Nine days after the grave human rights violations against the students of the Rural Teacher Training School of Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero by police forces of the municipality of Iguala, 43 students are still missing after being detained by members of the local police. The three levels of government of the Mexican state have not fulfilled their obligation in the immediate search for the disappeared with due process and according to international standards.
Tlachinollan Centre, the Guerrero Network of Human Rights Organizations and the Human Rights Centre José Ma. Morelos y Pavón recognize the efforts by the parents of the disappeared students in initiating investigations regarding the disappearance of their loved ones. Yet, the reach of their efforts remains limited because they do not have the necessary resources. Official investigations continue to be ineffective because of the lack of intelligence work prior to the collection of the evidence in the crime scene and the absence of analysis of the information provided by arrested police officers and the pattern of the operations of organized crime in the region.
During the search operations, federal authorities’ involvement has been limited even though they have the intelligence and forensic investigation resources necessary for this search. More worrisome are President Peña Nieto’s declarations, where he distances the federal government from responsibility in the attacks and disappearances of Ayotzinapa’s students and their search. Even though the attacks and disappearances were carried out by municipal police forces, the latter are part of the Mexican state. For that reason, the president Peña Nieto cannot distance his level of government from this case. Otherwise, this would mean that Mexican state is not willing to comply with its domestic and international commitments regarding the protection of human rights. While Peña Nieto has acknowledged the responsibility of the state government of Guerrero for these gross human rights violations and for allowing collaboration between police forces and organized crime, the federal government involvement in the search of the disappeared students and the prosecution of those responsible for these human rights violations remain limited despite the urgent need for collaboration across the three levels of government in the search for the disappeared. Sadly, the disappearance of the 43 students is an addition to the existing thousands of disappeared in Mexico.
It is necessary that the Mexican state complies with the following recommendations of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances for Mexico:
The Working Group recommends that coordination among the authorities responsible for public safety should be ensured in order to prevent and investigate enforced disappearances…The Working Group recommends that the right to justice and the fight against impunity should be guaranteed through judicial training and the enforcement of the law, the adoption of protocols for investigations and the protection of witnesses and relatives. All available means should be used to ensure that the investigations and judicial proceedings are expeditious, in accordance with protocols and manuals that comply with the guidelines contained in international human rights instruments. The various bodies involved in the investigative and judicial procedures should have the necessary human and material resources to do their job properly, independently and impartially. Those involved in investigative work must have guarantees of protection. Investigations should follow specific lines of inquiry according to the area, time, period and/or authority concerned. The results of all investigations must be made public.
The presidential indifference differs from the involvement and collaboration among the parents of the 43 disappeared students. The families, with the assistance of human rights organizations, have used all the legal and institutional recourses available and visited all detention centers with the hope of finding their loved ones. Until today, none of the 43 students have been located in any detention center. The parents have already provided authorities with information corroborating the identity of their children, which is part of a case file in the State Attorney’s Office of Guerrero. All families have provided their testimony to state authorities, opened a writ of amparo and filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Guerrero. It is worth noting that despite the complaint, this commission has not participated in the search for the disappeared students. In addition, the families and human rights organizations have called for the involvement of federal authorities and the Inter American Commission of Human Rights. Through this process, the families of the disappeared have put their lives at risk in the violent context of Guerrero.
Human rights organizations are concerned about the possibility of new aggressions against students in Guerrero because of the lack of conditions for free speech and physical safety in this state. Human rights organizations urge state authorities to protect students, find the disappeared students alive and ask national and international civil society for their support in finding the disappeared students.