UN Report Makes Police Torture Allegations In Mexico’s Missing Students Case

A report released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has alleged that of the 129 people arrested in connection with Mexico’s 2014 missing students case, 34 were tortured by Mexican police and investigators. The official investigation of the student disappearances, carried out by Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s Office, relies heavily on the statements provided by these individuals, and the UN is calling on authorities to disregard evidence obtained through means of torture. The report holds that pain was inflicted in order to gather evidence, with Al Jazeera reporting that individuals were allegedly subjected to beatings, electric shocks, sexual violence and waterboarding. The report highlights the Criminal Investigation Agency, a branch of the Attorney General’s Office, as being primarily responsible for the perpetration of these gross human rights violations, and calls for the development of an independent system to pursue criminal investigations.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has stated, “I urge the Mexican authorities to ensure that the search for truth and justice regarding Ayotzinapa continues, and also that those responsible for torture and other human rights violations committed during the investigation are held accountable.” Jan Jarab, the representative of the office for Mexico, summarized the purpose of the report by stating that “you cannot resolve a serious human rights violation with other violations.” The report has drawn the support of Amnesty International, with America’s Director Erika Guevara-Rosas stating that “the Mexican government must immediately launch an independent and comprehensive inquiry based on the findings of this report.”

The missing students case devastated the Mexican population, resulting in nationwide protests for the disappeared youths. The Mexican government has failed the student victims of these atrocities, and their families, by failing to pursue an impartial path to justice. The government must now reevaluate the official explanation provided for the disappearances by disregarding testimonies elicited through means of coercion. The case is far from being alone in drawing accusations of misconduct on behalf of Mexican authorities, and the release of the UN report may represent a crucial step towards eradicating the alleged widespread use of torture by government investigators.

On September 26, 2014, 43 students disappeared in Iguala, in the state of Guerrero. According to the official investigation led by the Mexican government, the students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were forcibly taken by local police, before being turned over to Guerreros Unidos, a drug gang operating in the area. The investigation holds that the students were murdered by members of the gang, who incinerated their bodies at a garbage dump, before disposing of their ashes in the San Juan river. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an investigation which uncovered major inconsistencies within the account provided by authorities.

Looking to the future, it is vital that the Mexican government addresses the violations recorded in the report and pursues a valid route to justice to help find closure for the families of the student victims, and for those who suffered atrocities at the hands of investigators. The international community must continue putting pressure on the government in order to ensure that changes are carried out, with the goal of reforming existing systems and preventing future rights violations from occurring in this field.

Catherina Pagani