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Experts: Mexico puts justice at risk in case of missing students


MEXICO CITY — A group of international experts investigating the disappearance of 43 students in southern Mexico in 2014 denounced the attorney general Thursday, saying he engaged in “undue interference” and created “obstacles” to justice, apparently with rush to show results.

The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate the kidnapping and forced disappearance of September 26, 2014, of students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in the state of Guerrero.

Members of the group at a news conference also raised doubts about some of the evidence included in a report last month by the government Truth Commission investigating the case.

They also said that there is additional evidence of the close relationship between the army and a local drug gang that have been implicated in the disappearance of the students in the city of Iguala.

They spoke just two days after the special prosecutor who had led the government investigation since 2019 resigned.

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Experts said that Omar Gómez Trejo resigned after his freelance work was blocked by Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero. Ángela Buitrago, one of the experts, said that Gómez Trejo was not willing to follow orders “that have no justification.”

Among the examples of the alleged “undue interference”, the group mentioned the unexplained cancellation of 21 arrest warrants previously announced by the Attorney General’s Office, including 16 military personnel. Claudia Paz, another of the experts, said that the withdrawal of those arrest warrants was not in accordance with the rule of law.

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Experts also said the rush to charge former attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam, who was in office when the students disappeared, with fabricating the previous administration’s account of what happened could ultimately jeopardize the case against him.

Such practices lead one to think that “there was an attempt to synchronize judicial times with political times… that came from the Attorney General of the Republic,” said Francisco Cox, another member of the group. He added that the current administration seemed to place a higher value on arrests than convictions.

Evidence of close contact between the military and the local drug gang in Iguala continues to grow. However, members of the group said they continued to be denied military intelligence, despite President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordering the armed forces to give them full access to files.

Paz said evidence implicating the military came from the United States in the form of intercepted communications obtained for a case in Illinois involving drug trafficking from Iguala to Chicago.

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Among them were 12 conversations about joint work by criminals and military personnel or meals organized by criminals for members of the armed forces. Some of the soldiers mentioned in those conversations are in custody – there are four – but others are not.

The August Truth Commission report included new information about the military’s involvement in the disappearances, including screenshots of messages indicating that military personnel allegedly gave the order to kill some of the students and hide their remains. .

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Experts on Thursday raised questions about those messages, which they said were written very differently from those intercepted by US authorities. They said that they had asked an independent expert to analyze all the information, which was only recently shared with them.

Alejandro Encinas, head of the government’s Truth Commission, said later Thursday that the analysis of evidence is always part of the process. He also said that “no one has pressured me” and that there is “no political timing” in the case, adding that the issues raised by the independent experts can be addressed.

He did not address the criticism of Gertz Manero, saying that questions about the Attorney General’s Office should be directed to him.

López Obrador has downplayed the military’s involvement in the disappearance, saying only a handful of military personnel were responsible, not the institution.

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He supported the cancellation of the 21 arrest warrants and said Thursday that those who criticize the government must think that “it is going to generate a rebellion in the army.”

The expert group’s mandate is scheduled to expire on Friday. They called for it to be extended, something they said the government supports. They also asked that the independence of the special prosecutor’s office be respected.

They said that they would present more information in a month when they have the results of the expert evaluation of the new tests.

“When you touch the justice (system) you cause great damage to the country,” Buitrago said.

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