MEXICO CITY – The final report by a group of experts of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has found serious abuses and inconsistencies in the Mexican government's investigation into the disappearance of 43 students who were kidnapped by corrupt local police in September 2014 and supposedly turned over to a drug gang that killed them and burned their bodies.
The expert group says that a study of 17 of the approximately 110 suspects arrested in the case showed signs of beatings, including, in some cases, dozens of bruises, cuts and scrapes.
The report found "significant evidence of torture and abuse." One suspect said he was nearly asphyxiated with a plastic bag, and medical studies showed another had been slapped on the ears so hard his eardrums broke and his ears bled.
The Mexican government recently released documents suggesting investigations had been opened against police and military personnel, but authorities have not answered requests about whether anyone has been arrested or charged.
The Students' Fate
The report criticized the forensic investigations of human remains and evidence of fire at the garbage dump in the town of Cocula, Guerrero, saying that prosecutors had provided little evidence there ever could have been a fire a big enough at the site. It said the government had stuck by its version the students were killed and incinerated at the dump, despite evidence to the contrary, like 17 tree trunks found at the scene that showed little or no evidence of fire.
The report also found that the cell phone of one student had been used to send a message to his parents hours after he had supposedly been killed and his phone destroyed.
There is also evidence that at least some of the students were loaded aboard pickup trucks by corrupt cops and taken in the opposite direction of the trash dump.
Investigators have long known that corrupt local police from the towns of Iguala and Cocula participated in the abduction of the students. But the report found a greater role than previously thought by the few federal police posted in the area. The report found that the federal police diverted traffic around one of the roadways where the students were being abducted. A federal police officer was in close contact with the chief of Iguala police, who allegedly directed the abduction. Testimony also exists in which one marine accused a soldier posted in the area of trafficking weapons for the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, which supposedly killed the students.
Independent experts were kept from one area where key evidence was found, and prosecutors and officials dragged their feet on providing evidence the experts requested. Key inspections and medical examinations of suspects and their injuries were delayed for weeks or months. Key hypothesis and evidence went unexamined. The report concludes "there are sectors that aren't interested in the truth."
The report says that federal police and the army failed to help the survivors of the attack, some of whom suffered bloody wounds.