Last Saturday the EAAF declared that the PGR had errors on 20 genetic profiles of family members of the disappeared Ayotzinapa students sent to Austria to be used for DNA studies. The EAAF also stated that the PGR failed to mention that the [Cocula] Dump, where the 43 students were allegedly incinerated, has been a place of burning for four years and that it contains the body of at least one person who is not a student.
[The PGR] also collected ballistic evidence and earth samples behind the EAAF’s back and left the Dump site unguarded, despite its being a “key site” for the investigation. [Moreover,] it is still not clear where the bone came from that supposedly corresponds to the identified student Alexander Mora Venancio, “among other serious difficulties” mentioned.
In its report, the EAAF had stated that rather than forcing the evidence to agree with testimonies by the alleged murderers that give sustenance to the “historic truth” of the Ayotzinapa case presented by Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam on January 27, a large amount of important physical evidence has yet to be processed and interpreted “in all its possibilities” and with “scientific rigor” before final conclusions can be drawn.
This morning, Proceso was able to consult a member of the international team of experts designated by families of the 43 students to participate as independent collaborators with the PGR in the investigations. The person authorized to speak for the team of 30 specialists who come from eight countries (experts in forensic anthropology, forensic medicine, forensic archeology; and forensic experts specialized in fire, forensic genetics, botany and forensic entomology) responded to each of the PGR’s claims.
“Experts of the Families, Not the Government”
On Monday, the PGR said that
“the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team has never acted as an independent expert for the families of the 43 disappeared, young normal school students in the events of Iguala and Cocula, since from the first moment the institution [PGR] incorporated them as qualified experts.”
In response, the EAAF source stated:
“It is obvious that we are the experts on behalf of the families and not of the institution [PGR]. We have a legal document signed by the families legally requesting the entry of the EAAF as their experts inside the PGJ [Office of Public Prosecutor of Justice] of Guerrero.”
EAAF Presence During Recovery of Remains
The PGR stressed today that
“with regard to the statement that the EAAF was not present when the bag with bone fragments was recovered from the San Juan River, it was pointed out that they were not present at the time of the discovery (which was undertake as part of a ministerial [Public Ministry, part of PGR] procedure) despite the fact that the start of the procedure was communicated to them the night before.”
The Argentine team points out that
“we reaffirm that it [PGR] did not advise us of the inspection in the San Juan River. We were working at the Cocula Dump and while we were doing it, a Public Ministry official arrived to ask us to come because ‘there was a situation in the river that they would then explain to us’. We arrived and saw the remains that they said they had located. The other point, that they had called to tell us, it is not true.”
“the Attorney General’s Office acted pursuant to its authority, and it does not accept any question that the investigative procedure undertaken (on the San Juan River) and the evidence found have legal validity in the investigation, despite the EAAF not having been present.”
The Argentine team explained that
“no one questions the legal validity of their procedures. What we are saying is that we did not witness the moment of discovery of the remains and, despite our requests, up to now it [PGR] has not shown us the document signed by the marines who located them [remains].”
Chain of Custody
“With regard to the statement by the EAAF, regarding that it did not sign the chain of custody of the findings discovered in the San Juan River (referring to the report that should have been delivered by the marine divers who found the remains), the PGR noted that the EAAF is not an authority, and its function is limited only to anthropological and genetic analysis.
Additionally, the chain of custody was initiated by the agent [prosecutor] of the Public Ministry of the Federation who led the proceeding, who, in addition to being responsible for it, has public faith; thus, the PGR reminds them that the request made that the chain of custody for said procedure might be delivered to them goes far beyond its function as qualified experts.”
MV Note: In carrying out this responsibility, the Public Ministry possesses legal attributes called Fe pública, Public Faith, that include:
· Independence: Its function is not to be subordinated to any other agency; …it has no superior in undertaking an investigation.
· Good Faith: It is a righteous body; thus, Mexican society relies on its sense of justice, honesty and common sense.
· Non-Liability: Its performance does not make it liable; even though the person that it recommended be detained with an arrest warrant might subsequently be found innocent, it cannot be prosecuted or charged with negligence. …
The EAAF stresses that
“we certainly do sign all chains of custody for proceedings in which we have definitely been present.”
In its statement on Monday, the PGR warns:
“Regarding the proceeding to make a ruling in the vicinity of the Cocula Dump, November 15, it is stated that the EAAF was not invited, which is correct, given that NO accredited experts were found on the subject of ballistics or any other discipline that was not anthropology, criminology and genetics within their group, and the purpose of the proceeding was the collection of ballistic elements, so it was not necessary that they be present.”
In response, the EAAF argues that
“we have an area of criminology in which ballistics is typically included. One of the team members is one of the most experienced ballistics experts; for more than a decade, he was head of ballistics at the morgue in one of the most violent countries. This person had meetings with the PGR’s ballistics experts in their labs, and he participated with the PGR in gathering evidence throughout the entire first stage of the work at the Cocula Dump, until they decided to go it alone.
“Another question that arises is: how did the PGR know that it was going to find bullets in that inspection and that it was not necessary to invite us? In that proceeding, they didn’t just pick up bullets, they also took soil samples that fall in the area of criminology.”
Closure of the Garbage Dump
The PGR admitted today that
“regarding the safeguarding of the site, actually, once they had completed the expert work at the Cocula Dump, in agreement with EAAF team members and experts from the Attorney General’s Office, they determined that it was no longer necessary to keep the place preserved, given that they had carried out the pieces of evidence in their totality, and there had been no major indications that they would contribute to the investigation. Thus, the communications media and family members could be given access to the site. It should be remembered that this place was located one month after the criminal event occurred. However, their request to return it to protection was dealt with, and the days when security was unavailable do not affect the outcome of the investigation.”
The EAAF response to this question is that:
“it is not correct that it might have been a common agreement to leave the Dump unguarded. To the contrary, they delayed at least 20 days in returning to close the Dump that was open to the public when they collected the ballistics evidence and soil samples. How can they know that it didn’t affect the investigation? We repeated what was said about the importance of keeping the site closed since it was a key place for the investigation.”
Arrival at the Dump
It should be mentioned, warns the PGR,
“that those who arrived first at the place (Cocula Dump) were EAAF members, and who received them was the Attorney General of the Republic [Jesús Murillo Karam], giving them access at all times to perform their job immediately, including two helicopters permanently at their disposal.”
However, the Argentine team explains,
“when the EAAF arrived, there was the prosecutor, Tomás Zerón, an expert in anthropology and many security people. When we arrived, there was already an operation [underway].”
Errors on Genetic Profiles
The PGR raised the point that
“regarding differences found in 20 of 134 genetic profiles taken from the families and sent to the University of Innsbruck by the EAAF and PGR, it is stated that this administrative transcription error was detected and corrected in less than 24 hours, and it did not affect the result of any of the 17 samples sent, including the one that tested positive for the genetic profile of one of the students; thus, the assertion that ‘there was no clear explanation’ is unacceptable. Clarifying the correction of the inconsistency, the 134 genetic records matching family members will only be used for future comparisons.”
“The PGR said nothing, and it did not submit an opinion about the error until our team detected it and exposed the differences several weeks after the samples had been sent. Then they acknowledged the error. They wrote to Innsbruck to notify the [lab] on January 19, one month later. Yet last week when we ask for these corrections, they told us that they would be added soon.
“The problem is that there might be errors: typos and other more serious errors. Not all the genetic markers sent by the PGR could be confirmed by the EAAF, because the lab that we use employs 16 markers and the one the PGR employs uses 24 markers. We checked differences between the 16 markers shared by the two laboratories, but not the remaining eight that [only] the PGR uses, so we do not know if other errors were also incurred that could preclude some of the identifications. So unless [DNA analysis is] limited to the 16 markers that we could verify as correct, they cannot ensure that future identification of remains is not affected.”
Fire and Timeless Evidence
In today’s statement, the PGR argues:
“Regarding the claim made in the statement (by the EAAF) in which they state that ‘the PGR presented findings on physical evidence collected from the Cocula Dump, interpreting it as belonging to one single fire event that would have occurred on the night of September 26 to 27 of 2014‘ at the (Murillo Karam) press conference held on January 27, 2015, it was noted that three areas with ashes were found at the Dump, also indicating the fire’s point of origin. It was even noted that the main fire area covered 140 square meters [167 square yards] in an area [measuring] close to 15 by 9 meters.
“The Attorney General’s Office says, emphatically, that all tests indicate that the elements shown at the aforementioned press conference (about the funeral pyre at the Dump), and that had been compiled during the investigation, were analyzed and directly related to the transient nature of the criminal event of September 26-27, 2014. [Hence,] it is not acceptable that in the face of the body of evidence, expert opinions, confessions, statements and ministerial inspections [by investigative police in Public Ministry], they [EAAF] intended to sow doubt that in that place about 40 people were executed and incinerated, which is corroborated by materials and scientific tests performed in this place by this Office.”
The EAAF sheds light on the PGR:
“It is one thing to say that they found ‘three zones of ash’ in this field, and it is something else to claim when these fires occurred. They speak of a spatial issue, but exclude the chronological factor. The satellite images that we include show that since 2010 the Dump has been a place of fires. The PGR does not indicate these three focal points of ash and what fires they relate to, and so it presented them at the press conference on Ayotzinapa.
“How are they confident that the molten aluminum presented, for example, is part of the events of September 26 and 27? That’s a one-way interpretation. How are the discoveries related to the events? How did they establish that it burned that night if garbage was burned there on a regular basis?”
Duration vs Territory
At the press conference at the PGR of January 27, the chief director of the PGR’s Criminal Investigation Agency, Tomás Zerón Lucio said:
“During the investigation, 487 expert work [projects] in various specialties were performed that support and scientifically validate each part of the narrative of the events, highlighting those described below.
“Chemical Expert Opinion whereby the following findings were made:
1. Residual diesel and gasoline on the ground at Cocula Dump.
2. Three areas with ash inside the Dump.
3. Rocks with thermal shock.
4. The fire’s point of origin.
5. Various residuals with high degree of deterioration from fire.
6. Molten aluminum (mostly cans) from exposure to intense heat.
7. Fragments of tires with traces of carbonization, as well as residuals characteristic of pneumatic tires.
8. Effect of fire on various human skeletal remains.
“All these characteristics were found in the remains at the Dump and in the San Juan River.
“The Biology Opinion indicates that the plants were affected by the heat in the area, and they register a post-fire growth of thirty days at the time they were measured, with agreement to the date of the fire.”
Indeed, this was one of the points that the Argentine team refuted in its statement released on Saturday, February 7. Regarding this matter, today’s communiqué from the PGR states:
“The EAAF issues an isolated criterion (by noting that ‘the factors taken as diagnostic by the PGR—aluminum, glass, teeth, etc.—in their interpretation of the evidence collected from the Dump may correspond to other events that occurred at another time’).
“The PGR emphatically states that all tests indicate that the items shown during the aforementioned press conference, and that make up the investigation [formal case file], were analyzed and directly related to the timing of the criminal event of September 26-27, 2014, and it is not acceptable that in the face of the body of evidence, expert opinions, confessions, statements and ministerial inspections, they intend to sow doubt that about 40 people were executed and incinerated ….”
The EAAF notes:
“We must become familiar with the opinion in order to be able to give an opinion.”
“The dentures found in the Cocula Dump are part of the evidence still under study. According to the EAAF, such prostheses do not belong to any student; however, the PGR is exact in maintaining that it does not yet have the students’ physical or dental records, because neither the families nor the EAAF have wanted to contribute to the investigation, which is why it isn’t possible to confirm or reject that such dental remains do or do not belong to any of them.”
“If the PGR has no antemortem data, it is something beyond the EAAF, because it was the decision of the families. In the meticulous analysis, the jaw with dentures came up. This means that there are remains of other people, beyond the normal school students, which can involve other timeframes.
“With the physical evidence that we’re obtaining, it’s possible to find out whether they are: (1) related to the event that we are investigating; (2) if they are partially related; (3) if this is what happened to some of the students, but not to all; or (4) if it is what happened to all of them. It opens many possibilities.
“This is why we insist all the time that evidence not be interpreted unidirectionally, since there are more than 200 people disappeared in Iguala, and the majority are men. So long as nothing conclusive is found and DNA cannot be recovered, it isn’t possible to be sure that the remains at the Dump are those of the 43 normal school students.”
After explaining each point, the expert interviewed again repeated the invitation that has been extended to the PGR headed by Murillo Karam:
“Let’s have a meeting of experts between ourselves and PGR forensic experts in order to discuss and compare the results achieved.”
*Note to Readers: The interview with the representative of the Argentine Team was conducted in person on one condition: Given the scientific issues discussed, permission be given to review this article. In this case, which is exceptional, the condition was accepted. Further, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam continues to disregard Proceso’s request for an interview on the Ayotzinapa case. Spanish original