Mexico investigating soldiers involved in ‘execution’ of five men

President Lopez Obrador says that extrajudicial killings cannot be permitted and that the soldiers involved will face justice.

Members of the Mexican National Guard outside the Attorney General's office in Mexico City after Ovidio Guzman's arrest in January.
The administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has dramatically expanded the role of state security forces despite concerns about human rights abuses and a lack of accountability [File: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP]

Mexican prosecutors are investigating what President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called the “execution” of five men in an incident that has sparked outrage from human rights observers.

Media outlets released a video on Tuesday, appearing to show a group of soldiers pulling the men from a crashed pick-up truck in Nuevo Laredo, a border city in the state of Tamaulipas. The soldiers then beat the occupants before lining them up against a wall and shooting them.

“Apparently this was an execution, and that cannot be permitted,” Lopez Obrador said at a daily press briefing on Wednesday. “Those responsible are about to be turned over to the appropriate authorities.”

While Lopez Obrador has promised accountability, his administration has dramatically expanded the role of state security forces despite a history of military human rights abuses that have often gone unpunished.

The video is dated May 18 and shows the truck, which was apparently being pursued by soldiers, crashing into a wall. A Mexican military vehicle arrives and drives into the passenger side. A group of about a dozen soldiers pull the men from the vehicle.

One soldier removes a long gun from a truck, and the troops appear to take cover and fire at unseen targets in the distance. They then shoot the five men. Later, a soldier can be seen placing guns next to the bodies, using a red bag to cover his hand — presumably to avoid leaving fingerprints.

The defence ministry stated on Tuesday that it would cooperate with civilian prosecutors and that the military justice division is also investigating potential violations of military code. Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday that the soldiers will be turned over to prosecutors.

The slayings mark the second known case of state forces conducting apparent extrajudicial executions in Nuevo Laredo this year, following the killing of five young men in a vehicle by soldiers on February 26.

A government report found the men in that case were unarmed and that the soldiers did not issue verbal orders to stop before firing into the vehicle. In April, prosecutors charged the four soldiers involved with homicide.

A human rights organisation in Nuevo Laredo also issued a complaint this year stating that National Guard troops had fired on a man’s truck, killing a pregnant 15-year-old and a 54-year-old and injuring two others.

Mexico’s military has also been accused of using the spyware known as Pegasus, developed by the Israeli firm the NSO Group, to spy on Alejandro Encinas, Mexico’s under secretary for human rights, while he was investigating rights abuses by the military.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies