Rights groups also doubt Mexico account on missing students

Author: Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) – International human rights groups on Wednesday questioned the Mexican government’s official account of the disappearance of 43 college students last fall in the southern state of Guerrero.

Hours after parents of the missing young men rejected the attorney general’s declaration that investigators were sure the students were dead, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International supported the families’ demand that the investigation remain open.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam reassured Mexicans that the case had not been closed. He said a news conference he gave Tuesday was intended only to update the country on evidence he considers sufficient to conclude the students were killed and their bodies incinerated beyond recognition.

That evidence included a number of forensic reports and purported confessions from suspected drug gang members believed to have killed the students after local police handed them over to the group.

But relatives and rights advocates remained skeptical, saying there are still unanswered questions.

“Given the high indices of violence and corruption in Mexico, unfortunately Murillo Karam’s account is not implausible,” Human Rights Watch’s Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, told MVS Radio. “However, it is difficult to trust what he said … because you know that in Mexico confessions are obtained through coercion, torture, irregularities, pressures.”

DNA testing has been able to identify the remains of only one student who disappeared Sept. 26 in the city of Iguala, and an Austrian laboratory assisting in the case says it appears other human remains discovered in the area cannot be conclusively identified.

Vivanco said the government appears eager to “end media attention surrounding the investigation” by taking the one positive identification and suspects’ testimonies and extrapolating to conclude the other students met the same fate.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, the students were killed and heaped onto a garbage-dump pyre that burned for hours at a temperature sufficient to turn the bodies to ash. The remains were then bagged up and tossed into a river. Investigators later found sacks there containing human remains and traces of the dump.

Amnesty International said in a statement that declaring the 43 dead was premature.

“The theory about what may have happened … is based above all on testimony from implicated persons,” the group said.

That echoed complaints made Tuesday night by parents, who vowed to keep demanding the students be found alive.

“A criminal’s word cannot be worth more than ours,” said Carmen Cruz, mother of missing 19-year-old Jorge Cruz.

“We don’t believe anything” the government says, she added. “We are not going to allow this case to be closed.”

Lawyer Vidulfo Rosales, who is representing the families, presented a 10-point argument explaining why they believe the investigation must continue, including a lack of conclusive forensic results. He also noted that a number of key suspects remain at large and their testimony could shed new light on the case.

Rosales said the families will file a formal complaint on Feb. 3 before the Committee on Enforced Disappearances at the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Mexican government “will have to respond for these events,” he said.

Asked about the parents’ reaction, Murillo Karam, the attorney general, said that if he had any doubts about the investigation, “I would have to release those who confessed to killing the students.”

The case has shocked Mexicans and provoked protests around the country, including a large demonstration in the capital on Monday’s four-month anniversary of the disappearances.

Authorities have detained 99 people, including the former mayor of Iguala and his wife.

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