IACHR: Nine Years After 43 Students from Ayotzinapa Went Missing, Mexico Must Persist in the Search for Truth

September 26, 2023

Related links

Contact info

IACHR Press Office

[email protected]

Distribution List

Subscribe to our distribution list

Washington, D.C. - Nine years after 43 students from Ayotzinapa went missing amid serious violence on September 26–27, 2014, the whereabouts of the missing students have not yet been determined, the facts have not yet been fully clarified and those responsible have not yet been punished. The IACHR stresses its commitment to the victims and their search for justice.

Nine years ago, the Commission activated all available mechanisms to support the search for these missing students. The IACHR's first decision in this case involved the adoption of precautionary measure 409/14 to demand the search for the 43 missing students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher-Training College, the provision of assistance for students who survived the attacks of September 26–27, 2014, and the application of measures to investigate these events in agreement with the families of the missing students and their representatives. Later, following talks between the IACHR and the Mexican State, an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) was set up to provide technical assistance and support to the authorities in charge of searching for the missing students and ensuring that justice was done. The GIEI completed its work on July 31, 2023, and submitted its final report on August 3, 2023.

In 2016, the IACHR also created the Special Follow-up Mechanism for the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA), which has so far produced three monitoring reports with relevant recommendations. The Commission hosted public hearings on this case and held dozens of meetings with Mexican State authorities and with the families of the victims and their representatives.

The IACHR acknowledges the efforts made by Mexico under the current government, particularly the development and implementation of a new institutional model to redirect work on the Ayotzinapa case. It is relevant to recall the installation of the Presidential Commission for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa case (COVAJ), the creation of the Special Investigation and Litigation Unit for the Ayotzinapa case (UEILCA), as well as the opening of the State to international scrutiny through the installation of a MESA team in Mexican territory, and the reactivation of the GIEI.

Regarding progress in the investigation and punishment of those responsible, the IACHR positively valued the reactivation of field searches and the genetic identification of two students, Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz, and Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre, which is in addition to the previous genetic identification of Alexander Mora Venancio in 2014. The IACHR welcomes that arrest warrants had been issued with a scope beyond the municipality and the state, targeting judicial and military officers among other individuals.

However, the IACHR found that some arrest warrants—targeting among others military officers—were revoked in 2022 by ministerial authorities with no competent jurisdiction over the UEILCA. However, these orders were finally confirmed in 2023 and are currently being complied with. In this regard, the IACHR calls the attention of the competent authorities to ensure the consistency of the investigation and to consider the legitimate expectations of the families in the resolution of this case. The IACHR stressed its recommendation that the State should make all necessary changes to ensure the real and timely enforcement of all pending arrest warrants.

The Commission also noted the change of precautionary measure (from ordinary arrest to house arrest) imposed on an Army general who was under investigation. Representatives of the students' families publicly defined this change as "unusual," saying that it involved preferential treatment for an Army officer.

The IACHR noted with concern that—as reported by the GIEI—progress slowed down due to the National Defense Ministry's failure to deliver relevant information, even in violation of the presidential order to hand over all data linked to this case. The IACHR has recommended as structurally important the assessment of all mechanisms to establish the involvement and responsibility of military officers in any human rights violations.

While a court warrant was issued in September 2023 to demand that these documents be handed over and to prevent their destruction, the IACHR found that litigation concerning documentary evidence could have been avoided through good faith cooperation by the authorities that were in possession of this documentary evidence. The IACHR hopes this court warrant will be enforced.

In the MESA's third report, the IACHR recommended that the State adopt protocols so that all documents that might serve as evidence in the Ayotzinapa case could be quickly and simply integrated in the investigation and in any court proceedings concerning this case. This would require that Mexico implement changes and reforms in the organic and functional structure of its security and intelligence agencies, from the very top of their hierarchies. These changes and reforms should seek to eradicate practices involving the cover-up of information in the investigation and prosecution of cases involving serious human rights violations.

The IACHR stresses its call for deeper State efforts to end the "pact of silence," ensuring the safety and personal protection of anyone who provides relevant evidence to enable progress on the various lines of investigation and to establish the whereabouts of the missing students, through voluntary and legal confession. The Commission also urges the judiciary to establish the criminal responsibilities of the prosecuted persons, and to duly punish the perpetrators, to prevent the facts from remaining impunity.

Nine years after these horrible events, the IACHR stresses its unwavering commitment to and support for the victims and their families, in their search for truth, justice and reparation. The Commission will continue to exercise its conventional mandates to supervise the course of these investigations and to ensure compliance with precautionary measure 409/14.

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. 226/23

4:50 PM