Outside experts condemn Mexico’s inquiry into 43 missing students

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights cites errors and omissions in official investigation and points to signs of torture used against suspects

Outside experts investigating the September 2014 attacks on 43 teacher trainees delivered a devastating final report on Sunday, finding inconsistencies, errors and omissions in the governments official investigation, along with evidence of suspects being tortured.

The five-member expert team from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) also accused the federal government of failing to fully cooperate with their investigation and of allowing a smear campaign to assail their work, in an attempt to discredit the final report and harass them out of the country.

In a context of strong polarization in Mexico, the [IACHR team] has become an object utilized by some to generate greater polarization, the team said in its final report, delivered to a packed audience of the students families and civil society groups. The audience shouted back: Dont leave!

Absent from the presentation were the Mexican public officials responsible for human rights, whose chairs remained empty through the two-hour reading of the report. It was another a sign of the strained relations between the Mexican government and IACHR, which in recent months encountered a spate of unflattering stories in publications sympathetic to the president and his party. The group even had its executive secretary investigated by Mexican prosecutors for mismanaging public moneys, allegations that were later found baseless.

The group has suffered a campaign trying to discredit people as a way to question their work, the report read. Certain sectors are not interested in the truth.

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IACHR members deliver their final report on the 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa teachers training college, in Mexico City. Photograph: Edgard Garrido/Reuters

The <a href=”http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/30/scores-students-missing-after-ambush-gunmen-mexican-police” data-link-name=”in” body link” data-component=”in-body-link” class=”u-underline”>attacks by police and gunmen on the 43 students, who had commandeered four buses in the city of Iguala, en route to demonstrations, on 26 Sepember 2014, shocked Mexico and made international headlines. The air of corruption around the case also caused the popularity of President Enrique Pea Nieto to plummet.

Outside investigators were invited to review the case in an attempt to clear up doubts over the conclusions of an official investigation. Then attorney general Jess Murillo Karam called the official account the historic truth, but drew doubts from the students families, some of whom hold to the belief their children are still alive.

The Mexican government has said it cooperated fully with the IACHR, even as it doubled down on a defense of its official investigation.

Interior minister Miguel ngel Osorio Chong told the newspaper El Universal earlier in April that the conclusions of the IACHR investigation did not differ much from the governments report. That report posited the students were kidnapped by police, acting on the orders of the mayor of Iguala, whose wife was holding a political event at the time, and turned the students over to a drug cartel, which burned the bodies.

The report presented Sunday concluded the students did not belong to any criminal group, as the government suggested, and that they were not planning to interrupt a political event. It followed up findings from the IACHR in September 2015, which concluded a fire consuming 43 bodies was scientifically impossible and noted avenues of investigation that went ignored by Mexican officials, such as buses being used to carry opium paste from the poppy-growing state of Guerrero to the US.

The IACHR experts again recommended investigating the drug business in the area.

The IACHR report questioned the actions of federal police and the army stationed in the area where the students were attacked.

Some federal police officers were witnesses to the attacks, and a commander was in communication with local police but reported nothing amiss, according to the report. The army has steadfastly refused to allow interviews with its soldiers by outside investigators. The investigators, however, found evidence the soldiers left their barracks to search for a missing motorcycle on the night of the attacks, but did nothing to intervene.

The report also found evidence of coordination among local police forces at the time of the attack to prevent buses from leaving the area. Phone records also showed local police were in contact with organized crime, according to the report.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/24/mexico-43-missing-students-investigation-iachr-report

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