IMPUNITY TAKES HOLD IN THE TLATLAYA CASE:
MILITARY JURISDICTION ACQUITS SOLDIERS INVOLVED WHILE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE FAILS TO INVESTIGATE CHAIN OF COMMAND
Attorney General’s Office has not spoken to commanders involved in kill order
Mexico City, March 30, 2016. The Tlatlaya case remains in impunity. The Sixth Military Court, part of the Armed Forces’ chain of command, acquitted 6 of 7 soldiers accused of participating in the Tlatlaya massacre of June 2014, and convicted the remaining soldier of disobedience, sentencing him to one year of prison (time already served). Surviving victim Clara Gómez González was only able to obtain information on the verdict after filing an amparo constitutional challenge due to the continuing lack of transparency regarding this emblematic case.
The acquittal in military jurisdiction confirms the partiality of military courts and the limits of the recent legislative reform to military justice, which permits simultaneous investigations and trials in military and civilian jurisdiction. The verdict, handed down by a court that should never have exercised jurisdiction over this violation of the right to life, is one of several alarming actions by the government that have left the case in impunity.
The federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR), as in other cases of serious human rights violations, has divided the investigation into different files and has not investigated all potentially implicated members of the military. On July 2, 2015, Center Prodh requested that the PGR speak with the chain of command and investigate the operating order that was in force for the army unit that committed the crime, which instructed soldiers to “kill criminals in the darkness of the night.” Nine months later, the PGR has not summoned any military commander to respond to questions.
The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has also prevented victim Clara Gómez from having full access to its file on the case, in which it follows up on its Recommendation 51/2014. Despite having declared that the information should be public, at the request of the army the Commission now denies full access to the victim herself. Neither has the Commission reported on the results of its investigation into whether other kill orders are currently in force in the country.
In this context of impunity, federal authorities must expand and strengthen their ongoing actions in the case. Currently, three soldiers are on trial in civilian jurisdiction for murder, and the PGR investigation remains open, and with it the opportunity to investigate the chain of command. Additionally, Clara Gómez filed and won an amparo constitutional challenge against the application of military jurisdiction in the case, which the Supreme Court will now review to determine how to enforce compliance.
The undersigned organizations call once more for full access to truth and justice in this paradigmatic case, including especially investigation of the kill order, recalling that, as indicated by the UN Special Rapporteur on Executions, Christoph Heyns, a government order “can never be to go out and kill criminals – it must be to arrest and only if it proves to be necessary minimum force should be used.”