Mexico urged to investigate student deaths in clash with police

Amnesty International today called on the Mexican authorities to launch a full, independent investigation into the deaths of two students amid violent clashes with police during a protest in southern Guerrero state yesterday. Gabriel Echevarría and José Alexis Herrera Pino were killed when police tried to disperse a student teachers’ protest outside the state capital, Chilpancingo, blocking the main motorway between Mexico’s capital and the resort city of Acapulco. At least 14 other people were injured and 24 arrests were made.“Mexican authorities must establish what went wrong in the police response to the protest, leading to these students’ deaths,” said Rupert Knox, Amnesty International’s Mexico expert. “It is also vital that the rights of protesters in detention are respected, and that they are not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.”Demonstrators had been blocking the road and demanding a meeting with the state governor when the protest turned violent. Federal police as well as state and investigative police from Guerrero responded to the scene, and demonstrators apparently set a petrol station alight.Police reportedly fired warning shots in the air, but photographic evidence also shows police officers using automatic rifles and aiming them at demonstrators. In an official statement, the Guerrero state government regretted the violent acts and the loss of life, and pledged to carry out an investigation. The National Human Rights Commission also opened an enquiry.Four police officers and a petrol station employee were also apparently injured in the incident.  The evidence that has so far come to light raises serious concern about policing of public order disturbances, resulting in serious human rights violations. Mexican authorities must ensure a full and impartial investigation to establish the facts and hold those responsible for human rights violations to account, Amnesty International said, noting that this has not happened in response to similar incidents in the past. “Police in Mexico have a duty to maintain order and protect the civilian population from violence, so any excessive use of force beyond that permitted by law must be dealt with decisively by bringing those responsible to justice,” said Rupert Knox.