A group of independent experts from the Inter-American Commision on Human Rights has presented a second and final report that seriously challenges the government's findings in the case of the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa.
The Mexican government invited the group, known as GIEI, to conduct an independent investigation after media reports and other forensic experts found contradictions and loopholes in the Attorney General’s initial probe of the Ayotzinapa killings.
The final 608-page report, published online Sunday, specifically contradicts the government's version of events about how the students' bodies were disposed of. It also claims that Mexican officials potentially engaged in torture tactics to obtain confessions from suspects in custody.
The dramatic saga began on the night of Sept. 26, 2014, when 43 student protesters disappeared in the southern state of Guerrero. The Mexican government’s probe claimed the 43 students were killed by a criminal gang working in cahoots with local police. The official report said the students' bodies were burned in a nearby garbage dump. That version of events became known as the government’s “historic truth,” which GIEI's independent report is now challenging.
According to the GIEI report, there is no concrete evidence to support the claim that the students were burned in the garbage dump. The report hints the “confessions” that led to some of the government’s conclusions could have been manipulated, given that some of the key suspects who were arrested claim they were tortured by Mexican police during interrogation.
In a testimony gathered by the GIEI investigators, suspect Patricio Reyes Landa, one of the men accused of participating in the attacks against the students, describes the torture he allegedly suffered at the hands of Mexican police:
“They went into the house and started kicking and beating me. They hauled me aboard a vehicle, they blindfolded me, tied my feet and hands, they began beating me again and gave me electric shocks, they put a rag over my nose and poured water on it. They gave me electric shocks on the inside of my mouth and my testicles. They put a bag on my face so I couldn't breath, several hours passed and later they would tell me that if someone ever asked if they had beaten me I should say I fell from a fence because if not they would go against my wife and daughters, they threatened they would turn me into pieces and throw me inside a bag…”
After the report came out, Deputy Attorney General for Human Rights Eber Betanzos confirmed that authorities are investigating complaints filed by 31 people who say they were tortured by Mexican officials in connection with the case.
The GIEI said the Mexican government tried to obstruct their investigation and did not give them enough time to keep digging. The government's obstructionism suggests some Mexican officials were trying to cover-up certain aspects of the crime, the GIEI claims.
“The slowness on the answers requested by GIEI, the delay on many probe results, the denial to open other lines of investigation, cannot be read as simple improvised obstacles. These various situations show structural barriers to the investigation,” the experts claimed in the report.
“The investigation is even more fragmented than when it started,” one of the GIEI investigators said during the public presentation of the report on Sunday.
The Mexican daily La Razon had slammed GIEI experts for charging high salaries and asking for more time to complete their independent probe. GIEI investigators say that's just part of a smear campaign to discredit their findings.
In any event, the fact remains that after more than a year of independent investigations into the disappearances of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, it's still not clear what happened to them.
Luis Chaparro, 28, is a Mexican freelance journalist born in Ciudad Juarez and based in Mexico City. His articles have appeared in Proceso, EFE, VICE News, El Diario, El Daily Post, and others. Chaparro specializes in reports on drug trafficking organizations, immigration and US-Mexico issues.