Argentina 2017/2018

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Argentina 2017/2018

Women and girls faced obstacles in accessing legal abortions. Indigenous Peoples continued to be criminalized and discriminated against. Migrants’ rights suffered significant setbacks.

Background

Argentina’s human rights situation was reviewed under the UN UPR process and by the UN Committee against Torture. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), the UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity and the Rapporteur on Argentina for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited Argentina during the year.

In November, Congress approved the national law on gender parity.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Women and girls continued to encounter barriers to accessing legal abortion when the pregnancy posed a risk to their health, or when it resulted from rape. Full decriminalization of abortion was pending in parliament.

Violence against women

According to civil society information, at least 254 femicides occurred between January and November. The National Women's Institute and the National Plan of Action for the Prevention, Assistance and Eradication of Violence against Women for 2017-2019 appeared to lack the necessary resources to be fully implemented.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

The majority of Indigenous communities still lacked legal recognition of their land rights, despite the Constitution recognizing their right to ancestral lands and natural resources.

In January, local police and members of the Argentine National Gendarmerie (GNA) – a militarized federal police – closed off all access points to the Indigenous land inhabited by the Mapuche community Pu Lof en Resistencia in Chubut province. The community reported attacks by the police, including beatings and intimidation of children.1 At least 10 community members and their supporters were arrested. In August the GNA conducted an illegal raid in the same community, during which Santiago Maldonado – a non-Indigenous supporter of the Mapuche community – disappeared. In October his body was found in a river in the territory. The judicial investigation into his death was ongoing at the end of the year.

The Neuquén provincial government, oil unions and industry created an investment plan for the Vaca Muerta oilfield, located partly on the land of the Lof Campo Maripe Indigenous community, without the community’s participation.

Authorities used legal proceedings to intimidate Indigenous Peoples, including accusations of sedition, resisting authority, theft, attempted assaults and killings. Agustín Santillán, an Indigenous leader of the Wichí people in Formosa province, spent 190 days in pre-trial detention from April to October with more than 28 criminal proceedings against him.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Bypassing parliamentary debate, the government modified the 2004 Migration Act, limiting entry and residency rights and potentially hastening deportations.

The Asylum Act had not yet been fully implemented, 11 years after its adoption, and the National Committee for Refugees had no specific budget. The reception system for asylum-seekers remained slow and insufficient and there was no integration plan in place to help asylum-seekers and refugees access basic rights such as education, work, health care and language training.  

Despite Argentina’s commitment in 2016 to receive 3,000 Syrian refugees, no resettlement programme had been created. Fewer than 400 Syrian refugees had benefited from a private sponsorship and humanitarian visa scheme.

Impunity

Trials before ordinary civilian courts continued to be held for crimes against humanity during the 1976-1983 military regime. Between 2006 and May 2017, 182 rulings were issued, bringing the total number of convictions to 756 and acquittals to 74.

In July, the Federal Court of Mendoza issued a historic decision under which four former members of the judiciary were sentenced to life in prison and barred from holding public office for contributing to the commission of crimes against humanity during the military regime.

The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Luis Muiña – who was found guilty of crimes against humanity – that one day served in pre-trial detention must be considered as two, if the person has been detained without sentence for more than two years. Congress then passed a law clarifying that the so-called “2x1 formula” may not be applied to crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes.2

Public hearings continued in the case of the cover-up of the investigation into the 1994 attack on the Jewish Mutual Association of Argentina building. A government decree issued in April 2017 transferred classified documents from the Prosecution Unit to the Ministry of Justice, compromising the independence of the investigation and restricting complainants’ access to evidence.

Freedoms of expression and assembly

Indiscriminate detentions took place during an International Women’s Day demonstration on 8 March. Many women reported that they were mistreated, detained and humiliated by police; some said they were forced to undress completely.

In April, teachers were violently repressed while demonstrating for fair wages. Participants reported that police used tear gas and beat them while the military stood by. At least four teachers were arrested.

In September, 31 people were violently detained and held at several police stations in the capital, Buenos Aires, for more than 48 hours for participating in a mass demonstration following the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado. Those detained reported that they were beaten and some women were forced to undress.

In December, many protesters took to the streets in Buenos Aires to express their disagreement with a legislative reform proposed by the government. The police used excessive force and there were reports of arbitrary detentions during the demonstrations.3

The call by WGAD to national authorities to immediately release social leader and activist Milagro Sala was not implemented. In August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requested that Argentina offer Milagro Sala house arrest or other alternatives to prison. This request was only partially implemented since its conditions did not comply with domestic and international standards.

  1. Argentina: Violent repression of Mapuche Peoples (AMR 13/5477/2017)
  2. Argentina: Amnistía Internacional repudia la aplicación del 2x1 a delitos de lesa humanidad y estará presente en Plaza de Mayo (News story, 9 May)
  3. Argentina: Autoridades deben garantizar protesta pacífica e investigar violaciones a derechos humanos tras represión frente al Congreso de la Nación (News story, 15 December)

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