Indigenous communities faced eviction from their traditional lands, despite legal guarantees. Criminal proceedings to bring to justice those responsible for past human rights violations continued. Conditions of detention remained a serious concern.
Protests and demonstrations against unemployment, high levels of urban crime, poor housing and other social concerns were widespread. A monthly allowance for each child, payable to unemployed or low-income parents or those working in the informal sector, was established by government decree in October in an attempt to tackle social exclusion.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights
Indigenous communities continued to face eviction orders in breach of international standards and of a 2006 national emergency law temporarily suspending the execution of eviction orders or the removal of Indigenous communities from traditional lands. Lack of progress regarding the nationwide land survey led Congress to extend the applicability of the 2006 law until November 2013.
Indigenous communities were denied their right to free, prior and informed consent in projects involving exploitation of natural resources on Indigenous lands.
Around 150 Mapuches faced criminal charges in connection with protests over land rights and against judicial eviction orders in Neuquén Province.
- In October, 68-year-old Javier Chocobar, a member of the Indigenous Diaguita community of Los Chuschagasta, Tucumán Province, was killed by a landowner attempting to drive the community off their ancestral land. The landowner and two other men were under investigation at the end of the year.
- A lawsuit lodged in 2001 by members of the Indigenous Pilagá community in El Descanso, Formosa Province, remained pending at the end of 2009. The case involved irrigation works carried out in 1997, which the community believe affect their traditional territories. The right to free, prior and informed consent over a major infrastructure development in the province was not upheld.
Impunity – justice for past violations
There was progress in bringing to justice key perpetrators of past human rights violations. However, insufficient resources led to protracted delays. According to the Prosecution Co-ordination Unit, more than 600 people were facing criminal proceedings for human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, at the end of the year. Trials resulted in more than 30 convictions during the year.
- In December, two men broke into the premises of the Buenos Aires Province Human Rights Office. Files concerning cases involving alleged illegal police activities were stolen, as were some other documents related to cases of past human rights violations about to come to trial.
- In August, Santiago Omar Riveros, commander of the notorious Campo de Mayo detention centre during Argentina’s military regime (1976 to 1983), was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was convicted of torturing and beating to death 15-year-old Floreal Avellaneda and of abducting his mother, Iris Pereyra, one month after the 1976 military coup.
- In March, two former military officials and three former police officials were sentenced to life imprisonment in San Luis Province. They were found guilty of the killing of Graciela Fiochetti, the enforced disappearance and killing of Pedro Valentín Ledezma and Sandro Santana Alcaraz and of the torture of Víctor Carlos Fernández. All four victims had been detained in September 1976.
- In October, former general Jorge Olivera Róvere was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of four cases of homicide and a number of cases of illegal deprivation of liberty. Another former general was also sentenced to life imprisonment in the same case. Three other former members of the military were acquitted.
- In December, 17 former navy officers, including captain Alfredo Astiz, went on trial charged with crimes against humanity committed at Argentina’s biggest secret detention centre, the Navy School of Mechanics, under the military government. Alfredo Astiz was charged with the killings of two French nuns and the enforced disappearance of an Argentine journalist, among other crimes.
- In a trial that finished in December in Córdoba Province, former military general Luciano Benjamín Menéndez was sentenced to life imprisonment for the third time.
Threats against witnesses
There were further reports that witnesses in trials relating to past human rights violations were threatened, particularly those living in isolated rural areas, despite protection programmes.
- In May, Orlando Argentino González, a survivor of a secret detention centre in Tucumán Province, failed to appear in court to testify after receiving several threats.
- The whereabouts of Jorge Julio López, the main witness and complainant in the case against former Director of Investigations of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police Miguel Etchecolatz, remained unknown. Investigations into his disappearance in September 2006 made no progress during the year.
Poor conditions, violence, overcrowding, lack of adequate health services, torture and other ill-treatment were reported in prisons and detention centres in Santiago del Estero and Mendoza provinces. The national authorities failed to set up a mechanism for the prevention of torture as required by the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.
Violence against women and girls
Gender-based violence remained a serious concern. Legislation to prevent and punish violence against women was enacted in April. This provides for free legal assistance for women who experience violence and sets out protocols for the collection and systematic recording of official data on gender-based violence. However, at the end of the year, the law had yet to be implemented.