25 October 2016
Relatives of some of the 43 missing students listen to the report by a team of international experts in Mexico City on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Relatives of some of the 43 missing students listen to the report by a team of international experts in Mexico City on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Experts dismiss Mexico account of apparent student massacre

A team of international experts disputed Mexico’s official account of the abduction and apparent massacre of 43 students last year.

The case provoked a global outcry after the missing students were abducted in the city of Iguala in southwest Mexico on Sept. 26, 2014.

In its report, the team dismissed the Mexican government’s central claim that the students were burned to ashes in the nearby town of Cocula, Reuters said.

“That event never took place,” one of the investigators, Carlos Beristain, told reporters on Sunday, citing evidence from the site. “There should be a refocusing of the investigation based on these facts.”

The probe was commissioned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and conducted by respected investigators from Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Spain.

The government’s failure to capture the killers or even persuade Mexicans that its investigation was serious has hit President Enrique Peña Nieto’s reputation, and Sunday’s report was certain to put more pressure on him.

Relatives carrying placards with pictures of the abducted students present shouted: “It was the state!” as the investigators announced their findings.

Mexico Attorney General Arely Gomez told a press conference in Mexico City that she would seek a new probe to ascertain whether the students were in fact burned in garbage dump in Cocula.

Gomez said the government will extend the stay of the independent experts so they can keep investigating.

On Twitter, Peña Nieto thanked the IACHR for its report, and said the government would analyze the findings and incorporate them into its investigation.

“This report provides an utterly damning indictment of Mexico’s handling of the worst human rights atrocity in recent memory,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

“Even with the world watching and with substantial resources at hand, the authorities proved unable or unwilling to conduct a serious investigation.”

So far, only one of the missing students has been identified from the badly charred remains found at the dump.

Peña Nieto’s government says the students were abducted by corrupt local police, working in league with a local drug gang, who confused the students with members of a rival cartel.

Citing confessions of the alleged perpetrators, it says the police then handed them over to members of the local cartel, known as “Guerreros Unidos”, or “United Warriors”, who took them to the local dump and incinerated them.

But a Reuters report published last week showed the government probe was plagued by a litany of errors, and that key parts may need to be redone.

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