IACHR Presents Third Report on Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case

November 15, 2022

Third Report on the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case

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Mexico City/Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented the Third Report on the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA), regarding the supervision of the precautionary measure granted in favor of 43 students from Raúl Isidro Burgos rural school in Ayotzinapa. The report provides an account of the actions taken by Mexico from December 2018 onward in relation to the investigation into the events that took place in Ayotzinapa; the search for the missing students and clarification of their whereabouts; the measures taken to assist the victims and their families; and structural measures to prevent these events from being repeated.

To draft this report, the IACHR organized on-site review days of investigation files and court records from criminal cases relating to the case, through a technical team from its Executive Secretariat that will be operating from Mexican territory through February 2022, in accordance with the work plans for the MESA. It also received and analyzed extracts from judicial proceedings sent by the Federal Judiciary Council on criminal proceedings relating to the case and participated in court hearings and forensic search procedures. Likewise, it gathered information while taking part in COVAJ sessions, meetings with the UEILCA, other follow-up meetings with various state authorities, and inter-institutional coordination forums to design and implement public policies on the disappearance of people. The report also discusses information gathered during the IACHR's official and working visits, working meetings at IACHR Periods of Sessions, and requests for information from the State, among other sources of information.

From 2019 onward, the IACHR has observed progress on the response to the Ayotzinapa affair following the creation of a specific institution to address the issue and the decision to involve the victims and their legal representatives in measures taken by the State. The creation of the Presidential Commission for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa Case (COVAJ) has had a positive impact by reestablishing channels for dialogue and coordination between the families and the authorities involved in the case. In these terms, it is important for the State to maintain and strengthen this model by taking a victim-centered approach in which communication with the families and their representatives is consistent and continues throughout all the processes that are implemented over time.

On the matter of the investigation, the establishment of the Special Investigation and Litigation Unit for the Ayotzinapa Case (UEILCA) allowed all investigations and specialized knowledge of the inquiries and criminal proceedings linked to the case to be brought together under a single prosecution body. In this way, progress has been made on identifying alleged perpetrators and linking them to the case, issuing arrest warrants and making the relevant arrests, filing new charges, and initiating court proceedings regarding the events of September 26 and 27, 2014, and over irregularities in the investigations and proceedings leading to the obstruction of justice. The charges in question involve serious human rights violations such as forced disappearance and torture, and the individuals that are allegedly responsible for these crimes include municipal, state, and federal agents, including members of the Mexican armed forces.

Despite this, the IACHR has continued to observe obstacles in the provision of information and a lack of cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of the case on the part of some state authorities, particularly security-related and military institutions. In this regard, the IACHR regrets that the State has still not succeeded in removing remaining structures within it that sought to cover up the grave events that took place. Furthermore, recent events have weakened ministerial independence and Mexico's commitment to truth and justice in this case, such as the interventions in other areas of the Attorney General's Office (FGR) as part of the UEILCA's work, and the request to cancel 21 arrest warrants against members of state security forces and state officials who held public office in Guerrero at the time of the events. The IACHR is extremely concerned that the lack of appropriate conditions for carrying out an independent investigation has led to the resignation of the head of the UEILCA and several ministerial agents, which constitutes a serious setback with regard to the information that has been acquired on the investigation and implies a new learning curve for those who take up the case. In this regard, measures to redirect the investigation are urgently needed. Likewise, guarantees of the independence of the ministerial authorities in charge of the investigation need to be strengthened to safeguard the progress achieved so far and avoid setbacks.

Regarding the search, the IACHR appreciates the unprecedented efforts that the State has been making to maintain an active, continuous search operation for the students in different locations in the state of Guerrero, and to promote the right of the families to participate in this search. The discovery of bone fragments and the subsequent positive genetic identification of students Christian Rodriguez Telumbre and Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz represent a step forward, but further progress must be made to clarify the facts and uncover the final whereabouts of the students. Eight years on from these grave events, Mexico remains under the obligation to provide a satisfactory explanation regarding the fate or whereabouts of the 43 students from the school in Ayotzinapa.

On the matter of assistance to those who have been recognized as victims in the Ayotzinapa case, the State has focused its efforts on granting measures and establishing a work route for medical and health care for these individuals. However, the absence of a comprehensive care plan for victims has led to delays or delays in medical and health care schemes, as well as difficulties in assessing progress in this area.

On the matter of structural measures, the IACHR notes that notable efforts have been made to create specialized institutions, regulatory instruments, and tools to search for missing people, under the leadership of the National Search Commission. Despite this, challenges continue to prevent the General Law on Disappearances from being fully implemented. For example, the delay in the Attorney General's Office's implementation of certain technological tools for forensic identification constitutes a challenge when it comes to making progress on investigations with due diligence and promoting effective searches.  

Finally, the IACHR presented conclusions and a series of recommendations that it hopes will contribute to Mexico fulfilling its obligations around investigating the forced disappearance of the 43 missing students and ascertaining their whereabouts, strengthening the assistance provided to the victims, and overcoming the structural factors in Mexico that led to the disappearance of the students in the first place. The major efforts that the State has made to clarify the events of the Ayotzinapa case must be reflected in judicial proceedings that are substantiated under the rules of due process, such that those responsible for these events are sanctioned through firm sentences. In this regard, the State urgently needs to deploy all the means at its disposal to ascertain judicially whether military and police agents were involved in the events of September 26 and 27, 2014, in collusion with criminal groups, and to investigate the orders or instructions from higher ranks that that gave rise to these events and their subsequent concealment. It is also essential to ascertain which state agents were responsible for issuing and executing instructions to fabricate evidence to obstruct justice. Specifically, Mexico needs to redouble its efforts to establish the whereabouts or fate of the 43 missing students as soon as possible in order to provide their families with a satisfactory answer as to what happened to them.

Since its creation in 2016, the MESA has followed up on precautionary measure MC/409/14 and the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) published in its 2015 and 2016 reports. As a result of this work, the IACHR published a progress report and a final report on the progress that has been made on the case and ongoing challenges, including new recommendations regarding these. In 2019, at the request of the parties to the precautionary measure, the monitoring functions of the MESA were strengthened by establishing a technical team from the IACHR Executive Secretariat in Mexican territory through February 2022. This team has provided technical assistance and conducted follow-up activities relating to the search, investigation and prosecution, assistance for victims, and measures for nonrepetition, in accordance with its work plans.

Eight years after these grave events took place, the IACHR once again expressed its commitment to the case and its solidarity with the victims and their families in their struggle for truth and justice, whom it will continue to support. Likewise, it will continue to deploy all its institutional efforts as part of its mandate to follow up on the investigations and compliance with precautionary measure 409/14 until the whereabouts of the 43 students have been determined and the truth of the events is known.

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. 256/22

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