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Disappearances in Mexico: A Report From the Legal Team for the 43 Students Abducted in Iguala

  • When
  • December 15, 2014
    6:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. (EST)
  • Where
  • Open Society Foundations–New York
    224 West 57th Street
    New York, NY 10019
    United States of America
  • Programs
  • Open Society Justice Initiative

An Update on the 43 Students Abducted in Mexico


On September 26, 2014, 43 male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. According to official reports, they commandeered several buses and traveled to Iguala that day to hold a protest at a conference led by the mayor’s wife. During the journey local police intercepted them and a confrontation ensued. Details of what happened during and after the clash remain unclear, but the official investigation concluded that once the students were in custody, they were handed over to the local Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) crime syndicate and presumably killed.

Mexican authorities believe Iguala’s mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, and his wife María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa to be the probable masterminds of the abduction. Both of them fled after the incident, along with the town’s police chief, Felipe Flores Velásquez. The couple were arrested about a month later in Mexico City. The events also led to attacks on government buildings, and the resignation of the governor of Guerrero, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, in the face of statewide protests. The mass kidnapping of the students arguably became the biggest political and public security scandal Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto faced during his administration. It led to nationwide protests, particularly in the state of Guerrero and Mexico City, and international condemnation.

On November 7, 2014, the Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam gave a press conference in which he announced that several plastic bags containing human remains, possibly those of the missing students, had been found by a river in Cocula, Guerrero. At least 80 suspects have been arrested in the case, of which 44 were police officers. One student was confirmed dead after his remains were identified by the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

The Human Rights Center of the Mountain (CHRM) Tlachinollan represents the families of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa who were kidnapped. They provide updates concerning the case, the campaign against the legal defense team, and their views on the measures proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto.


  • Abel Barrera, director, CHRM Tlachinollan
  • María Luisa Aguilar Rodríguez, international coordinator, CHRM Tlachinollan
  • Sandra Coliver, senior legal officer, Open Society Justice Initiative (moderator)

CHRM Tlachinollan is a human rights organization working since 1993 in the state of Guerrero, southern Mexico. The Mountain Region where Tlachinollan carries out most of its work consists of over 600 communities and 19 municipalities of which 11 are classified as highly marginalized, being among the poorest in Mexico. In this region are concentrated most of the indigenous peoples of the state of Guerrero. CHRM Tlachinollan seeks to resolve conflicts through peaceful means, paving the way for coexistence, and to create conditions in which justice can dwell among the peoples of the Mountain.

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