Experts say Mexican probe into missing students was falsified

A banner is spread across a street with "43?" on it
Relatives of 43 missing college students, from Mexico’s Guerrero state, mark the 43rd month since their disappearance, with a march in Mexico City on April 26, 2018. According to a report released Monday by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that is probing the case, the Mexican navy was an active part in manipulation and concealment of evidence in the investigation after the disappearance of the students in 2014, as well as in the construction of the official version by the government at the time, which turned out to be false.
(Marco Ugarte / Associated Press)

A group of international experts said Monday the Mexican government falsified investigations into the disappearance of 43 students in 2014 from the start.

Former Colombian prosecutor Ángela Buitrago said the experts found evidence that authorities withheld or falsified evidence from the start of the search.

“It was falsified from the first day to the last day,” said Buitrago, who is part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights group supporting the investigation.


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Buitrago said investigators, prosecutors and military personnel altered crime scenes and records. A government drone video obtained by the experts showed marines and police climbing around the area where the students were allegedly killed with little control.

The students from a radical teachers’ college were abducted by local police in southern Guerrero state who presumably killed them and burned their bodies.

But investigators sought to quickly resolve the crime through illegal searches, detentions and torture of suspects.

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Mexico has asked the Israeli government to extradite a former top security official, Tomás Zerón, who was the head of the federal investigation agency at the time of the abduction. He is being sought on charges of torture and covering up those disappearances.

Zerón fled to Israel in August 2019, where he may have connections to an Israeli firm that sold the Mexican government spyware during his time in office.

Zerón oversaw the criminal investigation agency of the Attorney General’s Office and also its forensic work in the 2014 case. Most of the students’ bodies have never been found, though burned bone fragments have been matched to three students.


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The investigation had long been criticized by the families of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014 after they were detained by local police in Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero. They were allegedly handed over to a drug gang and slain, and have not been heard from since.

Zerón was at the center of the government’s widely criticized investigation, which has failed to definitively determine what happened to the students. Two independent teams of experts have cast doubt on the insistence of Mexican officials that the students’ bodies were incinerated in a huge fire at a trash dump.

Many of the suspects arrested in the case were later released, and many claimed they had been tortured by police or the military.