Press Release

Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case Presents Final Report

November 28, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - Mexico City, Mexico–The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented the Final Report on the Work Plan of the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for the Ayotzinapa Case (MESA), as part of its seventh official visit to Mexico, which took place on November 26, 2018.

The MESA has followed up on the precautionary measure granted in favor of the 43 missing students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos rural school in Ayotzinapa and on the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). The delegation was led by the first vice-president of the IACHR, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the second vice-president, Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, members of the MESA, the executive secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão, and experts from the executive secretariat.

The IACHR conducted this visit to present the main findings, obstacles, and challenges that it has observed in the two years that it has been working on the Ayotzinapa Case to the parties to Precautionary Measure MC 409/14 (the Mexican state and petitioners). The report describes the actions taken by the Mexican state to clarify the whereabouts of the missing students through its search for them; the investigation to shed light on the events; the care given to victims and their relatives; and the measures of nonrepetition taken in relation to the the atrocious events that occurred on the night of September 26 and 27, 2014, in Iguala, Guerrero. Over these last two years, the IACHR has undertaken six official visits led by commissioners and the executive secretary, five technical visits by the staff of the IACHR’s executive secretariat, and has also held five working meetings and four public hearings at the IACHR’s periods of sessions. The MESA also sent the Mexican state five questionnaires which were answered in a timely manner, in which it examined progress on the investigation, particularly the issues prioritized by the parties included in the precautionary measure which had been set out in a program of action. To draft this report, the IACHR reviewed 618 volumes submitted by the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Mexico, which contained actions taken up to July 2018.
Two years into the MESA’s work, spaces for dialogue between the parties were provided. Through its mandate, the IACHR also encouraged that a series of steps be taken to search for the missing students, investigate events, and provide care for victims, all of which were considered by the state.

More than four years after the students’ disappearance, the IACHR wishes to note that the Mexican state used a LIDAR system to check for disturbances on the ground in an area of 60 km² around Iguala, but no positive results were found. These actions were analyzed jointly by the Mexican authorities and the victims’ families. The MESA called on Mexican authorities to offer the individuals who have been detained in connection with events the incentive packages contemplated by national laws and international human rights treaties to encourage them to cooperate with the investigation. The IACHR considers it essential that a database be created to record people who have disappeared and clandestine graves in the state of Guerrero. This would facilitate searches and provide a comprehensive overview of the context of disappearances in Guerrero. Only initial steps have been taken toward achieving this.

With regard to the investigation, the IACHR notes that the Attorney General’s Office has gathered large quantities of information. It also observes that earlier investigations conducted by the Guerrero Prosecutor’s Office and other subunits of the Attorney General’s Office have been included in the main investigation file, as has information received as part of international legal cooperation between Mexico and the United States, which may yield relevant leads that should be followed in detail.

The MESA also notes a number of ongoing challenges. These include the fragmented, incomplete nature of the investigation, which lacks clear direction; the lack of arrests or warrants regarding forced disappearance; and the lack of arrests of state actors for their actions or failure to act. The IACHR is concerned that the official narrative regarding investigations at the Cocula Landfill remains unchanged, despite the observations made by the IACHR itself, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF).

The IACHR observes that three mechanisms for implementing coordinated actions between municipal, state, and federal authorities—the Strategic Operations Center (COE); the Control, Command, and Computation Center (C-4); and the Mixed Urban Operations Bases (BOMUS)—could have been put into action or may have knowledge of the events that occurred in the days leading up to September 26. This point merits further investigation.

Regarding the investigation into the members of the 27th Battalion, the report describes the monitoring of the students’ activities by military officers from September 25, 2014, which merits an exhaustive inquiry. The IACHR also recommends that the information contained in various records included in the file on the connection between these individuals and criminal organizations be compared.
With regard to the investigation into municipal police forces, the IACHR believes that it needs to be established whether the police forces of Tepecoacuilco, Pilcaya, Eduardo Neri, Buenavista de Cuéllar, Apaxtla, and other places close to Iguala were involved in the events in question. The IACHR observes that there is significant evidence, including telephone records and ballistic analysis, pointing to the presence of the Huitzuco police force at the scene of events, so it is important for these police officers to be charged with the crime of forced disappearance.

The IACHR recommends that the information from Federal Police statements be compared with the information obtained through the telephone investigations conducted by the Attorney General’s Office. Other issues that need to be clarified include the chain of command; the transfer of personnel from the Huitzuco police force to Iguala; the removal of staff from the Iguala police station on October 13, 2014; the information in the file on the monitoring of student activities since September 25, 2014, and the possible connection between a high-ranking officer of the state police force with members of the Guerreros Unidos criminal organization. The Mexican state should also continue with investigations that will allow more solid charges to be pressed in relation to the actions of three members of the Federal Police Force and other members of the Ministerial Police Forceof the local Attorney General’s Office.

Likewise, the actions taken by the State Police Force need to be clarified, specifically in connection with the claim that the offices in question did not leave the Regional Police Training Center (CRAPOL). This contradicts statements that place these offices at various locations where acts of violence occurred, which raises serious doubts over the reasons for their allegedly remaining in the facilities on the night of the events in question and the instructions given by high-ranking state authorities.

In the course of its telephone investigations, the Attorney General’s Office identified nine cell phones belonging to missing students that were used after the events being investigated took place. Two of these telephones were allegedly in the possession of municipal and state authorities. The IACHR therefore recommends that investigations continue with a view to obtaining data that objectively determines the whereabouts of the students in the hours after the events. Ballistics inquiries need to determine who was responsible for destroying 16 rifles belonging to the Iguala Municipal Police Force and to investigate further into the nine additional rifles that have been connected to the case that are in the possession of the Attorney General’s Office.

The IACHR notes that no progress has been made on investigations into the alleged irregularities committed by authorities. For example, a ruling has yet to be issued on a writ of amparo filed by the students’ family members in response to the report issued by the new head of the Auditor’s Office regarding irregularities in the investigations at San Juan River. Nor has progress being made on investigations into the alleged concealment of a notebook belonging to Sidronio Casarrubias from the GIEI, or into the actions of an official from the Attorney General’s Office who allegedly has ties to criminal groups, according to a statement from one of the leaders of Guerreros Unidos. Other pending issues include investigations into illegal monitoring of the GIEI and the students’ families’ legal representatives, and allegations of torture of detainees.

The MESA’s Report describes the measures taken to care for victims. The IACHR acknowledges the care given to Edgar Vargas and Aldo Gutierrez Solano and urges the Mexican state to implement the recommendations of the report entitled “All I Wanted Was for Dawn to Come,” and to continue to provide medical attention and other forms of assistance needed.

In connection with measures of nonrepetition, the MESA observes that obstacles continue to hamper the work of the National Missing Persons Search System, which is part of the implementation of the Forced Disappearance Act. The IACHR also recommends the Istanbul Protocol be implemented as an objective tool to strengthen the General Law on Torture.
The IACHR hopes that its Final Report on the Follow-up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Case will help guide the implementation of the recommendations made by the IACHR and the Group of Experts so that authorities can determine the whereabouts of the missing students, the truth of events, and who is responsible for them. To this end, the IACHR has presented its conclusions and recommendations to the Mexican state to help guide it in complying with the precautionary measure.

The Inter-American Commission will continue to monitor Precautionary Measure MC 409/14 as long as the circumstances that prompted the measure persist and until the missing students are found and the truth of the events that took place in Iguala is made public. The IACHR wishes once again to state its commitment to the Ayotzinapa Case and its availability to assist with this, as it has repeatedly expressed to family members and their representatives. The IACHR calls on the Mexican state to step up its efforts to determine the whereabouts of the missing students, to uncover the truth of the events that took place on the night of September 26 and 27, 2014, to provide comprehensive care for the victims’ families, and to ensure that atrocious events like this never happen again.

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. 254/1888