A United Nations report says 34 people were tortured in connection with the investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero in 2014.
Entitled Double Injustice: Human Rights Violations in the Investigation of the Ayotzinapa Case, the report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that there are “solid grounds to believe that torture was committed against” 33 men and one woman who were arrested in the case.
The 34 individuals presented “numerous physical injuries” that were medically certified and consistent with injuries resulting from torture, the U.N. said.
In total, the OHCHR said it examined information relating to 63 people out of a total of 129 who were detained and it identified 51 cases “indicating possible acts of torture.”
The types of torture identified included “beatings, kicks, electric shocks, blindfolding, attempted asphyxia, sexual assault and various forms of psychological torture.”
The OHCHR identified a “consistent pattern of human rights violations and an almost uniform modus operandi” in the 34 certified cases.
Among other violations it detected were the arbitrary detention of suspects by federal authorities and significant delays before the suspects were presented before a prosecuto
Torture mainly occurred in the first 48 hours after arrest, and some cases occurred at the offices of the Special Prosecutor for the Investigation of Organized Crime (SEIDO), a division of the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR).
“Some of the self-incriminating statements obtained under torture were used as the basis for the accusation against the detainees, as well as in indictments against other individuals,” the report said.
PGR staff as well as personnel from the Federal Police and the Navy Secretariat were involved in the process, it added.
Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in the report that “the findings . . . point to a pattern of committing, tolerating and covering up torture in the investigation of the Ayotzinapa case.”
He added that “Ayotzinapa is a test case of the Mexican authorities’ willingness and ability to tackle serious human rights violations.”
“I urge the Mexican authorities to ensure that the search for truth and justice regarding Ayotzinapa continues, and also that those responsible for torture and other human rights violations committed during the investigation are held accountable,” the commissioner said.
The report made 15 recommendations to the Mexican state, including a call for an investigation to identify those responsible for the arbitrary detentions and torture.
It also called on the government to ensure transparency in its investigations, for evidence obtained under torture to be declared null and void and to guarantee the right to due process for prosecuted persons.
In response, the Mexican government said it was worried about the findings.
But a joint statement from the PGR and the Foreign Affairs and Interior Secretariats also said that it “doesn’t provide any new elements that allow progress to be made on the investigation of the case.”
In addition, it said the government is already implementing measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, adding that the U.N. report doesn’t consider “important recent progress” that has been made in the case.
Earlier this week, the PGR arrested the fourth of seven men it said have been identified as being responsible for the disappearance in September 2014 of the 43 young men who were studying to become teachers at the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College.
Earlier in the month, the prosecutor in charge of the case flagged that arrests of 30 people were imminent.
According to the official government version of events, the students were intercepted by corrupt municipal police in Iguala, Guerrero, while traveling on buses they had commandeered to travel to a protest march in Mexico City.
The police then handed them over to members of the Guerreros Unidos gang who killed the students, burned their bodies in a municipal dump and scattered the ashes in a local river.
However, the government’s so-called “historical truth” has been widely questioned both within Mexico and internationally and authorities have been heavily criticized for their handling of the case.
The U.N. report does not address the issue of who committed the enforced disappearance of the 43 students.
The federal government today reaffirmed it was determined to clear up the case.