revelations might result in changes to these charges, as the accused might now have evidence to argue that they had only been following orders.
The Mexican army is allowed to assist police in the country's ongoing fight against drug cartels, which has officially been waging since 2006.
ss/jr (AFP, AP, dpa)