UN Office Concerned Over Missing Students Case in Mexico

The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) today cautioned against jumping to conclusions regarding the “complex and ongoing” investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, amid reports that a number badly burned bodies have been recovered from sites in Guerrero state.

During the bi-weekly press briefing on human rights and humanitarian issues at the UN Office in Geneva earlier today, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville, took questions from a journalist about reports that DNA identification of the badly burned bodies of 43 missing students in Mexico would not be possible due to the extent of the burns.

Mr. Colville said OHCHR has deployed staff from the Mexico Human Rights Office to visit the various graves and landfill sites. The Prosecutor General had said that because the fragments of bones were so small, it may not be possible to identify the people, emphasizing the need to wait for the forensic analysis to be completed.

According to OHCHR, the students were last seen on 26 September as they arrived in Iguala (Guerrero) to stage a protest. Upon debarking from their bus, the students were blocked by police who, by some accounts, were operating in collusion with a local criminal gang. The police then fired upon the students, killing six people, including a 15-year old child and three students, and injuring another 17 people, while the 43 students were then taken into custody.

As a result of initial investigations, 52 people have been arrested in connection with the students’ disappearance, including at least 36 local police officers, and security forces, investigators and technical resources have been deployed to Iguala and the surrounding region. In addition, the Ministry of Interior and the Attorney General have established a direct dialogue with families, students and NGOs.

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein met with Mexico’s Vice-Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights earlier this week in Geneva, said Mr. Colville, and had a serious discussion about the investigation and the importance of discovering the truth. There are deep concerns about the case both nationally and internationally, he added.

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