MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s federal police used excessive force that resulted in five deaths, and murdered one other person, in an incident earlier this year in the troubled state of Michoacan, Mexico’s national human rights commission said on Wednesday.
The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) said its investigations into the January incident, in which federal forces clashed with members of a vigilante group that had taken control of the town of Apatzingan in Michoacan, found that the people were killed after federal police used excessive force.
“Forensic results carried out by personnel of this National Commission found evidence of excessive force which led to the loss of life of five people, as well as the extrajudicial execution of one person, by members of the federal police,” the CNDH said in its report of the findings.
Mexico’s government originally said all of the dead were killed in cross-fire, but subsequent media reports suggested federal police murdered 16 people. Although the CNDH report does not back up that tally, it does undermine the government’s official line.
The rights body said that five of the victims were in a pick-up truck when police opened fire on them, despite the fact they were not carrying weapons and raised their arms in surrender.
The final victim was executed in a nearby restaurant, and the CNDH said it found no evidence the person was armed, or had even participated in the incident.
Ever since former Mexican President Felipe Calderon ratcheted up the war against Mexico’s drug cartels in 2007, the country’s security forces have been implicated in slew of rights abuses.
Last year, 43 student teachers were apparently massacred after corrupt local police in the southwestern state of Guerrero attacked them. In that case, too, the government account that the students were burned in a giant funeral pyre has been undermined, and it remains unclear where the students could be.
The incident of the 43 students sparked a worldwide outcry, and created a political crisis for President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has struggled to come up with successful strategies for ending a decade of drug violence.
Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter, Lizbeth Diaz and Noe Torres; Editing by Lisa Shumaker