Independent experts quit Mexico over roadblocks in 43 missing students case

An independent panel of experts investigating the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers’ college in Mexico announced they’re withdrawing from their probe because the government had failed to give them access to vital information.

The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), a committee of jurists and doctors, are in Mexico to investigate the disappearance of the students, who vanished during a visit to the southwestern city of Iguala.

But after presenting their final fact-finding report on Tuesday, the experts said they faced a series of roadblocks, and would be withdrawing from the investigation and leaving the country next week.

“The failure to provide existing information for the investigation of atrocious events such as these, must be denounced by the Prosecutor’s Office and investigated to achieve justice,” the GIEI report read.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, told a morning press conference on Tuesday that his government was “going to continue the investigation.”

The college-aged students, from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, disappeared on September 26, 2014, as they traveled through the southwestern city of Iguala to attend a protest in Mexico City.

Exactly what happened remains unknown, since most of the missing students were never found.

Bullet-riddled buses were later seen in the city’s streets with shattered windows and blood. Survivors from the original group of 100 said their buses had been stopped by armed police officers and soldiers who suddenly opened fire.

Last August, a Mexican court issued at least 83 arrest warrants for people allegedly involved in the 2014 disappearance, but so far no one has been convicted in relation to the students’ disappearance.

The long list of suspects includes dozens of military commanders, troop personnel, police officers, as well as administrative and judicial authorities, who were accused of “organized crime, forced disappearance, torture, homicide and crimes against the administration of justice.”

The GIEI experts said throughout the different stages of the investigation they faced pressures and obstacles such as “lack of information,” “secrecy” and “hidden evidence” until it reached a “critical point in August 2022.”

The group added that the GIEI was forced to leave the investigation in 2016 and were only invited back in 2020 by the new government of Mexico under President Obrador, who made it a campaign promise to investigate the disappearance.

“The concealment of that information has contributed not only to the concealing of government responsibilities, but it has constituted in itself a responsibility of the state in the disappearance of these young men,” GIEI member Carlos Beristain told reporters on Tuesday.

He went on to say that “access to information has been partial and another part of it continues to be hidden.”

Angela Buitrago, another panel member, said the experts were unable to access key intelligence files.

“That condition was to have all the information that was in the files that had not been opened, such as intelligence files,” she said.

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