Former director of the Criminal Investigation Agency, Tomas Zeron (L), arrives at the house at the end of the tunnel through which Mexican drug lord Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman could have escaped from the Altiplano prison, in Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico, on July 12, 2015.
YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images
Prosecutors in Mexico are seeking Canada’s help in extraditing Tomas Zeron, the former chief investigator into the disappearance of 43 Indigenous students in 2014, on several charges, including torture and judicial misconduct.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters last Friday that Zeron is in Canada and that Mexico has asked the Trudeau government for help in arresting the former head of the Criminal Investigation Agency.
“We are initiating something similar in Canada with Tomas Zeron,” Ebrard told reporters when asked about a separate U.S. extradition case.
“There is going to be no impunity. Part of our function at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to guarantee that, when there are cases of this nature, extradition occurs.”
Justice Canada said it could not comment on the extradition request until it is “made public by the courts.”
“As extradition requests are confidential state-to-state communications, we cannot comment on the existence of extradition requests for specific individuals until the request is made public by the courts,” Justice Department spokesperson Ian McLeod said in an email.
A spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said it did not have anyone by the name Tomas Zeron in its case management system.
On the evening of Sept. 26, 2014, 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in the southern state of Guerrero were abducted by local police in the town of Iguala and allegedly handed over to a drug cartel called the Guerreros Unidos.
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Zeron, who was also involved in the initial capture of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, fled Mexico earlier this year and is wanted on an Interpol notice over allegations that torture was used to extract supposed confessions from suspects, according to Reuters.
The incident sparked international outrage and became a major crisis for the administration of former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.
Zeron conducted the initial investigation, known as the so-called “historical truth,” which concluded the remains of the 43 students were cremated and their ashes dumped in a river.
However, the findings were never accepted by the victims’ families or some forensic experts.
A panel created in 2016 by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights questioned the investigation’s conclusions, saying there was no evidence to support the claim the students’ remains were cremated at the dump.
The report also alleged that some government witnesses had been tortured to extract confessions.
“All these circumstances and findings show both the insufficiencies in the investigation and the tasks that are still pending in order to provide the relatives of the victims and Mexico as a whole with the justice they are entitled to expect in this case,” the 2016 report said. “There should be general reconsideration of the investigation based on the results of this research.
“The investigations should be focused and be carried out by competent and accessible judges.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has previously announced a new investigation into the disappearances, and in March, his government announced warrants have been issued for five former officials, including Zeron, on charges including torture, judicial misconduct and forced disappearance.
Last week, Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero announced the arrest of a leader from a Guerrero gang accused of involvement in the disappearance.
Zeron, who has denied wrongdoing, had fled the country, Gertz Manero said.
“All of the proceedings undertaken during this new investigation period… have let us establish a chronology of what happened, as well as the participation of those who committed these crimes,” Gertz Manero told reporters. “The historical truth is finished.”
— With files from Reuters
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