Mexican Authorities Who Obstructed Investigation Have Yet to Face Consequences
Washington, DC—Two years after 43 students were disappeared by police officers in collusion with a criminal group in Mexico, there have been no convictions, progress in the investigation has stalled, and compelling evidence points to an obstruction of justice in the case.
“This is one of the worst cases of human rights violations seen in Mexico’s recent history. Two years later, the Mexican government has done very little to help these wounds heal. It is shocking that, despite dedicating significant resources, the Mexican government has not found the students, and that its own officials have obstructed the investigation,” said Maureen Meyer, Senior Associate for Mexico at WOLA. “To add insult to injury, in the lead up to the second anniversary of the students’ case, President Peña Nieto promoted Tomas Zerón, who, as head of the Criminal Investigation Agency, carried out unauthorized investigations in the case. This sends the message that the government is not committed to punishing any serious wrongdoing by officials who were involved in creating the government’s ‘historic truth.’”
In September 2014—when Mexican law enforcement officers working with a criminal group violently attacked the students, killing six people, injuring dozens, and arresting 43 students who were never seen again—the case shook the nation and spurred outrage over Mexico’s human rights crisis. In the face of mounting national and international pressure, the Mexican government agreed to the creation of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), established by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to provide technical assistance to the Mexican government in the investigation. The Mexican government declared that this case represents its “most exhaustive prosecutorial investigation in the history of Mexico.” However, the Group of Experts scientifically disproved the Mexican government’s official story about what happened to the 43 students and uncovered serious misconduct in how the government investigated the case.
On July 29, 2016, the Mexican government, the students’ families, and their legal representatives agreed to a follow-up mechanism with the IACHR to monitor Mexico’s compliance with the Group of Experts’ recommendations and ensure the continued investigation into the students’ whereabouts. It is urgent that the follow-up mechanism begins its work in Mexico and that officials from the IACHR have full access to case files and all other relevant information.
As the Mexican government moves into its third year investigating the case, it must not only prioritize continuing the search for the students and sanctioning those responsible, but also investigate government authorities that obstructed justice in the case and hold them accountable.
“Real justice for the students’ families and survivors means a thorough investigation to uncover the whereabouts of the students and sanctioning those responsible for these crimes,” said Meyer. “It also means investigating strong evidence that indicates that Mexican authorities tortured suspects to coerce confessions, tampered with key evidence, blocked access to witnesses, and obstructed justice in the case.”
Below is a select list of WOLA’s resources on the Ayotzinapa case: