A top UN human rights official has criticized the US Border Patrol for excessive use of force, adding to mounting pressure for the agency to review its policies following the recent fatal shooting of an unarmed Mexican teenager.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on October 18, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, expressed alarm over the disproportionate use of lethal force by US Border Patrol agents, reported Reuters. Pillay said that she was particularly concerned about the deaths of young people, such as the shooting of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez on October 10.
Rodriguez had reportedly been throwing rocks across the border before he was shot seven times by a Border Patrol agent, Nogales mayor Ramon Guzman Munoz told the the Associated Press. The agents had been responding to a report that drug smugglers were trying to cross the border.
Earlier this week the Associated Press reported that the US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General had begun a review of US Border Patrol policies on the use of lethal force. The investigation was launched in response to a request from 16 members of Congress to review the case of an unarmed Mexican man who died after being Tasered by a Border Patrol agent in 2010.
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Border Patrol shootings have been a strain on US-Mexico bilateral relations in recent years. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Border Patrol has killed at least 16 civilians on the US-Mexico border since 2010.
There have been three confrontations between Mexican citizens and US Border Patrol since September alone. The latest incident, the death of 16-year-old Jose Rodriguez, caused a firestorm in Mexico after Mexican news outlets obtained a video of the confrontation.
Much of the controversy stems from the fact that under Border Patrol guidelines, agents are legally permitted to respond to rocks thrown across the border with gunfire. Border Patrol agents claim that rocks can seriously injure or even kill officers, but the Mexican government and human rights groups argue that using firearms against rocks constitutes a disproportionate use of force.