Mexico to re-launch investigation into missing students

Mexican authorities agree to reopen investigation into last year's disappearance of 43 students amid criticism of first investigation

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Banners with pictures of some of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa College Raul Isidro Burgos, along Reforma Avenue in Mexico City, Mexico on September 29 2015

Updated Dec 1, 2015

The Mexican Government has announced its intention to begin a new search along with international experts for the remains of 43 students who were abducted and apparently massacred a year ago in the state of Guerrero.

The re-initiation of the search comes in response to widespread domestic and international pressure and criticism regarding their first attempt to find the students.

The plan includes a new investigation team and the use of drones and satellite technology and the country is accepting recommendations by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but will not permit a group of independent experts to directly question military troops concerning the case.

"There will be a new task force that will re-launch the investigation," Eber Betanzos, Mexico's Deputy Attorney General for Human Rights, said in Washington on Tuesday at a meeting of experts looking into the case.

One of those experts, Angela Buitrago, a Colombian, stated that the re-launched investigation will be conducted "with a strategy based on lines laid out by the group, including the use of technology, mapping of clandestine graves and other locations and establishing a path of action agreed upon by the families."

Independent observers have previously asked to question members of the army, which was deployed in the area at the time of the disappearance, but Defence Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos refused requests to hand over troops for questioning to anyone other than government prosecutors.

Roberto Campa Cifrian, Deputy Secretary for Human Rights at Mexico's Interior Department, stated at a hearing in Washington that the experts can obtain the required information to solve the disappearance through the government, but will not be allowed to directly confront possible military witnesses.

However, Buitrago added that her group remains in hopes of questioning the troops because their evidence is considered to be crucial to the investigation.

"It's not the same to have a third party asking questions," Buitrago said. "Something is going to be missing, or doubt will remain about why something else was not asked."

Relatives hold pictures of some of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa College Raul Isidro Burgos as they take part a march marking the 47th anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco square massacre in Mexico City on October 2 2015

The re-launching of the search could aid President Enrique Pena Nieto in regaining public trust in his government's ability to act against and put an end to the corruption and a perceived culture of impunity.

According to Mexican authorities, corrupt municipal police kidnapped 43 students in September 2014 in the city of Iguala after detaining them.

They were then handed over to be massacred by a local drug gang, who then incinerated the bodies.

The local drug gang believed that the students were affiliated with a rival outfit in the crime-racked, impoverished state of Guerrero.

Forensic experts claimed that they have already identified the remains of one of the 43 missing students from a bone fragment and a second victim might possibly have been identified.

A demonstrator sprays grafitti on a wall during a march to mark the first anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 missing students, in the Mexican state of Guerrero, September 26, 2015.

However, the international team of experts assigned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has rejected and cast doubt on the government's version of events, claiming that there have been many missteps and holes in the investigation.

They argue that it was physically impossible for the the students' remains to have been burned at the dump as the prosecutors originally claimed.

They further argued that official reports showed a downplay in the presence of the federal police and troops who were present near the areas where the students were abducted.

The experts came up with a list of 10 recommendations which the Mexican Government has accepted, including for the search for the students to be re-launched, following outlines laid down by the experts and carried out in coordination with the victims' families.

They also requested that the government follow up other recommendations and address other issues from the report regarding the investigation.

TRTWorld and agencies