By Daniella Burgi-Palomino, December 8, 2015
On December 8, 2015, the LAWGEF joined eight other organizations in calling for support for the next phase of the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in Mexico by the Interdisciplinary Group of Experts (GIEI) appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The statement acknowledged the Mexican government’s initiative to transfer the case under the authority of the Prosecutor for Human Rights and the implementation of a new team of government investigators to work alongside the Group of Experts, but also raised concern regarding recent efforts to discredit members of the Group of Experts and their report findings.
Upon completing its original six-month mandate in September, the Group of Experts released a final report that rejected the government’s main theory around the disappearance of the 43 students and brought up new lines of investigation to be followed. After presenting this report before the Mexican government at the October session of IACHR hearings in Washington DC, its mandate was extended for an additional six months beginning October 28th until April 2016.
On December 7th, the Group of Experts held a press conference where they shared some of the progress and obstacles in their investigation since the renewal of the mandate. Despite repeated requests to interview the 27th military battalion, they still have not been granted access by the Mexican government to do so. Eleven out of the 27 members of the military battalion were interviewed but only in the presence of the Attorney General’s Office; as such the GIEI was unable to confirm how questions were asked or the veracity of the military’s responses. Moreover, the GIEI shared the results of meteorological tests and satellite images confirming rain during the days of the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, as well as the presence of only one fire, which was not in the garbage dump of Cocula where the government has said the students were incinerated. The GIEI emphasized the need to follow some of the lines of investigation they had raised earlier, including the role of the 5th unidentified bus, and to continue following up on the signs of torture found on 70% of the individuals arrested thus far. Finally, the GIEI reiterated its commitment to accompanying the families of the disappeared students in meetings with the investigate team within the Attorney General’s Office.
“The efforts to discredit the Group of Experts’ findings and pushback to pursuing new lines of investigation are extremely disheartening in the case of the Ayotzinapa student investigation. The Mexican government should be using the extension of the Group of Experts’ mandate as an opportunity to fully support and cooperate with the Experts’ recommendations and demonstrate a commitment to advancing respect for human rights in the country,” stated Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG’s Senior Associate for Mexico, Migrant Rights and Border Issues.
LAWGEF urges the Mexican government to take this next phase of the Ayotzinapa investigation seriously by following all the recommendations of the Group of Experts, fully incorporating them into the work of the new investigative team, and by discouraging efforts to defame the GIEI’s work and reputation. The next four months will be crucial in moving forward and bringing some truth and justice to the families of the disappeared as well as in the implementation of mechanisms to respond to the broader problem of disappearances across the country.