Mexico City, Oct 31 (EFE).- A group of international experts said Monday it found inconsistencies in evidence presented by a Mexican government-appointed truth commission tasked with investigating the infamous 2014 abduction and murder of 43 trainee teachers.
The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), a panel appointed several years ago by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said after conducting a forensic analysis that it is not possible to authenticate many of the more than 400 screenshots of WhatsApp messages purportedly sent by individuals implicated in the disappearances.
Those screenshots were presented in an August report by the truth commission as iron-clad evidence that a “crime of the state” had occurred involving officials at all levels of government.
The GIEI, however, said it found inconsistencies with “at least 181” of the screenshots.
The experts said one irregularity was the presence of two blue check marks alongside the messages (providing confirmation that a message was read by the recipient) – a feature that did not exist at the time the messages were sent.
“The messages we analyzed cannot be regarded as digital evidence,” Francisco Cox Vial, one of the four GIEI experts, said.
Another member of the panel, Claudia Paz y Paz – who like Cox Vial will be stepping down, leaving only Carlos Martin Beristain and Angela Buitrago to monitor the case – called on the truth commission to commit in the future to allowing the GIEI to review evidence before it takes any additional steps.
“The consistency of the information must be based on the highest standards,” she said.
Even so, the experts said more than 80 arrest warrants issued in the case in August by a specialized unit of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office were based on solid evidence gleaned from its own investigation and lamented that 21 of them had been withdrawn.
In September, Omar Gomez Trejo, a respected prosecutor who is trusted by the families of the 43 missing students, resigned after people in the AG’s office rescinded those arrest warrants without consulting him.
The experts’ report came after the New York Times reported on Oct. 26 that the head of the Ayotzinapa truth commission, deputy interior minister Alejandro Encinas, told the daily in an interview that a “very important percentage” of what had been presented as crucial new evidence could not be verified as real.
Days later, however, Encinas denied having disparaged the report.
On the night of Sept. 26, 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, an all-male teachers’ college in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero known for its leftist activism, were attacked in the nearby city of Iguala after they had commandeered buses (a traditional practice) to travel to Mexico City for a protest.
Six people – including three students – were killed in the assault, 25 were injured and 43 students were abducted and presumably slain later.
The administration of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto said in 2015 that the students were killed by a local drug gang after being abducted by municipal cops acting on the orders of Iguala’s corrupt mayor, and that their bodies were incinerated at a dump in the nearby town of Cocula.
The victims’ families were immediately skeptical of that account, as was the GIEI, which concluded that the bodies could not have been disposed of in the way authorities claimed.
Army Gen. Jose Rodriguez Perez, who was commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion based in Iguala at the time of the crime, was arrested last month in connection with the abduction/murders along with two other military members.