The report of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) charged with investigating the assassinations of six people and the forced disappearance of 43 students of the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa concludes that the version of events presented by the Mexican government is false.
The report found numerous inconsistencies and irregularities. It established that the central thesis of the government’s conclusion—that the students were burned at the Cocula dump—not only does not add up, but is also physically impossible given the evidence.
The original cry, “It Was the State”, has been reinforced by the experts’ report. Its findings show that all levels of government were present at the crime and in some way implicated in highly coordinated activities to carry out and permit the massacre.
We join the parents and supporters in welcoming the report as a positive step toward truth and justice. But at the same time, we strongly condemn the attempt of the Mexican government to close this serious case with an erroneous version of the events.
“The experts’ findings prove the suspicions of the parents and Mexican society, and the findings of other experts, that the students could not have been executed and burned at the Cocula dump. This refutation alone destroys the Mexican Attorney General’s theory on the case, which was presented at the time as fact,” stated Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based research center. “It also raises disturbing questions regarding the origins and purposes of the government’s false explanation of events.”
The Ayotzinapa crime, carried out by Mexican security forces in coordinated actions over the course of the night of September 26th and early hours of 27th as the report thoroughly documents, shocked the nation and the world. The first mass forced disappearance galvanized Mexican society around demands to bring the students back alive, find and punish the guilty, and end the disappearances– not only in the state of Guerrero, but across the nation.
Based on the findings of the GIEI report and others and scores of interviews carried out by our center with students at the scene of the crime, parents and experts, we believe it is urgent to open new lines of investigation in the assassinations and disappearances.
These lines of investigation must include: a renewed search for the students alive; full investigation of the participation of government figures and security forces the night of the crime (with particular emphasis on the Mexican Army, which has refused direct questioning by experts); previous repressive acts against the school for its political activity, including the 2011 assassination of two students by state forces; the hypothesis put forward by the GIEI regarding possible drug trafficking in one of the buses; and any other plausible motives and hypotheses that arise in the renewed investigation.
We also join the growing call for a full investigation of the numerous irregularities in the government’s handling of the case, including alleged torture of suspects, lost and destroyed evidence, lack of cooperation from the armed forces, and failure to deliver evidence cited in the report, in the context of a possible cover-up. This investigation must be conducted with full transparency by independent investigators and hold all those found responsible accountable.
Based on international human rights law and protocols, we call on the Mexican government to formally recognize the 43 disappearances as forced disappearances and pass an integral Law on Forced Disappearances. This law must incorporate the recommendations presented by organizations of victims, who regrettably have ample experience in the shortfalls that characterize the current situation, including gaps in legislation, and the discrimination, revictimization and corruption in practice.
We also call for a full investigation in the U.S. Congress regarding the possible use of U.S. arms, training and equipment in the Iguala attacks. This investigation must incorporate intelligence operations and real-time monitoring out of the Iguala C-4 Command Center. The report finds that the C-4 Center, manned by elements of the Mexican Army, and Federal, State and Municipal Police, monitored the students’ movements from the time they left the college and was aware of the on-going attacks while doing nothing to stop them or prevent further bloodshed. It also has suppressed evidence regarding critical time periods that night.
The U.S. Merida Initiative has funded the construction, organization and operations of regional command centers, raising serious concerns regarding the use of those funds in flagrant human rights violations.
The Ayotzinapa case—the tragic disappearance of the 43 students, the death of three students and three other individuals, and the wounding of 40—marks a turning point in Mexican history, or at least it should. It is now our responsibility to assure that the questions raised by the report are answered and the truth about the crime comes to light.
This responsibility lies on the shoulders of Mexican society and the government that must respond to direct allegations. But it also is shared by concerned people across the world who have taken up the banner of the Ayotzinapa families.
The U.S. government, in particular, must take these findings seriously. Congress must suspend all security aid to Mexico by ending the Merida Initiative. It is urgent that Congress assess who benefits and who is hurt—or disappeared, or assassinated—by its current policy and funding strategy. It is unconscionable to continue to fund Mexican security forces in any capacity, pending reliable information on their participation in the crime of Ayotzinapa and other incidents of attacks on civilians including Tlatlaya, Tanhuato, Apatizingan and Villa Purificacion.
A full evaluation must include examination of how prohibition policies in the context of uncontrolled demand for illegal drugs, and the militarized drug war exported to Mexico, created the conditions for these crimes committed by U.S. subsidized Mexican forces against the citizenry.
With the Mexican government’s explanation that organized crime and a few bad cops incinerated the students in shambles, we here in Mexico, our allies in the United States and supporters around the world have an opportunity to break the pattern of impunity by pushing for a deeper investigation and full prosecution under the law. We cannot let that opportunity pass.