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Mexico: Authorities knew of student abduction case — report

July 26, 2023

An independent panel has concluded that the army, navy, police and intelligence services knew where a group of 43 abducted students were. The 2014 case is among Mexico's most notorious human rights scandals.

People pictured at wall with photos of the 43 missing students
The students' disappearance is among Mexico's worst human rights atrocitiesImage: Guillermo Diaz/Zuma/picture alliance

Mexican security agencies were complicit in the kidnapping of 43 students in 2014, an independent panel of international experts concluded in a Tuesday report, in a case considered among the nation's worst human rights atrocities.

The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) said that the army, navy, police and intelligence agencies were aware of the whereabouts of the missing students.

The GIEI was set up shortly after the incident to investigate it, then had its mandate renewed by current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador after he took office in 2018.

What the GIEI report says

The report, which was submitted on Tuesday, suggests the military may have colluded with drug traffickers to abduct the students.

"They all collaborated to make them disappear," GIEI panel member Carlos Beristain told a press conference, in reference to the various security agencies the experts have identified as complicit.

The panel accused the Defense Ministry of hiding documents showing where 17 of the 43 students were taken. It also found that members of the navy and the army had carried out unreported joint operations and manipulated information relevant to the case.

Mexican troops implicated in student deaths

The report adds that the army and the navy secretly arrested five suspects linked to the case who have not been seen since. It is believed the prosecution and military tortured the suspects in the case to extract false confessions.

"The evidence demonstrates that several authorities knew what was happening or had important information that had not been provided, perhaps because they thought it could expose their personnel who might have been involved," the report read.

The Mexican armed forces have long denied having information about the disappearances and have largely not commented on the earlier findings of the GIEI or the Truth Commission, also established to investigate the disappearances.

The missing students probe

The 43 students disappeared on the night of September 26, 2014, after an attack in the city of Iguala, Guerrero, on a larger group of students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College.

The previous government initially concluded that the students had been abducted by corrupt police who then handed them over to a drug gang that believed they had been infiltrated by members of a rival outfit.

The government said the gang killed the students and burned their bodies. The remains of only three of the 43 have been recovered.

At the time, the government's account was challenged by rights groups.

rmt/kb (AP, Reuters)