Press Release

Follow-Up Mechanism to Ayotzinapa Case Makes Second Visit to Mexico

April 21, 2017

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Mexico City — The Follow-Up Mechanism related to the precautionary measure granted for the students from the “Raúl Isidro Burgos” rural school in Ayotzinapa (PM 409/14), and to the recommendations made by the Inter-Disciplinary Group of Independent Experts, carried out its second official visit to Mexico on April 19-21, 2017. The purpose of the visit was to continue monitoring compliance with the precautionary measure and with the Inter-Disciplinary Group’s recommendations related to progress in the investigation, the search for the missing students, comprehensive attention to victims and their family members, and structural measures of non-repetition. The delegation was made up of the IACHR Rapporteur for Mexico and coordinator of the Follow-Up Mechanism, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño; IACHR Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão; and technical staff of the IACHR Executive Secretariat.

Two years and seven months after the events in question, the situation and whereabouts of the 43 missing students remains unknown. The Follow-Up Mechanism has examined the information it has received since it began its work, and it expresses its concern about the slow pace in coming to conclusions, both in the search activities and in the effective clarification of the various lines of investigation indicated by the Inter-Disciplinary Group. The Commission notes that so far not a single person has been prosecuted in this case for the crime of forced disappearance, and no new charges have been filed since December 2015.

In this context, the Commission is concerned about public statements made by high-level authorities validating the hypothesis that the 43 students were incinerated in the Cocula municipal waste dump. The Inter-Disciplinary Group concluded in its first report that the minimum necessary fire for the cremation of 43 bodies was not scientifically possible there, given the evidence found. The Follow-Up Mechanism reiterates that the dissemination of this hypothesis, which the Interdisciplinary Group has already ruled out, creates a distance from the victims and their relatives and jeopardizes the search for truth and justice in this case.

During this second official visit, the Mexican State reported on progress made since the Follow-Up Mechanism was put into place. The Commission values the administrative steps taken to contract the LIDAR technology to be used in the search for the students, the progress made in the investigation of telephone communications, and the establishment of a timeline for taking statements from those arrested and other individuals. It also values the progress made in the investigations into possible involvement of police officers from Huitzuco. The IACHR also welcomes the specialized medical attention provided to Edgar Vargas and Aldo Gutiérrez, students who were seriously injured at the time of the events in question. The IACHR trusts that the Mexican State will continue this medical care, and in the particular case of Aldo Gutiérrez, the State should finish up all pending treatments, as well as the plan to transfer him to a residence that meets the medical standards required for his care.

The Commission also recognizes the progress made with regard to the General Law to Investigate and Punish Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, which was passed unanimously in the Chamber of Deputies last Wednesday and is awaiting final approval in the Senate. Along these lines, the IACHR urges the State to take decisive steps toward legislation on forced disappearance that meets international human rights standards and that has the essential endorsement of the families and the organizations that accompany them.

With the Follow-Up Mechanism having been in operation for six months and having completed the first half of the activities included in its Work Plan, the IACHR noted the priority aspects to be addressed in order to quickly make satisfactory progress in the search for truth and justice and to resume a direct dialogue between the family members of the 43 students and State authorities.

In terms of the investigation, the IACHR reiterates the importance of properly examining the indications of involvement of members of State security forces in these events and delving into the participation of authorities at different levels of government.

With respect to the investigation into the telephone communications, it is also important for the State to at least determine the identities of “el Caminante” and “el Patrón”—mentioned by several people involved in these events—and to expand the investigation into the army’s role in what happened. The IACHR urges the State to advance the investigation of two federal police officers identified as allegedly being responsible for covering up the events, based on the indications of the Inter-Disciplinary Group as well as the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).

The State should also urgently expand the line of investigation regarding the possible connection between the events in this case and the movement of drugs to the United States. To that end, the IACHR urges the Mexican State to prioritize requests to the U.S. government for legal assistance and to give priority to evidence and proceedings relating to the fifth bus.

In terms of the search, the IACHR urges the Mexican State to create a database of graves that can be replicated in every federal entity. It also urges the State to implement the use of LIDAR technology as soon as possible and to expand the search area, as proposed by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF). With regard to attending to victims, the Commission urges the State to accelerate the care required by the students who were seriously injured at the time of these events. The Attorney General’s Office (PGR) presented a proposed timeline for addressing all these pending issues in the next six months; this will be evaluated by the IACHR.

During the visit, the Follow-Up Mechanism met with family members of the student beneficiaries of the precautionary measure and their representatives. It also held meetings with Mexico’s Attorney General, Raúl Cervantes, and high-level officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Interior Ministry. The delegation held additional meetings with Luis Raúl González, President of the National Human Rights Commission, and with representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Follow-Up Mechanism will also meet with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray. The IACHR thanks the Mexican State for the cooperation it provided to the Follow-Up Mechanism in carrying out its work, and appreciates the collaboration and information provided by the families of the 43 students and their representatives.

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. 049/17