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Mexico / Tlatlaya case: UN expert urges full investigation of possible summary executions after initial arrests

MEXICO / GENEVA (29 September 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, today welcomed the decision by the Mexican authorities to arrest eight military personnel suspected of having killed 22 alleged criminals, in what could be summary executions. He urged them to conduct a swift and independent investigation on these deaths, and to ensure the protection of the surviving victims and witnesses.

The event took place on 30 June 2014 in the village of Cuadrilla Nueva, Tlataya, State of Mexico, during a military operation against alleged criminals. Three women were the only survivors of the events. Two of the survivors were subsequently detained on charges of possession of firearms and organized crime.

However, information that has recently come to light contradicts official reports. In an article published in local and international media, an eyewitness to the event claims that most of the people killed during the operation in Cuadrilla Nueva may have been shot dead after deposing their weapons and surrendering to the military.

“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 stressed.

The human rights expert pointed out that “any loss of life that results from the excessive use of force without strict compliance with the principles of necessity and proportionality is an arbitrary deprivation of life and therefore illegal.”

“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,” Mr. Heyns said, noting that this may not have been the case in Tlatlaya, according to the new available information.

“The arrest of eight of the 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 said. “I will observe closely progress in the investigation, and will welcome official information on this and the further steps taken.”

The expert also called on the Mexican Government to provide urgent protective measures for the survivor who gave testimony and the two survivors currently detained, as well as both the journalist and the photographer that produced the article, and the Mexican media outlets that published it.

Mr. Heyns’s call was also endorsed by the new UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, who urged the Mexican authorities to guarantee the safety of all concerned media workers.

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Mexico: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/MXIndex.aspx

For media requests, please contact:
In Mexico City: Gabriela Gorjón Salcedo (+5255 5061 6374 / ggorjon@ohchr.org)
In Geneva: Brenda Vukovic (bvukovic@ohchr.org) or write to eje@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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