Mexico’s Human Rights Commission has accused the military and federal police of excessive use of force during a massacre this past January, but it’s doubtful the investigation will end up as anything more than a symbolic victory.
Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CDNH) has issued a recommendation (pdf) based on alleged human rights violations committed mainly by federal police forces during a massacre that left 10 people dead on January 6, 2015 in Apatzingan, Michoacan.
The report confirmed one extrajudicial killing in which the victim was shot despite having surrendered, while five others died as the result of excessive force.
One other person is suspected to have died after being hit by a federal police vehicle, while at least five people were arbitrarily detained and eight more were treated cruelly or inhumanely by military and police forces, according to the CNDH.
The report states that police denied medical attention to four wounded individuals, leading to the death of one more person. Authorities are also accused of not adequately preserving the crime scene.
The massacre took place during two incidents that occurred on the same day, the first of which involved the deployment of 287 military troops and 44 federal police officers to Apatzingan’s town hall after it had been taken over by an armed group. The second incident happened hours later during a clash between federal police and self-defense forces.
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The CNDH document urges the National Security Commissioner and the Defense Secretary to cooperate with authorities on ongoing investigations related to the case, for victims to be adequately compensated, and for the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to modify the laws regulating the use of police force so that they meet international standards.
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The CNDH has put together a thorough case, but whether any significant consequences will come as a result of the investigation is another matter. Although the findings of the report are hard-hitting, a CNDH recommendation is merely a non-binding request for authorities to comply with certain demands.
Security analyst Alejandro Hope points out that Mexican authorities could very well heed the call for more security institutions to cooperate with the PGR, given the commission’s “political and moral weight.” However, that is about the extent of the commission’s influence on criminal proceedings, meaning its ability to bring flagrant public security officials to justice is quite limited.
For instance, in October 2014 the CNDH found that Mexican soldiers had summarily executed at least 15 individuals in a warehouse last June. Seven soldiers were arrested in connection to the highly publicized massacre, but the charges against four of the soldiers have recently been dropped.
These limitations fuel criticism that the CNDH is costly and ineffective. According to Excelsior, only one percent of all complaints reported to the CNDH become a recommendation, and many recommendations take at least 18 months before they are completed.