Mexican NGOs Condemn Extrajudicial Killings by Police in Oaxaca
Mexican human rights organizations have issued a scathing preliminary report accusing the Mexican government of a series of human rights abuses — including excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial executions — stemming from the actions of police during operations in the southern state of Oaxaca that have left at least 10 people dead.
The report, produced by a consortium of human rights groups working on Oaxaca, is based on interviews with witnesses and survivors of a heavy-handed police action on June 19 aimed at clearing a series of roadblocks set up by striking teachers from the CNTE union.
According to the report, the police operation, which involved 800 state and federal officers, led to widespread human rights violations, up to and including the denial of the right to life.
The report details the events of June 19 as they happened in several locales throughout Oaxaca: Nochixtlan, Hacienda Blanca and San Pablo Huitzo.
The town of Nochixtlan saw the most violence, with seven people killed there, the majority as a result of wounds from gunfire.
The organizations classified these deaths as extrajudicial executions.
The report indicates that police used tactical and live munitions indiscriminately as they tried try to evict the teachers from the roadblock.
“The police who were at the front were the ones who were shooting teargas, and on the other side of the highway, that’s where the police who fired bullets were located,” said one witness.
Police and state officials initially denied that officers used live ammunition, but evidence shared on social media forced them to admit police fired bullets at demonstrators.
Beyond the use of live ammunition, the report criticizes the disproportionate amount of force employed, including the heavy use of teargas. Thirty-four children from one neighbourhood near the site of clashes in Nochixtlan were forced to flee due to the overwhelming effects of teargas.
In other locations, police fired teargas from helicopters above.
The report also strongly criticizes illegal and arbitrary detentions carried out by police.
The most galling example was the arrest of 18 people, completely unconnected to the protests, as they were preparing a site for the burial of a family member near the town of Nochixtlan.
Those 18 people were taken to a state jail the following morning where they were allegedly held incommunicado in cramped conditions and denied the ability to perform bodily functions, which the report said “could constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
The use of arbitrary detention was widespread on June 19, with the report sharing the following account from the locale of Hacienda Blanca:
“A 35-year-old woman was arbitrarily arrested upon returning from safeguard her children with neighbors. Force was used in her detention despite the fact she did not resist,” the report states. “The reasons for her detention were not explained and she was held incommunicado, facing physical abuse and sexual abuse for several hours.”
The report also alleged police used racist and sexist slurs and that many officers threatened to execute of forcibly disappear the detained, even making allusions to the case of the 43 students from the neighbouring state of Guerrero who were disappeared by elements of the state in 2014.
The repression also took a psychological toll on residents.
“Since that day my grandson draws planes dropping bombs with me below with my hair standing up, he doesn’t even want to go outside anymore,” one survivor from San Pablo Huitzo said.
The report ends with a series of urgent recommendations, including a call for a “thorough and impartial investigation to determine criminal and administrative consequences for the public servants involved in human rights violations committed in the operation conducted on June 19, 2016.”
The organizations also ask for international human rights groups, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, to accompany and observe the situation in Oaxaca in order to prevent further violations and to ensure justice is served.
The report was signed off by the following organizations: Comité de Defensa Integral de Derechos Humanos Gobixha A.C., Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca A.C., FUNDAR, Luna del Sur A.C., and Ojo de Agua Comunicación.
A second investigation, carried out by Proceso magazine, arrived at similar conclusions as the report by the consortium of human rights groups. Proceso further alleged that police even violated their own internal protocols.