MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s recently revamped Attorney General’s Office has announced the creation of a special prosecutor’s office to investigate an emblematic case involving the disappearance of 43 trainee teachers in 2014.
Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said that the new prosecutor’s office will revive and open a new channel for the criminal probe, a statement from the Government Secretariat (interior ministry) read.
The “main objective” of the special unit will be to determine the whereabouts of the 43 students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College in Ayotzinapa, a town in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.
Trainee teachers from that all-male teacher training college, which is known for its leftist activism, were attacked in Iguala, Guerrero, on the night of Sept. 26, 2014, after they commandeered buses (a traditional practice) to travel to Mexico City for a protest.
Six people – including three students – were killed, 25 were injured and 43 students were abducted and presumably slain.
Gertz Manero said that to fulfill its main objective the new prosecutor’s office will work closely with the truth commission that leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador established in his first decree after taking office in December.
“To not ascertain the truth in cases like Ayotzinapa would undermine the credibility of the recently reformed justice procurement institution,” said Gertz Manero, who leads a newly revamped AG’s office (FGR) that is designed to be more independent.
The administration of Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, concluded that the 43 students were killed by the Guerreros Unidos drug gang after being abducted by municipal cops acting on the orders of Iguala’s corrupt mayor.
Their bodies were incinerated at a waste dump in the nearby town of Cocula, authorities said in early 2015 in unveiling the “historical truth” of what happened that fateful night.
Almost every element of the official account has been shredded.
Mexican and international experts concluded that the bodies could not have been disposed of in the way described by Peña Nieto’s government, while leaked reports from the AG’s office established the involvement of federal police and military personnel in the Iguala violence.
The group of international experts also found that some of the information contained in the official version had been obtained through torture of detainees.
Gertz Manero announced the creation of the special prosecutor’s office on Thursday during a meeting with the head of the truth commission, Deputy Government Secretary Alejandro Encinas; the technical secretary of the commission, Felix Santana; and some of the parents of the Ayotzinapa students.
The announcement came hours after Lopez Obrador pledged federal government protection for people who come forward with information or help clarify what happened to the 43 trainee teachers.
“It’s very important to know the truth and determine the whereabouts of the young people from Ayotzinapa,” Lopez Obrador said.
An article last month by Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at New York-based Human Rights Watch, hailed the establishment of the truth commission and said the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students was far from being an isolated incident.
“Mexican security forces have been implicated in numerous serious human rights violations – including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture – in the course of efforts to combat organized crime,” HRW says on its Web site.
“Nevertheless, the government has officially sanctioned military involvement in domestic law enforcement activities, without including meaningful measures to strengthen civilian police institutions, and there has only been limited progress in prosecuting those responsible for abuses.”