MEXICO CITY – Officers of Mexico’s Federal Police executed 22 civilians during a May 2015 operation on a ranch in the western state of Michoacan, the independent National Human Rights Commission said Thursday.
Police committed grave violations of human rights at Rancho del Sol, commission chairman Luis Raul Gonzalez Perez told a press conference.
A total of 43 people, including a police officer, died at the ranch and 22 of those deaths were the result of “arbitrary execution,” the chairman said as he presented the conclusions of the commission’s investigation.
“Excessive use of force” was the cause of four other civilian fatalities and a fifth person appeared to have been run over by a vehicle, according to the report.
Authorities have maintained that the deaths at Rancho del Sol took place in the course of a gunfight between police and suspects.
The commission, however, determined that police tampered with the scene by placing guns next to 16 bodies and that the officers involved submitted false accounts of the events.
The human rights commission also found fault with the actions of investigators from the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office, who deviated from protocol and mishandled ballistics evidence.
Medical examiners likewise came under criticism for irregularities in the autopsies and delays in the return of bodies to their families.
Responding to the rights commission document, the chairman of Mexico’s National Security Committee rejected the characterization of arbitrary executions and defended the actions of police.
“The use of arms was necessary and the police acted, in our judgment, in legitimate defense,” Renato Sales said.