A year after Mexico’s Tlatlaya massacre, new data show a pattern of lethality and excessive force in confrontations between authorities and civilians, underscoring claims that the government needs to do more in curbing human rights abuses by the security forces.
A new study from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) shows that for every military death in confrontations with civilians there are 32 civilian casualties, reported Animal Politico. Legal experts have suggested that a ratio greater than 15 civilian deaths for every single death among security forces suggests use of excessive force.
The study also released an index comparing the number of civilians who are killed in confrontations with security forces to the number of civilians who are wounded in these confrontations. Between 2008 to 2014, Mexico’s military had 7.9 civilian deaths for every wounded civilian, while the federal police saw 4.6 civilians killed for every wounded civilian.
The one bright spot in the study’s findings was a reported decline in the number of overall confrontations between security forces and civilians since 2008, according to Animal Politico.
These numbers come amid a new report from a Mexican human rights organization about the military’s role in the June 2014 Tlatlaya massacre. The Tlatlaya case involved a confrontation between the military and an armed group, in which soliders executed at least 12 people and then altered the crime scene to make it look as though the deaths had happened during the shoot-out.
“The message could not be any clearer: the soldiers were instructed to take out, or kill, suspected criminals, in complete disregard for their human rights and due process.” said Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America in a press statement highlighting the release of the report.
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InSight Crime Analysis
A year after the Tlatlaya massacre sparked international outrage, the use of excessive force by both the military and federal police remains a systemic problem in Mexico’s ongoing drug war. Notably, it recently came to light that Mexico’s federal police do not have a publicly available manual for use of deadly force. While Mexico’s security forces undoubtedly face dangerous conditions that often necessitates the use of deadly force, it’s also clear the military and federal police have a track record of responding excessively, resulting in a high casualty count among alleged “aggressors.” (See the timeline below for some of the most notable confrontations involving Mexico security forces and skewed body counts).
Use of excessive force is just one component of the country’s ongoing, crime-related violence. While homicides overall appear to be dropping, other international observers remain critical of the country’s security situation. In its annual Global Peace Index, think-tank the Institute for Economics and Peace ranked Mexico as one of the least peaceful countries in Latin America (although as InSight Crime has pointed, this ranking system has some problems).