IACHR and UN Human Rights: Seven Years After the Forced Disappearance of the 43 Students from Ayotzinapa, the Search for Them Must Remain a Priority

September 24, 2021

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Washington, D.C./Mexico City — Seven years after grave human rights violations were committed against the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office in Mexico of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) deem it essential that Mexico continue prioritizing the search for the students, whose whereabouts remain unknown, and that it make progress on the investigation and clarify events safely and effectively.

"The IACHR has been monitoring the Ayotzinapa case closely since the adoption of Precautionary Measure 409/14 and has recently witnessed how political will on the part of the State has been effective in moving the case forward," said the Rapporteur for Mexico, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño.

"The victims' families know better than anyone what they have had to go through over the last seven years in their quest for justice and truth, and the human suffering that this has entailed," said Guillermo Fernandez-Maldonado, the UN Human Rights Representative in Mexico. "May the example of dignity and perseverance that they have set serve as a permanent reminder of the importance of continuing to join efforts and make concrete, reliable steps toward making their right to truth a reality," he added.

As a result of the coordinated work of the authorities, with the involvement of the mothers and fathers of the 43 missing students, new information has now been uncovered regarding the context and scale of the attack and the multiple human rights violations that resulted from it. As a result of the significant progress that has been made on the investigation, two students have been positively identified; acts of torture and ill-treatment that were committed while taking initial statements from the alleged perpetrators are being investigated; access has been gained to intelligence that was not included in the first phase of the investigation; and there is greater clarity about the responsibility of non-State actors and officials at all levels of government.

The IACHR and UN Human Rights noted that Mexico's openness to international scrutiny is creating positive precedents for investigations into disappearances in the country. It is of the utmost importance for the progress achieved so far to be transformed into concrete actions that break the pact of silence and overcome the obstacles to learning the truth of what happened. The two organizations also emphasized that current priorities include: determining the students' whereabouts, complying with pending arrest warrants and extradition orders; preventing information leaks about the case; guaranteeing the safety of victims and witnesses; and sanctioning public officials who obstructed the course of justice and committed human rights violations during the investigation.

The fact that seven years have gone by since the start of the investigation into these serious human rights violations has been detrimental to the collection of evidence and the expectations of family members, some of whom have died without having obtained justice or reparation. For this reason, Mexico needs to redouble its efforts to collect evidence and relevant new testimonies and to speed up pending information transfers from security and intelligence organizations.

The IACHR and UN Human Rights wish to acknowledge the struggle of the victims' families and the human rights defenders who are supporting them, and the outstanding work and commitment of the Presidential Commission for Truth and Access to Justice, the Special Investigation and Litigation Unit for the Ayotzinapa Case, and the findings of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), which led to the discarding of a fabricated version of events that undermined the State's international obligations regarding the disappeared students' and their families' rights of access to justice and due process.

In this regard, the IACHR and UN Human Rights expressed their solidarity with the families of the 43 missing students and reiterated that they would continue to provide support for their search for truth, justice, and full reparation. They also acknowledged the important work carried out by the victims' representatives: the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Fundar—Center for Research and Analysis, and Services and Consultancy for Peace (Serapaz), which represent and provide support for the victims' families, as well as the essential work carried out by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAFF).

The IACHR will continue providing the State with technical assistance as part of Precautionary Measure 409/14 through the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case. It will also facilitate the work of the GIEI with assisting the investigations.

Likewise, UN Human Rights confirmed its commitment to continue providing technical assistance to the Mexican State regarding the Ayotzinapa Case, based on its mandate in the country and the agreement signed on April 8, 2019, by the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, during her official visit to Mexico.

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. 254/21

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