HRW: Mexico must address failure of investigation into student disappearances

HRW: Mexico must address failure of investigation into student disappearances

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday called for [HRW report] Mexico to address the failure of its investigation into the disappearance of 43 students from a teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa, Mexico last September. HRW argues the Attorney General’s Office [official website, in Spanish] should investigate claims of abuse and obstruction of justice lodged by an expert group appointed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IAHCR). In a report published earlier this year, the IAHCR group refuted the official account of the students’ fate; the national report alleges the students were ultimately incinerated in a garbage dump by members of a criminal group after a clash with the police. Although Austrian forensic experts discovered the remains of one student near the dump, the IAHCR group outlined numerous instances of negligence and recklessness in the government’s handling of the investigation. Due to discrepancies between the investigation and outcome, Attorney General Arely Gomez, who was not in office at the time of the investigation, pledged that her office would undertake a new forensic investigation of the dump.

According to government figures, more than 25,000 people have gone missing in Mexico since 2007. While the problem of disappearances is widespread in Mexico, no particular case has drawn more attention than that of the Ayotzinapa students. One of the first major breakthroughs in the case occurred in mid-November when Jose Luis Abarca, a former Mayor of Iguala, was charged [JURIST report] with homicide of the disappeared students. In late January Mexican authorities arrested [JURIST report] a hit man for the Guerreros Unidos gang, which is believed to be behind the murder of the disappeared students, along with 100 other people believed to be connected to the crime. Two days later Mexican officials issued final findings [JURIST report] on the case and declared that all the students were believed to be dead, even though DNA testing has only affirmatively confirmed the death of one. Mexico has faced much criticism from international actors on their efforts to resolve the problem of disappearances. Later that month, Amnesty International issued a statement urging [JURIST report] the Mexican government to adhere to UN recommendations on how to investigate the disappearances of its citizens. In July, AI opined [JURIST report] that the discovery of 129 bodies in the southern state of Guerrero “confirms what we had already found: the sheer magnitude of the crisis of enforced disappearances in Guerrero and elsewhere in Mexico is truly shocking.”