Press Release

IACHR Suggests that Mexico Restore the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts for Ayotzinapa

December 17, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - On December 3, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) sent Mexico a proposal for the restoration of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its Spanish acronym) for Ayotzinapa. Five years after the relevant precautionary measure was issued, the Commission has activated several of its mechanisms to deal with the requests of members of the victims’ families. In this new stage in the process, the Commission fully supports the restoration of the GIEI and hopes that it will contribute to ensuring justice and truth for victims.

When it heard about the disappearance of the 43 students, the Commission issued Precautionary Measure 409-14 and asked the Mexican State to search for them, to investigate the events that resulted in their disappearance, and to assist victims of those attacks. Later, the IACHR reached consensus with the State and with representatives of the families to create the GIEI, an institution who provided technical assistance to State authorities and presented the conclusions of these efforts in two reports, with recommendations for the State. The GIEI was instrumental to counter the official version of the “historical truth,” and this follow-up mechanism enabled new lines of investigation and pathways to implement new technologies to search for missing persons. These concrete contributions made it possible to ensure that the case remained internationally visible until new measures were agreed with the Mexican government.

The Commission then deemed it necessary to create the Special Follow-up Mechanism for the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA, by its Spanish acronym). Over three years, the MESA monitored compliance with this precautionary measure and with the recommendations issued by the GIEI, and it issued two reports with recommendations for the Mexican State to address persisting hurdles in the investigation. In 2019, at the request of the State and of relatives of the victims, the MESA was strengthened to provide technical support. This Mechanism created a Technical Assistance Group to provide technical support in coordination with the Commission for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa Case and the Special Investigation and Litigation Unit for the Ayotzinapa Case in the Office of Mexico’s Attorney General. The Group brought together members of the IACHR’s Executive Secretariat who were permanently deployed in Mexico and international consultants with abundant expertise to provide advice on specific aspects of the criminal investigation, like Ángela Buitrago and Francisco Cox.

In its follow-up efforts, the IACHR has seen an interest in searching for the missing young people, although results have been elusive. However, the Commission has also found persisting challenges in this case. These challenges include a fragmented investigation, a lack of arrests and indictments for forced disappearances, and a failure to arrest representatives of the State for their actions or omissions in this matter. The Commission further expressed its concern about court decisions that led to the releases of individuals who were allegedly linked to these events and who might have valuable information about the students’ whereabouts. The Commission has monitored State progress concerning assistance for victims—particularly students Edgar Vargas and Aldo Gutiérrez—as well as measures to support family members, such as healthcare plans for the families of the 43 students. Five years after the tragic events of September 26–27, the IACHR has acknowledged a political commitment at the highest level to ensure justice and to find out what happened. It has also expressed its concern for the lack of answers concerning these events, even after a significant period of time. In the current scenario, the Commission believes a historic window of opportunity has opened up to pursue further investigations with international support.

Following a meeting held on December 2, 2019 between representatives of the parents of the 43 missing students and the Commission’s legal representatives, the Commission was asked to make every possible effort to encourage investigations and to ensure that the State would provide all the conditions necessary so that the international experts hired by the Commission to provide technical assistance to investigators can do so as independently as possible and with full safeguards for their personal safety.

For the IACHR, this kind of international boost for investigations can only be implemented through the restoration of the GIEI. On December 3, 2019, the Commission formally suggested that the State secure as swiftly as possible the agreement required for the GIEI to be able to launch its operations. In its message, the Commission asked the State to ensure that members of the GIEI have free, unrestricted access to court records, and that they may take part in search efforts, analyze current lines of investigation and recommend new ones, identify torture patterns, and recommend mechanisms for effective cooperation, as well as supporting efforts to implement the Comprehensive Plan to Assist Victims of the events that took place on September 26–27, 2014.

Beyond the GIEI’s potential restoration, the IACHR will persist in its usual efforts to monitor this precautionary measure, by holding public hearings during its periods of sessions and working meetings, organizing periodic visits by its Rapporteur for Mexico, and issuing press releases to assess reports on any progress made (among other actions contemplated in its Rules of Procedure), based on Mexico’s obligations in accordance with international human rights treaties. In this context, the IACHR will keep its representatives at the Presidential Commission for Truth and Access to Justice for the Ayotzinapa Case and its best disposition to provide technical assistance to the State and its institutions focused on searching for missing persons, disappearances, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, among other priority areas identified in IACHR efforts, as well as its willingness to provide permanent technical support to the Mexican government.

The Commission believes that, five years after the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, national authorities need to make progress and ensure an investigation that delivers results. The IACHR hopes that, following the GIEI’s restoration, international technical assistance will prevent impunity and ensure effective justice and truth for 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. 327/19