Press Release

IACHR Presents Performance Report on the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Ayotzinapa, Mexico, One Year Into its Work

June 6, 2018

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Balance Report (PDF and Word versions)

Observations of the State in Spanish

Observations of the petitioners in Spanish

Webpage of MESA

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), through its Special Follow-Up Mechanism for the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA, by its Spanish acronym), has issued a performance report at the end of the first year of that mechanism’s existence. The report focuses on the implementation of the recommendations held in the precautionary measure in favor of the students missing from Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher-Training College in Ayotzinapa and of the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its Spanish acronym) for this case. This performance report details actions adopted by the Mexican State that may contribute to solving the search for the missing students, whose disappearance is still under investigation, along with actions to assist victims and their families.

The MESA’s presence on the ground, though official visits, created spaces for dialogue among all the parties involved, which facilitated the exchange of information, particularly with victims’ families. On those occasions, the debate was respectful, honest and open. The IACHR further acknowledges and values the fact that the Mexican State accepted the MESA’s suggestions and launched proposed measures to move the investigation forward.

More than three years after the 43 students went missing, their fate remains unknown. The MESA notes the slow pace towards reaching conclusions, in terms of both search activities and moves to effectively pursue the various lines of investigation suggested by the GIEI. No definite timeline has been set in the investigation so far. The IACHR acknowledges that both the prior findings of other State institutions and the new lines of investigation that have been opened have been included in the case file. However, the Commission believes that the investigation remains fragmented, when it should be examined as a whole. The Commission is concerned that many of the proceedings are left incomplete or dismissed, or stop being pursued procedurally.

The IACHR has further asked the State to explain its change of narrative, considering the amount and the quality of the information in the file, but it has so far received no concrete response. The Commission stresses that, until now, no one has been charged with the crime of forced disappearance in this case and not one conviction has been issued.

As for the search, LiDAR technology is an important step forward taken by the State that must be pursued further. Its findings need to be examined in conjunction with other information, such as that gleaned from statements and phone records. The IACHR highlights the importance of conducting a clear, comprehensive and accurate search, without duplicating efforts, and of developing a database of mass graves in the state of Guerrero. That would contribute to better understanding the context of these disappearances and the modus operandi of their perpetrators, and it would also enable a more profound examination of burial patterns, which may enlighten searches.

Regarding structural measures, the Commission values the adoption by the State of the General Law on Forced Disappearance and the General Law on Torture.

As for the investigation, the MESA notes that progress has been made on several aspects: filing charges against police authorities; checking phones, including the phones of the missing students that were active after midnight on September 26, 2014; obtaining information from the United States though international legal assistance; and investigating the fifth bus and drug trafficking involving other bus lines.

In particular, the MESA acknowledges that the Mexican State has admitted drug-trafficking practices using buses, from Guerrero to the United States. The information that has been obtained as a result of international legal assistance contributed additional elements on several lines of investigation that are already open and need to be pursued further. It also opened new lines of investigation that need to be explored, regarding the motive of these events. The IACHR also values the fact that the office that is currently investigating the Ayotzinapa case is deepening the investigation onto several bus lines that were allegedly used at one time to smuggle drugs or funds between Mexico and the United States and that may be linked to the students’ disappearance.

The MESA further notes that the degree of involvement in these events of the federal police, the army, municipal police forces and State authorities is yet to be established. The IACHR highlights that it is important for the State to use the effective cooperation mechanisms it has access to, given the high number of arrested suspects. The Commission further calls for the application of pending arrest warrants and plans to closely monitor requests for international legal cooperation and proceedings based on the information obtained through such cooperation.

Regarding internal affairs, the IACHR will continue to monitor investigations on the serious allegations of torture, on allegations of concealing evidence and on an alleged attempt to damage—using malware—computers belonging to several human rights defenders linked to this case. The MESA further stresses the importance of reclassifying the investigation as a case involving the crime of forced disappearance and of examining the events in question as a unified whole, in order to support a new hypothesis that rests on objective evidence as a vital element for truth and justice.

Regarding assistance to the victims, the Commission values efforts to assist injured students Édgar Andrés Vargas and Aldo Gutiérrez Solano, who were in serious condition following attacks on their lives. The IACHR further acknowledges the specialist medical care that the State has granted to the families of the missing students who have requested it. The State must continue to ensure all the support it has provided so far. The IACHR hopes the parties will meet as soon as possible, in an effort to reach an agreement for the implementation of the recommendations held in the report Yo sólo quería que amaneciera. Impactos psicosociales del Caso Ayotzinapa.

Finally, the IACHR acknowledges the resilience and the strength of victims and their families in their search for truth and justice, and it encourages the State to comply with all of the Commission’s and the GIEI’s recommendations. Over the coming year, the IACHR will continue to monitor, through the MESA, the search, the investigation and the comprehensive assistance granted to victims and their families, in a transparent and constructive dialogue that has as its main objective and obligation finding out the fate of the victims.

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 and to defend 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. 126/18