Four years later, the disappearance of 43 Mexican college students is still a mystery. A government inquiry was inconclusive – and it turned into an international scandal after it came to light that some people were tortured to make confessions.
Parents of the disappeared say the government has been dragging its feet. Now there’s a blockbuster legal opinion designed to force the government to include the parents and the National Commission for Human Rights in a new investigation.
“The circuit court in the state of Tamaulipas was responding to an appeal made by some of the people who were accused of kidnapping the kids in the first place,” says Azam Ahmed, the Mexico bureau chief for the New York Times. “And they alleged torture, that they’d been tortured.”
The judges ruled that the evidence of torture was admissible, and then went a step further and reviewed the entire case, ordering a truth commission to investigate.
“And not just any old truth commission,” Ahmed says. “They said that the parents of the missing students and their lawyers, as well as the National Human Rights Commission, would direct the inquiry, alongside what they call the PGR here, which is essentially the nation’s federal attorney general’s office.”
That means the federal government would have to follow leads determined by the families and the National Human Rights Commission.
Ahmed says the announcement came as a surprise.
“We were all sort of stunned,” he says. “This being Mexico, I initially was skeptical.”
When he called the lawyers who have worked on this case for years, he found that they were stunned, too.
“Then the chief lawyer called me and said, ‘This is historic. I’ve never seen anything like this.’”
However, Ahmed says many people suspect the federal government won’t comply with the order.
“Does the judge have the authority to go so far beyond the scope with the ruling?” he says. “For sure, it was a big statement about justice and about the rule of law here about what these parents have been denied for more than three years. But whether or not they’re actually going to comply with it is still a pretty big question.”
Written by Jen Rice.