Mexico judge orders new probe in 2014 killings by soldiers

FILE - In this July 3, 2014 file photo, bullet holes and blood stains cover a wall above papers marking where bodies were found in an unfinished warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon in Mexico state, Mexico. A Mexican judge ordered on Aug. 1, 2017 that federal authorities investigate whether army commanders played any role in the killing by soldiers of 22 suspected criminals at this warehouse three years ago, a case that became one of the country’s biggest scandals over allegations of human rights abuse. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexican judge has ordered federal authorities to investigate whether army commanders played any role in the killing by soldiers of 22 suspected criminals at a warehouse three years ago, a case that became one of the country’s biggest scandals over allegations of human rights abuse.

The ruling said the federal Attorney General’s Office did not investigate a purported military order issued before the incident in which soldiers were urged to “shoot down criminals in hours of obscurity.” The federal judge’s ruling was issued Aug. 1, but did not become public until Tuesday.

The government’s human rights agency charged that at least a dozen and as many as 15 of the suspects were executed after surrendering to an army patrol following a June 2014 gunbattle in the central town of Tlatlaya, west of Mexico City. Army authorities initially claimed all 22 people were killed during a firefight they began by firing on soldiers.

Seven soldiers were accused of homicide, but civilian courts eventually threw out the charges against all of them.

The latest ruling came in a complaint filed by one of three women who survived the bloodshed and later charged that agents of the Mexico State prosecutor’s office tortured them into supporting the army’s version of events.

The decision says the federal Attorney General’s Office “has not diligently conducted any diverse investigation into the facts or the orders issued to military elements through the chain of command.”

The Attorney General’s Office did not respond to requests for comment on the judge’s ruling.

The Prodh Center, a group of human rights advocates, said the ruling confirmed there are problems with the enforcement of justice in Mexico.

“To date, no one is being held accountable for this arbitrary deprivation of life. The number of execution victims is not known for certain, nor have the responsibilities in altering the crime scene been clarified,” the group said in a statement.

Questions about the incident emerged when The Associated Press found that evidence at the site didn’t match the army’s account of a clash with drug suspects. There was little sign of a protracted gunbattle. Instead, the walls of the warehouse showed a repeated pattern of one or two closely placed bullet holes surrounded by spattered blood, giving the appearance that some of those killed had been standing against a wall and shot at about chest level.

The National Human Rights Commission then investigated and issued its conclusion that many of the people were executed.

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