Center Prodh

The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center

Collegiate Tribunal confirms authorities’ duty to comply with judgment ordering investigation commission for Ayotzinapa case

– The decision reaffirms the duty to create the commission that the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) had erroneously argued was impossible to create

– The Tribunal reiterates that the investigation has been plagued with defects

Mexico City, September 20, 2018. Today, the First Collegiate Tribunal of the Nineteenth Circuit, located in Tamaulipas, unanimously confirmed that the authorities must comply with the judgment ordering the creation of an investigation commission for the Ayotzinapa case, dismissing the PGR’s arguments that such a commission was legally impossible to create.

In May 2018, the same Tribunal issued judgment in the cases of constitutional challenges 203/2017 through 206/2017, ordering the reorientation of the Ayotzinapa investigation in light of the serious deficiencies detected. The Tribunal ordered authorities to follow up on detainees’ complaints of torture, and to create a special Investigation Commission for Justice and Truth in the Iguala (Ayotzinapa) Case with checks and balances consisting of the participation of the families of the victims and their legal representatives, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), and international bodies.

At least 10 federal agencies filed legal challenges to the ruling, especially to object to the creation of the investigation commission, despite the fact that the Tribunal’s judgment was final and not subject to appeal. The Third Unitary Tribunal of the Nineteenth Circuit, charged with supervising implementation of the ruling, admitted a legal remedy filed by the PGR, which sought to argue that the ruling was impossible to implement. Today, the Collegiate Tribunal rejected this argument by PGR and confirmed that both Mexican and international law provide legal grounds for the creation of the commission.

The magistrates of the Collegiate Tribunal also explained that the investigation commission does not undermine the jurisdiction of the PGR, since the PGR retains authority to investigate the crimes committed in the case and to charge those responsible, while the other members of the commission (families, CNDH, international assistance) will help guide the investigation making use of their own attributes and areas of expertise, investigating from the perspective of human rights violations.

The magistrates highlighted the need for the crimes committed September 26th-27th, 2014, to be investigated as enforced disappearance, as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ordered in other Mexican cases, such as Radilla Pacheco vs. Mexico.

During the Tribunal’s public session, the magistrates recalled that the investigation commission’s mandate to enter government compounds to search for relevant evidence is a practice already ordered by many district judges, based on the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons. Contrary to what the PGR had argued, this action does not violate the General Law on National Property or put national security at risk. The magistrates stated that the government cannot invoke internal legal provisions as a justification for violating its international obligations.

The Tribunal expressed concern that so many federal authorities had presented such a variety of legal challenges against a judgment designed to safeguard the rights of victims. For the families of the Ayotzinapa students, these actions by the government confirm that the outgoing federal administration is unwilling to accept further international scrutiny of the investigation, even though the implementation of the ruling will fall to the next administration, which has already accepted the judgment.

Today’s decision points to the opportunity for the incoming federal government to order the creation of the investigation commission and to reinforce international supervision in this case through the return of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) named by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as through assistance from the UN.

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