Ayotzinapa Investigations is a special page dedicated to the work of the National Security Archive and others in documenting and seeking justice for the 43 disappeared students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College. The National Security Archive advocates for the declassification of documentary evidence in fighting impunity amidst the unprecedented crisis of forced disappearances in Mexico.
On the night of September 26 and in the early morning of September 27, 2014, a group of students was attacked by local police in the town of Iguala, Guerrero. The night left six people dead, dozens injured, and 43 students forcibly disappeared. The violence committed against the unarmed young men by the police in collusion with the drug cartel Guerreros Unidos sparked mass protests throughout the country.
Then-President Enrique Peña Nieto opened an investigation that would prove deeply inadequate and ultimately fraudulent. Domestic and international criticism over the official investigation led the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to sponsor a group of independent, international experts (GIEI) who arrived in Mexico in March of 2015 to work on the case. The GIEI’s efforts throughout 2015 and 2016 revealed the Mexican government’s falsification of records, destruction of evidence, and systematic use of torture against detainees and suspects throughout the official investigation.
In March 2022, the GIEI presented its third report on the Ayotzinapa case, exposing the involvement of high-level government officials and institutions in the cover-up. The revelations include documentation of the Mexican military’s infiltration and surveillance of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College before, during, and after the events in Iguala in September of 2014, as well as the manipulation of the Cocula crime scene by members of the Mexican Navy.
The nature and scale of the crime, the apparent involvement of state actors, and the persistent impunity that has blocked efforts to seek justice for the students have made the Ayotzinapa case a powerful symbol of state-sponsored criminality in Mexico and emblematic of the pervasive problem of forced disappearances that occur daily throughout the country. The Mexican government’s conspiracy to sabotage its own investigation represents a cruel double-disappearance for the families of the students: of their sons and of their hope for justice.
Since 2017, the National Security Archive has filed hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests for U.S. documents related to the case of the 43 students, the “war on drugs” and its consequences, and U.S. security assistance to Mexico. In 2020, Kate Doyle and the National Security Archive partnered with reporter Anayansi Díaz-Cortes and Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting to develop the podcast series “After Ayotzinapa,” released in January 2022. Two months later, the Spanish-language version “Después de Ayotzinapa” was released in co-production with Adonde Media and Animal Politico. The investigation of the 43 disappeared students remains ongoing with the appointment of a new special prosecutor’s unit in Mexico in 2019, the publication of the third GIEI report, and sustained support from the international human rights community. The National Security Archive continues to investigate the case with our partners at Centro Prodh and Reveal.
Washington, D.C., September 26, 2023 - Nine years ago today, 43 Mexican college students were violently abducted and disappeared by police and drug traffickers in the town of…