The IGIE and the Struggle for the Truth

The impeccable career of Vidulfo Rosales

and international prestige

of La Montaña Human Rights Center,

have no comparison with the chicanery and bravado

of an ousted ex-governor.

As part of precautionary measure 409/2014 and at the request of the mothers and fathers of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (IGIE) was created in March 2015. It was an agreement between the Mexican state and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), with the aim of contributing to the investigation of the 43 disappearances, as well as the murdered and injured students. Over the course of these seven years, the IGIE has proven to be a great team that has earned the families’ trust through its humanitarian sense, its great listening skills and its professionalism, reflected in the three published reports.

In September 2016, they presented their first report that had huge national and international impact because they demonstrated with scientific evidence that the so-called historical truth, presented by the former Attorney General of the Republic Jesús Murillo Karam (currently indicted), was not supported by evidence. His version that the 43 disappeared students were murdered and incinerated in the Cocula garbage dump was shown to be a setup to cover up the entire criminal network in which municipal, state, and federal police forces and members of the army participated.

Given the strength of the expert reports presented by the IGIE -which pointed out the impossibility that the cremation of the 43 students had occurred at the time, place and in the circumstances described by the historical truth-, a strong media campaign was unleashed to discredit their work. The same federal authorities questioned the results of its report. Experts encountered several obstacles, notably by being denied information they required, access to files was restricted, and a hostile environment was created. They were also victims of spying. In this context, the possibility of not completing the agreed mandate and leaving the country was envisaged. Fortunately, they responded to the request of the mothers and fathers and they were able to complete their second report.

In April 2016, the IGIE presented its second report that examined the investigation into the actions of the different police bodies. Something of relevance was that it demonstrated with audiovisual evidence that the then director of the Criminal Investigation Agency, the now fugitive Tomás Zerón, manipulated a so-called investigation in the San Juan River, and a large operational deployment of federal forces attended the scene, presumably to plant evidence because that visit was not recorded in the file. Given this prolific and robust information in its results and conclusions, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto decided to end the presence of the IGIE.

In 2019, the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador once again asked the IACHR for the assistance of the IGIE. It was 2020 when the IGIE returned to Mexico, in a group now made up of four members. With the new administration, the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) created the Investigation and Litigation Unit for the Ayotzinapa case, known by its acronym as UEILCA, directed by teacher Omar Gómez Trejo, who in the first stage of the IGIE served as executive secretary. At this stage, the political will of the highest authorities gave a great boost to access to information that had been vetoed. The President of the Republic himself decreed that “the agencies and bodies of the federal public administration that have information or evidence that can contribute to clarifying the facts, in search of the truth, must provide it to the Commission (for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa COVAJ case).” Despite this official instruction, the IGIE commented in its third report that it had to take numerous steps to obtain the required information.

In February of this year, the IGIE presented its third report that examined the documentation of intelligence files, incorporates new statements and various pieces of evidence. They start from the documentary base of the events of September 26th and 27th, as well as the follow-up and background of the mobilization prepared by the Ayotzinapa student teachers. This detailed analysis shows the degree of prior knowledge about this mobilization of students by security institutions, both federal and state. They also manage to identify with evidence how the federal authorities were aware of the co-optation of local authorities by organized crime. The review of SEDENA documents gave them the guidelines to evaluate the omissions and actions of the military forces and the federal police. Likewise, it incorporates new elements of the responsibility that the municipal police of Huitzuco and other local bodies have in these disappearances.

A subject of great importance is the intervention in the garbage dump of Cocula and the San Juan River by SEDENA and the Secretary of the Navy (SEMAR). The IGIE had access to the Navy files. They obtained confidential documents, classified as “secret” that referred to an intervention by members of the Navy in the Cocula garbage dump and the San Juan River from October 27th to 29th. The IGIE analyzed in depth a video of October 27th, 2014, in which activities carried out by the Navy that were unknown and that did not appear anywhere in the PGR investigation file are recorded. The video corresponds to a recording of more than two hours and was made with a SEMAR unmanned aircraft. What is serious about these actions is the deliberate concealment and the refusal of the authorities to provide information about their participation in these locations.

For the IGIE, this report takes accounts of the number of people and institutions involved at different levels in the case, which shows the framework that has permeated responsibilities at increasingly higher levels. It also shows the participation of people and agents not only from organized crime but from all state institutions.

A new chapter began with the report presented by the president of COVAJ, the undersecretary of the interior Alejandro Encinas, who presented to the mothers and fathers of the 43 and the President of the Republic the new findings that he obtained through sources that were not shared with the FGR or with the IGIE. He was blunt in his conclusions: he confirmed that the disappearance of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa rural normal school constituted a state crime. That federal and state authorities of the highest level were silent and negligent and it is presumed that they lent themselves to establishing a conclusion unrelated to the truth of the facts. He also reiterates that at all times the authorities of the three levels were aware of the mobilization of the students. He states that there is no indication that the students are alive. Rather, all the testimonies and evidence prove that the students were cunningly killed and disappeared.

The mothers and fathers of the 43, faced with this unexpected information, chose to analyze its content in detail, especially to verify the veracity of the sources. They asked the IGIE to carry out an exhaustive and objective analysis of the data presented, especially the screenshots of conversations between military commanders and leaders of the Guerreros Unidos criminal group, which are what support their conclusions.

During these two months, after the report was issued, the mothers and fathers were disconcerted by several events that arose: they noted that the federal government was in a hurry to make this report public, especially as the eighth anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 students was approaching. They also verified that it did not include the findings obtained by the IGIE in its investigations, which are also key to finding the whereabouts of the students. What was serious was the dismissal of special prosecutor Omar Trejo, who was replaced by another team imposed by the attorney general, to take control of the investigations. They took charge of his office and imposed an audit on him to intimidate him and scuttled his investigations.

The attorney general’s team was the one in charge of putting together the accusation against Murillo Karam, responding more to a political interest. The appointment of the new special prosecutor who does not know the case and who does not have the trust of the mothers and fathers either, is a setback in the investigations that the previous prosecutor had consolidated.

There is great uncertainty in the families of the 43 about the veracity of the screenshots, whose origin is unknown so far. The consolidation of these data that are of dubious legal quality remains to be seen. The greatest demand of the mothers and fathers is that the army be investigated and that all arrest warrants be executed. However, they have confirmed that President Andrés Manuel is resisting the involvement of higher-ranking officers and resources in the army in the disappearance of the 43 students and they reiterated their request to the President at their last meeting at the National Palace. They only hope that their demand will be met because they know that the involvement of the army was key in these atrocious events. This Monday, October 31st, the IGIE will give its technical opinion on the COVAJ president’s report. There are high expectations among families who have always trusted experts. They know that they are not going to lie to them, for the same reason, they are prepared to accept the truth, as long as there is scientific evidence, otherwise, the struggle for the truth will continue its course.

Original version at Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

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