MEXICO CITY • An international committee of experts reviewing the case of 43 missing college students, whose disappearance last autumn traumatised Mexico, says there is no evidence to support the government's conclusion that the students were executed by a drug gang that then burnt the bodies to ashes in a garbage dump.
Not only did physical evidence contradict the government's version of what happened to the students, but the review also showed that federal police and soldiers knew that the students were being attacked by the municipal police and failed to intervene.
The report's conclusions were a sharp rebuke to the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, which had sought to put the case to rest.
Its release on Sunday could rekindle the widespread anger and disbelief that flared in the weeks after the students vanished from Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero on Sept 26 last year.
"We ask the Mexican authorities to clarify the disappearance of the students and to make a general reassessment of the entire investigation," said Mr Carlos Beristain, one of the five members of the panel appointed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, part of the Organisation of American States.
The clearest sign that the government's version was not true came from the dump itself, according to the report.
"The brutal actions show the extent of impunity in which the state security forces acted along with organised crime" added Mr Beristain, a Spaniard who has worked on many human rights investigations in Latin America that involved disappearances.
Mexico's attorney-general, Ms Arely Gomez, called the committee's work "crucial" and added that prosecutors would carefully analyse the findings and ponder whether to incorporate them into the inquiry.
She said that the report's recommendation for a second forensic investigation at the dump site would be carried out with a new team of "high quality and prestigious experts".
The clearest sign that the government's version was not true came from the dump itself, according to the report. "The students simply were not burned in that place," said Mr Francisco Cox, a Chilean lawyer and another member of the panel.
The intense heat needed to burn 43 bodies would have blackened the surrounding vegetation.
NEW YORK TIMES