As Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s term comes to an end, it’s clear that the unresolved case of the 43 forcibly disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero has come to symbolize the spiraling human rights crisis that has marred his administration. The federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) has tried to close the case, calling it the “most exhaustive investigation in the history of Mexico,” but the government’s theory of what happened to the students has been disproven by international organizations and the Independent Group of Interdisciplinary Experts (GIEI) named by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to provide technical assistance to the government on the investigation. The GIEI, the IACHR’s Follow-up Mechanism to the Experts’ work, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have all expressed concern about obstruction of justice in the federal government’s investigation into the case.
On May 31, a Mexican federal tribunal ruled that the PGR investigation has not been “prompt, effective, impartial, or independent,” highlighting grave irregularities and human rights violations in the investigation, including the use of torture to extract confessions and the failure to investigate Federal Police and military officials that may have participated in the students’ disappearance. The court ruling therefore called for the creation of an Investigative Commission for Truth and Justice to take over the case—a ruling that is legally binding and cannot be overturned. However, the PGR has already alleged that the creation of the Commission is impossible, sending the concerning message that it lacks the political will to find the students and further casting doubt on the Mexican government’s commitment to resolving the case.
With President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador due to take office in December, it will be up to both the outgoing and incoming governments to implement the court’s ruling, establish the Investigative Commission, and continue to collaborate with the IACHR’s Follow-Up Mechanism. To help put these recent developments in the Ayotzinapa case into context, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization, has prepared the following resources:
This post was updated on July 3, 2018.