More information has been released on the 43 Mexican students who disappeared in 2014 in a final report made by the international experts who have been investigating the case for over a year.
The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (IGEI) panel, which was commissioned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), found that the official government inquiry into the events surrounding the disappearances is invalid and should be dismissed.
The incident in question occurred in September 2014 in Iguala in the state of Guerrero. Teachers in training from a college in Ayotzinapa hijacked buses, a commonly tolerated practice, to participate in a protest in Iguala. They were marching against local employment policies that they said discriminated against teachers from rural backgrounds.
According to prosecutors, the 43 student teachers were detained by police under the orders of Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca, and then handed over to a local gang, Guerreros Unidos, who killed the students and burned their bodies in a local landfill. However, relatives of the victims insist that this version of the story was invented to cover up involvement by important politicians and army officers.
The IGEI began investigating the case in March 2015 at the behest of the victims’ families. Within six months, they published their first report, which disagreed with what the government had called the “historic truth.”
The report they released this month is their second, and in it, the panel details evidence of torture and bribery of suspects leading to confessions, as well as obstruction of justice by authorities, report José de Córdoba and Dudley Althaus of the Wall Street Journal.
The Associated Press quoted Patricio Reyes Landa, who said in testimony:
It was a lie the way they said they caught us. They went into the house, beating and kicking. They hauled me aboard a vehicle, they blindfolded me, tied my feet and hands, they began beating me again and gave me electric shocks, they put a rag over my nose and poured water on it. They gave me shocks on the inside of my mouth and my testicles. They put a bag over my face so I couldn’t breathe. It went on for hours.
They also found that the level of collaboration between the groups involved, as described in a New York Times article by Kirk Semple, is evidence of prior planning by higher-ups.
Francisco Fox, a member of the IACHR, said during a press conference in Mexico City:
The independent panel has not found a shred of evidence to show that the bodies were burned at the landfill site in Cocula. There is evidence that the mobile phones of the students were active hours after, or in some cases, days after the time when they would have been burned.
They found 17 bodies at the aforementioned landfill site, but none of them match the missing teachers, reports BBC News.
The students’ protest disturbed an event planned by Maria de los Angeles Pineda, the wife of the city’s mayor, who has since been charged with involvement in organized crime.
The IGEI’s conclusion sparked outrage among Mexican citizens who protested in the streets against the perceived impunity.