MEXICO CITY — Mexican prosecutors said Thursday that they continue to investigate and to press charges in the 2014 army killings of 22 suspected criminals, including between 12 and 15 who allegedly were executed after surrendering.
The statement came a day after the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez human rights group revealed that a military court had cleared six of seven soldiers of breach-of-discipline charges.
The federal attorney general’s office said that homicide cases against three of the seven continue in a civilian court and that prosecutors are investigating any wider responsibility in the case. The rights group had said earlier that commanding officers apparently gave the soldiers orders to kill suspects.
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Prosecutors said they were looking for anyone else responsible for the killings, but appeared to lay the blame on one of the three surviving witnesses, saying she had to testify again.
The human rights group said forcing the witness to testify again would re-victimize her. Her daughter was killed in the June 2014 confrontation at a warehouse between an army patrol and a group of criminal suspects.
Last year, the rights group obtained copies of the soldiers’ standing orders, which directed them to “abatir” criminals, a word almost universally understood in Mexico as meaning “kill.” Other points in the somewhat contradictory, three-page orders also directed soldiers to respect human rights.
Federal officials argued that “abatir” can mean other things, such as knock down or humiliate. But even the army and police forces have used it uniformly in past press statements to mean “kill.”
The rights group said Thursday that the fact that it — rather than the army — revealed the six soldiers were cleared by a military court last October showed “precisely of the lack of transparency that continues in this case.”
Only one soldier was convicted by the military court on charges of failure to obey orders. He was sentenced to one year, time which he has already served.
The Mexican army did not respond to a request for information about the sentences.
At the time of the killings in 2014, the Mexican army regularly released press bulletins on confrontations in which suspects were killed by soldiers. After the killings, the defense department largely stopped releasing such information.