Mexico: Order to create investigative commission is an important advance in Ayotzinapa case

The decision of a federal court to order the creation of an investigative commission for truth and justice in the Ayotzinapa case is an important precedent which could, subject to certain conditions, bring about a substantial change in the way in which serious human rights violations in Mexico are investigated, Amnesty International said today.

“Following four years of continuous failings in the investigation of the case, this decision represents an important advance in the search for truth, justice and reparation for the 43 students who were forcibly disappeared on the night of 26 September 2014,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Following four years of continuous failings in the investigation of the case, this decision represents an important advance in the search for truth, justice and reparation for the 43 students who were forcibly disappeared on the night of 26 September 2014
Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

The ruling of the First Collegiate Court of the Nineteenth District in Tamaulipas, made public on 4 June, acknowledges that in Mexico there is no independent public prosecution service, and that the investigation into the enforced disappearance of the 43 students has been deeply flawed and has not taken the pertinent lines of investigation into consideration.

Among the failings in the investigation by Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s office (PGR), the court highlighted the consistent and repeated allegations of torture, the substantiation of allegations almost exclusively by means of incriminating confessions, and the failure to investigate facts and authorities relevant to the case, including members of the federal police, the army and the navy.

The court therefore considered it appropriate to order the creation of a special investigative commission, a mechanism sometimes used in order to guarantee the adequate investigation of crimes under international law when it is suspected that these crimes could have been committed by state agents, or when traditional investigative bodies have proved incapable of adequately fulfilling their role.

The court based this part of its ruling on the model protocol for the investigation of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions (Minnesota Protocol), the case law of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Mexican constitutional law.

“It seems that it has been proven that the Attorney General’s office’s theory of the case, referring to the alleged killing and burning of the students in a dumpster in Cocula, is scarcely credible and maintained only at the expense of ignoring the facts and tampering with evidence,” said Guevara-Rosas.

It seems that it has been proven that the Attorney General’s office’s theory of the case, referring to the alleged killing and burning of the students in a dumpster in Cocula, is scarcely credible and maintained only at the expense of ignoring the facts and tampering with evidence
Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

“The initial reaction from the Attorney General’s office, which was to publicly disagree with the ruling rather than establish a clear road map to ensure compliance, suggests that the Mexican government has not understood its responsibility for investigation and punishment in this case of serious human rights violations.”

The Investigative Commission for Truth and Justice will be made up of representatives of the victims, the public prosecutor’s office and the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). Other national and international human rights organizations will also be able to join. The court ordered that it should be the representatives of the victims and the CNDH who make the decisions on the lines of investigation to pursue and the tests to be carried out, and that their presence will be required in order to validate any investigative action in the case.

The ruling is in line with and takes into consideration the findings published by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in their reports on the case.

In addition to the creation of the Investigative Commission, the court ordered other measures in order to guarantee the rights of both the accused and the victims. Among others, it ordered the prompt and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture, the proper assessment of the confessions, the review of the legality of the detentions and of the unjustified delay in bringing those detained before a competent authority, and the evaluation of compliance with the right to effective legal representation.

“This legal ruling correctly establishes that the victims are key actors in the processes of truth, justice and reparation and that their ongoing participation enriches and facilitates the investigation into the cases and the access to justice. It is imperative that the state comply with the court’s orders in good faith,” confirmed Guevara-Rosas.