A commission conducting an investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico has denounced the government for withholding evidence, accusations sure to fuel more distrust in a government already on its heels.
In a press conference on August 17, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (known by its Spanish acronym GIEI) -- part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -- announced that during its investigations into the September 2014 disappearance of 43 student teachers in Iguala, Mexico, it found the Mexican government hid pertinent evidence.
According to the GIEI, Mexico’s Attorney General's Office withheld evidence found on two buses the students were riding the night they disappeared, including clothes belonging to the students. Additionally, the GIEI found that video footage of police detaining the students was possibly destroyed.
The GIEI also stated petitions to the government to interview 26 soldiers from the 27th Infantry Battalion -- who allegedly witnessed events in the case of the students’ disappearance -- have been repeatedly delayed. And while permission was granted on August 16, interviews can only be conducted via written questionnaires.
Members of the GIEI said they hope to extend their six-month investigation period -- which ends September 2 -- but will release a written report of their findings to date on September 6.
InSight Crime Analysis
The GIEI's press conference -- the first since it was formed -- is not a good sign for the Mexican government or the GIEI. Airing its grievances in public shows the group does not expect to get much more official cooperation.
The statements will also surely contribute to the crisis of confidence in the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, which has been devastated this past year by scandal and security setbacks, including the escape of famed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from a maximum security prison.
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Beginning almost immediately following the students’ disappearance, doubts have circulated surrounding the official version of events, which holds the students were abducted by police and handed over to a criminal group known as the Guerreros Unidos, who then murdered them and burned their bodies.
Despite attempts by the government to show transparency in its investigations, public skepticism abounds, with many perceiving the government as attempting to sidestep the case and cover-up involvement of local officials and security forces.
The GIEI shows no signs of adhering to the Mexican government's line, something that may make its job of unearthing the truth even more difficult.