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Mexican military: troops instructed to respect human rights

FILE - This July 3, 2014 file photo shows bullet holes and splattered blood on the wall of an an unfinished warehouse, where bodies of suspected criminals were found after an alleged gun battle with soldiers, on the outskirts of San Pedro Limon in Mexico state, Mexico. A Mexican human rights group released documents Thursday, July 2, 2015, that show high-ranking officers had given soldiers standing orders to “kill criminals” ahead of last year’s army slaying of the suspected criminals. The army opened a criminal investigation the same day of the incident, yet issued a press release saying the suspected criminals had died in a gun battle. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Defense Department says its troops were instructed to have “unrestricted” respect for human rights a year ago when soldiers allegedly killed at least 12 suspected drug gang members after they had surrendered.

The statement issued late Friday was the army’s first response to the documents released by the Miguel Agustin Pro Human Rights center showing that high-ranking officers had given Mexican soldiers standing orders to “kill criminals.”

Orders signed June 11 by Lt. Col. Sandro Diaz Rodriguez, on behalf of the command of the 102 Infantry Battalion, said “soldiers should operate on a mass scale at night and reduce daytime activities, with the aim of killing criminals at night.”

Friday’s statement never addressed the exact quote, but said the standing orders included “38 indications protecting human life, security of the troops and a focus on protecting human rights.”

The human rights group said the government’s response was inadequate.

The killings took place on June 30, 2014, in the municipality of Tlatlaya in Mexico State.

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