February 2, 2015
OAS Human Rights Commission to probe Missing Mexico Students
Organization of American States
Group of Independent Experts designated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the context of the agreement
signed with the Mexican State and the representatives of the 43 students disappeared in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, will hold its
first meeting on February 11 and 12, 2015.
The members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, comprised by Carlos
Beristain, Angela Buitrago, Francisco Cox Vial, Claudia Paz y Paz, and Alejandro Valencia Villa, will meet at the headquarters
of the IACHR, in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and adopt their internal norms and procedures and
adopt an action plan for the fulfillment of their mission. In this meeting, the group will also determine the dates of their
first visit to Mexico.
The agreement signed in November 2014 by the IACHR, the Mexican State and representatives of the students disappeared
in Ayotzinapa, established the main activities to be carried out by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts. These
are the following: to draw up plans for searching for the disappeared persons alive; technical analysis of the lines of investigation
to determine criminal liabilities; and technical analysis of the Plan for Integral Attention to the Victims of the events
of September 26 and 27, 2014.
The Inter-American Commission highlights the importance of the recommendations
of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to strengthening the institutional capacity of the Mexican State to
search for and locate disappeared persons, as well as for the investigation of other forced disappearance cases.
The agreement also established
that the Mexican State and the representatives of the students would suggest the names of several persons to be selected as
members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts. After careful consideration and analysis of the personal and
professional background of each of the persons suggested, the Inter-American Commission decided on the selection of five experts.
The main criteria considered included the respective careers, their independence, as well as a balance between the different
professions and experience, with a view to the best compliance with the purpose of the international technical cooperation
The IACHR considers
that the trajectory of each of the persons selected, along with their wide recognition and reputation for serious, independent
human rights work, will contribute to the effective implementation of the international technical cooperation agreement.
Carlos Beristain, a national of Spain, is a doctor of medicine and psychology, who has been working for 25 years
on integral attention of victims of human rights violations and their families. His experience includes coordinating the “Guatemala:
Never Again!” report, as well as work in Colombia with victims of the internal armed conflict; in Peru, Paraguay y Ecuador
with the Truth Commissions of those countries; and in the Sahara with victims of forced disappearance and their families.
He is experienced in the attention of victims and survivors of violence, and in preparing expert testimonies for psychosocial
evaluation and investigations on reparations.
Angela Buitrago, a Colombian, is a lawyer and holds a Ph.D. in Law and Sociology, with
specialization in Criminal Law and Criminological Science; she has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Law; and is a Professor
at the Externado University in Colombia. Between 2005 and 2010 she was a delegate prosecutor before the Supreme Court of Justice
where she worked on cases such as the disappearances in the Palace of Justice of Colombia; the former Governor of the Meta
Department, regarding the murder of three political leaders; the former Governor of Casanare for corruption; a former Senator
for his alleged relationship with the paramilitaries; communications espionage of the Administrative Security Department (DAS),
among many others.
Francisco Cox Vial, a Chilean lawyer, holds an LL.M from Columbia University, and is a Professor of Constitutional
Law for the Diego Portales University, and a Professor of public interest clinics and human rights. He litigates criminal
and constitutional cases, and has worked pro bono on cases before the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Palamara,
Atala and daughters, Melinka, among others). He has also worked in support of the extradition of General
Pinochet to Spain, served as principal advisory to the Executive Director of the Inter-American Human Rights Institute, and
as advisor to the IACHR in the cases of Villagrán Morales and others v. Guatemala, and Castillo Páez v. Peru.
Claudia Paz y Paz, a
national of Guatemala, is a lawyer who was appointed in 2010 to be the first female Attorney General of her country. She is
an expert in criminal law who served as a judge for 18 years, and was praised for the aggressive investigation of organized
crime in Guatemala. During her tenure as Attorney General, several cases of human rights violations before
the justice system advanced and resulted in the conviction of the perpetrators, especially in the case of former dictator
Efraín Ríos Montt, for his role in the genocide of the Mayan people. She currently lives in the United States,
where she is a resident scholar.
Alejandro Valencia Villa, a lawyer from Colombia, has been working for 25 years in the promotion
and defense of human rights. He is currently an independent consultant and professor of human rights, humanitarian law and
transitional justice. He has worked as a consultant for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
He has also served as an expert witness before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and worked with Truth Commissions
in Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru. He was the first Director for the Attention and Processing of Claims in the Office
of the Defender of the People of Colombia, and lawyer for the Center for Justice and International Law in Washington, D.C.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the
OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for
human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent
members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of
origin or residence.
Press release, "Interdisciplinary Group of Experts
to Launch … its Work on the Case of the Students of Ayotzinapa, Mexico," Jan. 30, 2015, Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights, Organization of American States, Washington, D.C.