Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday that any soldiers and officials involved in the disappearance of 43 students in 2014 must face justice to prevent the atrocity happening again.
His remarks came a day after a truth commission investigating one of Mexico’s worst human rights tragedies said that military personnel bore responsibility, either directly or through negligence, in the case.
“Publicizing this atrocious, inhuman situation, and at the same time punishing those responsible, helps to prevent these deplorable events ever happening again” and “strengthens institutions,” Lopez Obrador said.
The participation of “bad public servants” did not imply the whole institution was malfunctioning, he told reporters during a visit to the northwestern border city of Tijuana.
“What weakens an institution is if it does not act in accordance with the truth and there is corruption, impunity,” he added.
On Thursday the truth commission created by Lopez Obrador branded the disappearance of the teaching students a “state crime” involving agents of various institutions.
“Their actions, omissions or participation allowed the disappearance and execution of the students, as well as the murder of six other people,” said the commission’s head, deputy interior minister Alejandro Encinas.
Further investigations were necessary to establish the extent to which members of the armed forces participated, he said.
The students had commandeered buses in the southern state of Guerrero to travel to a demonstration in Mexico City before they went missing.
They were detained by corrupt police and handed over to a drug cartel which mistook them for members of a rival gang, the commission said.
According to an official report presented in 2015 by the government of then-president Enrique Pena Nieto, cartel members shot them and incinerated their remains at a garbage dump.
That version of events, which did not attribute any responsibility to the military, was rejected by relatives as well as independent experts.
Lopez Obrador said in March that navy members were under investigation for allegedly tampering with evidence, notably at a garbage dump where human remains were found, including those of the only three students identified so far.
He denied that authorities were withholding important information about the case, which drew international condemnation.