September 28, 2022
- The investigations must keep the families of the disappeared students as their central focus in the interests of transparency, due process of justice and their right to truth and remembrance
- There can be no setbacks allowed in the investigation into the Ayotzinapa case which has been the cause of so much suffering for the families and for Mexican society, and which has highlighted the structural deficiencies of the Mexican state that lead to impunity and oblivion
- Accusations against members of the military reinforce concerns over policy to militarize public security in the country
Amnesty International expresses grave concern over the recent events that have taken place in relation to the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Training College. The resignation of the head of the Special Investigation and Litigation Unit for the Ayotzinapa Case (UEILCA), due to visible conflicts between the Unit and the Attorney General’s Office (FGR), puts the progress achieved at risk and threatens to further delay the families’ access to truth, justice, and remembrance.
UEILCA prosecutor Omar Gómez Trejo resigned on 27 September 2022, condemning undue interference in the investigation after it was made public that the FGR withdrew 21 arrest warrants requested, 16 of which were against military personnel accused of having participated in the events of eight years ago.
“The problems that have arisen leave the families of the missing students, and Mexican society in general, in a situation of total uncertainty. The serious differences between the different authorities must be resolved in order to avoid perpetuating impunity in this case which is so emblematic for Mexico. It is also imperative that the students’ families be kept fully informed and at the centre of the decision-making process, not only in terms of the transparency that must be maintained, but also to guarantee their right to the truth and to full reparation for the enormous damages they have suffered over the last eight years,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
“We cannot tolerate any further setbacks in the investigation. The Mexican state must create the conditions necessary to progress with investigations, respect the autonomy and independence of the work of the Special Investigation Unit, and ensure that it has the necessary human and material resources to carry out its work. In addition, it must guarantee due process in order to avoid any error that could prevent legal proceedings from progressing and could jeopardise the right to justice and the punishment of those responsible for this atrocious crime,” said Edith Olivares Ferreto, executive director at Amnesty International Mexico.
This 26 September marked eight years since the disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Training College, yet to this day the families have still been unable to find out the truth of what happened and to access justice.
In the last four years, the Mexican state has made various efforts to shed light on what happened to the 43 students from the Isidro Burgos Rural Training College such as the creation of the Commission for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa Case (Covaj-Ayotzinapa) and the UEILCA, under the FGR.
Recently, Covaj-Ayotzinapa unveiled significant advances in the case, such as the acknowledgement that the events in Iguala were a state crime, as well as the probable participation of the Mexican military in the disappearance of the students.
This is in addition to the revelations made at the end of September 2022 by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about communication between members of a criminal group and members of the army, navy, and local police in Iguala and Cocula before the disappearance of the young students.
These links, in addition to other events in which the Mexican military has been involved, raise questions about the appropriateness of the armed forces continuing to carry out public security tasks in the country, independently of other activities that are the direct responsibility of state institutions created specifically for this purpose.
The UEILCA has succeeded in arresting high-level authorities who could be responsible for the disappearances and has issued several arrest warrants against other authorities, including military personnel.
The conflicts between the UEILCA and the FGR were made public following the latter’s decision to cancel 21 of the 83 arrest warrants requested last August against former officials possibly involved in the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. The information released also indicates the probable involvement of military forces in the disappearance of the students.
The advances in the investigation of the case were achieved thanks to the independence with which the UEILCA worked, in addition to the fact that it was made up of a team of people dedicated exclusively to the case, led by a prosecutor who was trusted by the students’ families, and was supported by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). Progress was also made in the case because care was taken in the way information was communicated so as not to affect any legal process and the due confidentiality that must be maintained in any type of legal investigation was respected.
Therefore, Amnesty International believes that state institutions must, as a matter of urgency, guarantee the autonomy and independence of the UEILCA and deal with the reported interference, as this, in addition to once again slowing down the investigation, serves to increase the anxiety and despair of the families of the 43 disappeared students facing constant stumbling blocks in the investigation, which increasingly delays access to the truth, justice and full reparation for the damages that we all yearn for. In addition, Amnesty International calls on the Mexican state not to retaliate against or criminalize the Special Prosecutor or the UEILCA officials who worked independently on the case.
Official figures show the close link between the increased presence of the armed forces in public security tasks and the increase in enforced disappearances in the country: 97% of the 105,000 cases of people disappeared in Mexico have been registered in the last 16 years.
Amnesty International also calls on the Mexican state to urgently develop and implement a plan for the orderly, progressive, and demonstrable withdrawal of military forces from public security tasks, with a view to ensuring non-repetition of events such as those that took place in Ayotzinapa.
Alejandro Juárez Gamero (Amnesty International Mexico): +52 55 2265 4331, prensa@amnistía.org.mx
Duncan Tucker (Amnesty International Americas): +52 55 4848 8266, firstname.lastname@example.org