WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
24 Apr 2016 | News

Mexico’s Government Obstructed the Investigation of the 43 Disappeared Students

Mexico City—Today the international Group of Experts providing technical assistance in the investigation of the case of the 43 disappeared students presented a final report that is highly critical of the Mexican government for failing to cooperate with the investigation. As the Group of Experts’ mandate is coming to an end, the families of the disappeared students are still waiting for the truth, and new concerns have emerged about the Mexican government’s commitment to justice.

The Group of Experts’ preliminary report, issued in September 2015, disproved the Mexican government’s theory about what happened to the 43 students and suggested new, more credible, lines of investigation. Since that time, the Mexican government has impeded progress in the case by withholding evidence, blocking access to important testimonies and to the military, and obstructing efforts to pursue the hypotheses proposed by the Experts, particularly involving the drug trade.

The Mexican government insists, instead, on its original “historic truth”—that the students were incinerated at a trash dump—despite the fact that this theory has been scientifically disproven by two separate independent analyses (see WOLA’s factsheet on the trash dump theory). In addition, Mexican authorities have coerced and allegedly tortured people in detention to obtain testimonies supporting this debunked theory. There have also been attempts to intimidate the family members, their lawyers, and others who questioned the government’s version of events.

“It is clear that the Mexican government obstructed the investigation while doubling down on their own version of events, the fundamentals of which have been disproved,” said Joy Olson, WOLA’s Executive Director. “What Mexico presented as the ‘historic truth’ is increasingly resembling a ‘historic cover-up.”

The Mexican government’s mishandling of the case of the 43 forcibly disappeared students from Ayotzinapa led to months of protests throughout the country and international pressure. In this context, the Mexican government reached an agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the legal representatives of the students’ families ­(Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center and Tlachinollan Human Rights Center) to create an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertos Independientes, GIEI). Five internationally recognized experts in human rights and criminal investigation were tasked with assisting with: the search for the students; the investigation into those responsible; the attention to the victims of the attacks and their families; and the development of public policies to address enforced disappearance.

“The Experts were able to make important progress, but as time went on, they were stopped at every turn,” said Olson. “The families of the victims have been through so much, and this adds insult to injury.”

Read: Four Ways the Mexican Government Obstructed Justice and Impeded the Investigation into the 43 Disappeared Students

Since the Group of Experts began providing technical assistance to the Mexican government on the investigation, the Experts have faced ongoing public attacks aiming to discredit their past work and their characters. These defamation attempts have since spread to include illegal interceptions of telephone conversations between lawyers from Centro Prodh and Tlachinollan and family members of the students. WOLA continues to be concerned about ongoing attempts to discredit and criminalize human rights defenders in Mexico.

It is and always has been the Mexican government’s responsibility to lead the investigation into the students’ enforced disappearance and deliver results. “As the Experts conclude their work on the case, it is vital that the Mexican government follow through with the lines of investigation proposed by the experts and implement their recommendations so that truth and justice prevail,” said Maureen Meyer, WOLA Senior Associate for Mexico.

Read more on the Ayotzinapa case and the flaws in the government’s investigation:


Geoff Ramsey
Research and Communications Associate
Tel: (202) 797-2171