Historic Ruling in the Ayotzinapa Case:
Ruling establishes the severe irregularities committed by the Attorney General’s Office and orders the creation of a Special Commission for Truth and Justice
Mexico City, June 4, 2018. Today the Federal Judiciary Council released an informational memo, which announced that the First Collegiate Tribunal of the Nineteenth Circuit had issued a decision on case numbers 203/2017 – 206/2017. The decision ordered that the investigation of the Ayotzinapa case be reopened because of the severity of the irregularities that the court discovered. The decision also ordered the creation of an Investigative Commission for Justice and Truth in the Iguala case.
Given the length and importance of the judgment, the families of the 43 students will analyze the sentence in depth and make further public statements in the coming days. However, given the public impact of this historic resolution, we want to immediately highlight some key points:
- The tribunal’s ruling is an important contribution by the Federal Judiciary to the search for truth and justice in this case. In the face of repeated criticism of the alleged “historical truth” by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (abbreviated to GIEI in Spanish), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the Mexico branch of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the federal government has always responded that the Mexican courts would be the final judges of the quality of the investigation. Today they have passed judgment, and their verdict is conclusive: the arguments presented by the Attorney General’s office (abbreviated to PGR in Spanish) are indefensible, and the entire investigation must be reviewed autonomously and impartially.
- The claims that gave rise to this decision were presented by some of the defendants, who describe being subjected to torture. The families of the 43 disappeared students did not bring this case.
- The decision emphasizes evidence showing that torture occurred during the investigation and calls for the use of independent experts who are not part of the Attorney General’s Office to review this aspect. In this sense, the decision confirms that the investigation had focused on obtaining declarations by coercion, and that the allegations of torture and mistreatment have not been adequately investigated. In Paragraph 764 of the ruling, the tribunal indicates “In this case, there are not only allegations of torture by agents of the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime (abbreviated to SEIDO in Spanish), but also multiple cases in which the people involved suffered injuries or worsening of injuries, while delivered to the custody of that office.”
- The sentence also insists that in the current institutional context and especially in this case, the Attorney General’s Office has not acted impartially or autonomously; as such, the ruling should be understood as a call for the creation of a truly independent Prosecutor’s Office. The court points out a clear example of this lack of independence and impartiality in Paragraph 1033 of the ruling: “it does not appear that there has been any exploration of the lines of investigation that pointed to the participation of the Army, and the Federal Police; and on top of that, it also does not appear that there has been any investigation of the acts of torture, which implies that there has similarly been no investigation of the personnel that these acts are attributed to, including the members of the Navy.” The tribunal offers another example in Paragraphs 1148 and 1149 of the ruling, in which it establishes: “1148…the investigation, which in general was directed towards emphasizing only that evidence that could support a version of the facts narrated by various detainees in their confessions (whose legality, as seen, has been questioned by this Collegiate Tribunal), referring to the incineration of the students in the Cocula landfill and placing of their ashes in the San Juan River.” “1149. Thus, by giving excessive weight to this version of events, other lines of investigation have been abandoned.”
- The judgment orders the creation of an Investigative Commission for Justice and Truth in the Iguala case, as an “alternative procedure” (para. 1102) to correct the deficient work of the PGR. The sentence emphasizes the need for the participation of the victims and their representatives, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), and international bodies in the Investigative Commission. The tribunal points to the relevance of the work of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) in this case and calls for the GIEI to be heard in this new phase of investigation, stating, “it is not only possible but also recommendable that there be a new period of participation” of the GIEI (para. 1134).
- The resolution of the First Collegiate Tribunal confirms that the truth of the Ayotzinapa case has not been told, the whereabouts of the victims are unknown, and that the current federal administration committed multiple irregularities in the investigation. These conclusions, already made by international bodies, have now been established by a national tribunal. As the court states, “it is necessary that this matter be analyzed from a new angle” (para. 1151). Given the repeated resistance of Enrique Peña Nieto’s government to discard the “official hypothesis,” we call for a public commitment that this judgment will be complied with during the rest of his administration’s tenure and that there will be no manipulation of the case file to obstruct the investigation.
- Given that today’s judgment emphasizes the rights of the victims, from this moment we call on the three powers of government to ensure that all actions taken in compliance with this sentence are previously consulted and agreed upon with the victims and their representatives. The judgment itself, upon stating its effects in Paragraph 1194, chapter VII, numerals “d” and “e”, establishes that: “d. All documents or determinations, to be valid, should be approved by the victims’ representatives and the CNDH” and “e. The lines of investigation and evidence to be presented shall be determined by the victims’ representatives and the CNDH.”
- Finally, we highlight the exhortation by the court (chapter VIII, para. 1241) directed towards the President in relation to the Investigative Commission for Justice and Truth in the Iguala case: “In the most respectful manner, we request the President of Mexico to instruct all of his government’s agencies to provide, within their spheres of jurisdiction, the support and all else needed by said Commission.”
Narce Santibañez Alejandre
Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center
04455 8531 2218