Mexico Hampered Probe Into Student Massacre

Mexico Hampered Probe Into Student MassacreMexico Hampered Probe Into Student Massacre

The parents of 43 missing students who disappeared in September 2014 accused Mexico’s government on Monday of lying to them, planting evidence and not adequately investigating the case.

The 43 students at the teachers’ college of Ayotzinapa have not been heard from since they were taken by local police in late 2014 in the city of Iguala in southern Guerrero state, the most notorious human rights case in Mexico in recent years.

The government says corrupt police turned them over to a drug gang, which killed them and burned their remains in a dump in the town of Cocula, believing the trainees had been infiltrated by a rival gang. Parents reject that conclusion and experts say there is no proof of it, AP reported.

On Monday, parent Mario Cesar Gonzalez said prosecutors had lied and planted a bag of charred bone fragments in a river near the garbage dump where the students were allegedly burned. Tests have linked the fragments to only one of the students, with a possible link to another.

“They were the ones who planted the evidence in the San Juan river,” said Gonzalez, the father of missing student Cesar Manuel Gonzalez.

The parents’ comments came a day after a group of international experts issued a report criticizing the investigation, saying suspects appear to have been tortured and key pieces of evidence related to the supposed burning of the students’ bodies were not correctly investigated.

The independent panel said the government’s stonewalling stopped them from reaching the truth as they wrap up their work and prepare to leave Mexico, according to Reuters.

The experts said the bags of bone fragments were found at a different spot and time than authorities had said, and that outside experts were not immediately allowed access to the site.

The attorney general’s office, they said, did not let them re-interview detainees accused of the crime or obtain other information in a timely fashion. Prosecutors did not pursue investigative angles that the experts suggested.

“The delays in obtaining evidence that could be used to figure out possible lines of investigation translates into a decision (to allow) impunity,” the report by the experts, commissioned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said.

The case has drawn international attention and stirred protests and outrage in Mexico, where violence has surged in a decade-long drug war. Lawlessness reigns in parts of the country and has tarnished President Enrique Pena Nieto’s reputation.

  Doubts on the Government Version

At a 2-1/2-hour news conference on Sunday attended by more than 1,000 people, the experts cast doubt on aspects of the government’s version of events.

They said in the report they had been repeatedly blocked in their efforts to obtain evidence from Mexican authorities.

“We feel that from January there was someone giving instructions to halt everything,” one of the experts, Angela Buitrago, told Reuters in an interview on Sunday night.

While the experts’ probe showed the municipal police were mainly responsible for the disappearance of the students, they said the federal police should also be investigated.

The experts say that the government’s theory that the students had been burned is scientifically impossible given the heat needed to reduce human remains to ash, and the experts raised further questions in the report about the government’s story of finding the bone fragment in the river.

One of the experts, Carlos Beristain, also said detainees in the case showed signs of torture. The experts´ report notes that medical exams of detainees who said they were tortured were inadequate and did not meet international standards.

IACHR has said it will not renew the experts’ term because the government was opposed to an extension.

Mexico’s government authorized the group´s investigation, vowing to cooperate fully, but at times actively blocked them.

“There seems to be no limit to the Mexican government’s utter determination to sweep the Ayotzinapa tragedy under the carpet,” Amnesty International’s Erika Guevara-Rosa said in a statement, referring to the college the trainee teachers attended.

Reuters reported last week that Mexico’s Army withheld crucial evidence from the experts, including photographs and video footage recorded as police clashed with the students, and that investigators have not been allowed to question soldiers on duty that night in the city where the students disappeared.