Congressional Briefing on Disappeared Mexican Students Peers Into Mexican Government Investigation

May 25, 2016
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today joined with Congresswoman Norma Torres (CA-35) and Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Jim McGovern (MA-32), Joe Pitts (PA-16), and Albio Sires (NJ-08), in welcoming the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to Capitol Hill to provide a Congressional briefing on the unexplained disappearance in September 2014 of 43 Mexican student teachers from Ayotzinapa, Mexico.

Known as the "Group of Experts," the GIEI assisted the Government of Mexico's investigation in the disappearance.  Four of the GIEI experts -- Claudia Paz y Paz, Francisco Cox, Carlos Beristain, and Angela Buitrago -- discussed their work with the Congress Members, problems encountered during the investigation, and the group's final report that was released on April 24, 2016.

"The GIEI final report is critical to understanding why after two years we still have no one being held accountable for the disappearance of these students," Congressman Lowenthal said. "It shines a light on the avenues of inquiry never followed in the investigation and the almost certainty that the Mexican government engaged in evidence tampering and the torture of suspects in its failed attempt to solve these crimes.

"The only conclusion that one can draw from the report is the Mexican justice system, beyond these 43 cases, needs a systematic overhaul. It is beyond frustrating that the Mexican government has not acknowledged the recommendations in this report that could lead to a more effective, successful, and equitable criminal justice system in Mexico."

The GIEI's mandate ended on April 30 with key questions unresolved, although the experts expressed hope that the Government of Mexico will continue to pursue investigative leads that they suggested.  Santiago Aguirre, a lawyer with the non-governmental organization Centro Prodh, represented the victims' families at the briefing and provided additional insights on the unresolved tragedy.

"The disappearance of the 43 students has been incredibly traumatic for the families of the victims and for the Mexican people," Congresswoman Torres said. "The failure of the official investigation to find out what happened only makes the pain worse. What the Group of Experts have done to help get to the bottom of this terrible case is truly remarkable, and now it is the responsibility of the Mexican government to follow the leads the Group of Experts identified and ensure a thorough, complete, and transparent investigation.  The Mexican people deserve nothing less"

Thursday's briefing, the latest in a series of Congressional actions supporting efforts to determine the fate of the 43 Mexican citizens, was held in collaboration with the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights and the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, and in conjunction with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

Last June, more than eighty Members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Kerry urging him to advocate with the Government of Mexico to uncover the truth of what happened in Ayotzinapa.  In October, Congressman Lowenthal, in collaboration with the Washington Office on Latin America and the Woodrow Wilson Center, hosted the GIEI experts at an event where the experts updated the public on the progress of the investigation.

"I'd like to thank my good friend from California for his efforts to shed light on this terrible crime," Congressman Sires said. "Finding out what really happened to those 43 students almost two years ago is not only important to bring closure to the victims' families but is a true test of Mexico's commitment to reforming its justice system and erasing a culture of impunity for violent crimes. I support Congressman Lowenthal's unwavering commitment to protecting human rights all over the world and hope we can work together with our partners in Mexico to settle this matter once and for all."