Press Release

IACHR Makes an Urgent Call on the Mexican State Regarding the Murder and Disappearance of Students

October 10, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) expresses its profound concern regarding the alleged serious acts of violence that occurred in Mexico, in which several students between the ages of 15 and 25 were killed, injured, or disappeared. The IACHR urges the Mexican State to locate the students that are still missing; to protect the life and personal integrity of the survivors, their families and representatives; to promptly, diligently, and impartially investigate these crimes; and to adopt the necessary measures to prevent similar acts in the future.

According to broadly circulated information confirmed by official sources, between the night of Friday, September 26 and the early morning of Saturday, September 27, 2014 in Iguala in the state of Guerrero, a series of violent acts were perpetrated against students of the “Raúl Isidro Burgos” Normal Rural School in Ayotzinapa. The events began when a group of approximately 80 students left the central bus station in the city of Iguala, traveling to the city of Chilpancingo. As of that moment, municipal police officers, allegedly in collusion with assassins tied to organized crime, indiscriminately attacked the students with high-caliber firearms over the course of the following hours. These serious acts of violence, the causes of which have not yet been uncovered, left six dead (three students from the above-mentioned school, one of whom allegedly had visible signs of torture, two soccer players, and a woman), at least 14 students injured, some seriously, and 43 students whose whereabouts are still unknown.

Given the urgency and severity of this situation, on October 3, 2014, the Commission granted precautionary measures. It requested that the Mexican State adopt the necessary measures to investigate the situation and ascertain the whereabouts of the 43 students identified as disappeared and missing, in order to protect their life and integrity, as well as to protect the injured students who were hospitalized, given that their life and personal integrity have been threatened and are at grave risk.

According to official sources, two hired assassins detained by authorities had confessed that 17 students had been arrested by municipal police in Iguala and handed over to members of the organized criminal group called “Guerreros Unidos”. This group murdered and buried the students in unmarked mass graves. “The fact that public servants intervened in a situation and then young students ended up dead is an extraordinarily grave sign,” stated the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Emilio Alvarez Icaza. Shortly after, 28 burned bodies were found in five unmarked mass graves located on the outskirts of Iguala. They are being identified by the relevant authorities.

The IACHR urges the Mexican State to immediately adopt the necessary measures to find those who are still missing. The Commission calls on the Mexican State to undertake a prompt, objective, and impartial investigation into the events in Iguala. The investigation must shed light on the causes that led to these serious violent acts and identify and punish the perpetrators and masterminds. Justice must also be served for the victims and their families. The Commission believes that it is essential to adopt the necessary measures to protect the students who survived these attacks, as well as the families of the victims and their representatives. The State must also adopt the legal, institutional, and administrative measures necessary to ensure that these acts are not repeated. The IACHR values as positive the statement made by President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, and hopes that the efforts made by the Government lead to a prompt clarification of these events, the punishment of those responsible, and the reparations for the victims. Also, the Commission considers important that the authorities of the state of Guerrero contribute to this goal.

The IACHR recalls that in 2011, following a working visit to Mexico, it underscored the fact that the State faces serious challenges related to the growing power of organized crime. It observed that these groups “have highly destructive weapons in their possession and influence within some spheres of the State, both at the local and federal levels.” Additionally, it noted that many criminal acts carried out by these criminal organizations “apparently involved the participation of corrupt elements of the police and State agencies, which reportedly facilitated the commission of serious human rights violations, giving rise to impunity.” This situation is reveals a clear deterioration of the rule of law.

In this regard, the Inter-American Commission reaffirms that States have the mandatory duty to adopt, in keeping with their international human rights obligations, all necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of all those under their jurisdiction. This duty, enshrined in State obligations in matters of citizen security, also entails protecting people from violent and crime.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence

No. 117/14