Mexico | Mexico’s judiciary on Friday ordered the arrest of the country’s former attorney general and 64 police and military officials over the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a day after the release of a report by an official commission convened by the case of a “state crime”.
• Also read: In Mexico, when families go missing in search of their missing loved ones
• Also read: Mexico: Lopez Obrador opens a commission into the disappearance of 43 students in 2014
Former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam was arrested Friday night at his home in Mexico City for “enforced disappearance, torture and crimes against the administration of justice” and offered no resistance, prosecutors said in a press release.
Prosecutors later announced that arrest warrants had been issued for 20 army personnel and 44 police officers for their alleged involvement in the case, causing deep shock in Mexico and abroad.
These 64 police officers and soldiers are wanted for “organized crime, enforced disappearance, torture, manslaughter and offenses against the administration of justice”, the public prosecutor specified. The identity and rank of those wanted were not given.
Mr. Murillo Karam, who served under President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) and led a controversial initial investigation into these disappearances, is a former heavyweight of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for 71 consecutive years until 2000.
This is the most important figure so far to have been arrested as part of this investigation, which was started from scratch after leftist President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador took power in 2019.
Prosecutors have also issued arrest warrants for 14 members of the Guerreros Unidos drug trafficking cartel.
On the night of September 26-27, 2014, a group of students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training school in the southern state of Guerrero traveled to the nearby city of Iguala to “requisition” buses to go to a demonstration in Mexico City.
According to the investigation, 43 young people were arrested by the local police in collusion with Guerreros Unidos, then shot and burned in a landfill for unknown reasons. Only the remains of three of them could be identified.
On Thursday, an official report released by the Ayotzinapa Truth Commission set up by Mr. Lopez Obrador assessed that Mexican soldiers were complicit in the crime.
“Their actions, omissions or participation made possible the disappearance and execution of the students, as well as the murder of six others,” Interior Ministry Secretary of State Alejandro Encinas said during the report’s public presentation.
“An institutional action was not accredited, but there were clear responsibilities of elements” of the armed forces, he added, without specifying whether these “elements” were still active.
Mr. Encinas has repeatedly called the Ayotzinapa case a “state crime”.
Another commission, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), created under an agreement between the Peña Nieto government and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), alleges that soldiers falsified evidence found at the dump where the bodies were burned.
The first official investigation, led by Mr. Murillo Karam, whose conclusions were rejected by the victims’ families and independent experts, held the military unaccountable. This version accused a cartel of drug dealers of killing the students, mistaking them for members of a rival gang.
“Bringing this cruel and inhumane situation to the public while punishing those responsible will help prevent these unfortunate events from happening again” and “strengthen the institutions,” Lopez Obrador said on Friday.
The Mexican president has also indicated that he will continue to press Israel to extradite the former chief of the Attorney General’s Office of Criminal Investigation, Tomas Zeron.
This former high-ranking official, who was accused of involvement in the Ayotzinapa affair but has maintained his innocence, fled to Israel, where he sought asylum.