A dialogue between the UN Human Rights Committee and the Argentine state regarding compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concluded today in Geneva. The independent experts belonging to the Committee asked the state’s representatives about matters that are central to the realization of human rights in our country, and which were set forth in the shadow report submitted by CELS. State officials responded to some of the concerns laid out by the Committee.
With regard to the process of memory, truth and justice for crimes against humanity committed during the 1976-1983 dictatorship, the Committee members expressed concern on numerous occasions about the continuity of this process in general and the dismantling of important areas of the executive branch that supported it, in particular. The officials in the Argentine delegation sustained that this work will not be affected and ratified that the process of truth and justice is a central state policy. They did not respond to questions about the delay in forming the bicameral congressional commission that should investigate economic complicity with the dictatorship, or about the state’s commitment to judicial cases in which business people are implicated.
In terms of security policies, various experts on the Committee warned about the intervention of the Armed Forces in matters of domestic security that could arise from the Security Emergency declared in January 2016 and the shooting down of planes authorized therein. The state recognized that the Security Emergency decree and this provision regarding planes were widely questioned and announced that the government will present a bill to comply with international standards.
Regarding the situation of people deprived of their liberty, the state recognized that it has failed to comply with its international obligations by not implementing the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture, and said that doing so is among its priorities. Some members of the Committee asked how the state ensures that impunity will not prevail in cases of torture in the prisons and how the autonomy of the penitentiary service sustains violent practices. As a response to these problems, the state mentioned the declaration of an emergency in the Buenos Aires Provincial Penitentiary System and referred to the creation of a working roundtable with the participation of social organizations as one of the concrete measures aimed at resolving this situation.
The Committee members also asked about some specific cases of executions and grave injuries committed by the security forces: those of Alan Tapia, Lautaro Bugatto, Lucas Cabello, Gabriel Solano, Franco Casco and Gerardo Escobar. They asked the state for detailed information regarding the judicial investigation of these cases aimed at preventing impunity. Because there was no response to this during the interactive dialogue, one of the members requested that the state present information in writing.
With regard to the rights of indigenous peoples and guaranteeing the right to ancestral property, the Committee’s experts referred to the situation of the Lhaka Honhat association of aboriginal communities in Salta province. They asked why the process to delimit the communities’ territory had not concluded, when the collective property deed will be given to them, and when the public works will be done to guarantee the transfer of the European-descended families living on those lands to other properties. In response, the representatives of the state admitted that not enough has been done to carry out the infrastructure projects that are needed. In addition, the Committee expressed concern about the criminalization of the members of indigenous communities and, in particular, the La Primavera community and its leader, Félix Díaz. Members of the Argentine delegation said that the state has been supporting Díaz and made reference to the decree issued last month that created the Consultative and Participatory Council of Indigenous Peoples.
Several experts from the Committee inquired about access to legal abortions and the adoption of the protocols needed to guarantee the effective implementation of the “F.A.L.” Supreme Court ruling that ordered the removal of all barriers limiting access to these medical services. They referred specifically to the paradigmatic case of Belén, a 27-year-old woman deprived of her liberty for more than two years for having suffered a miscarriage in a public hospital. They sustained that her continued incarceration was inadmissible. The state’s representatives agreed that this detention represents a grave problem.
Regarding the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities, Committee members recognized the important progress enshrined in the National Mental Health Law but expressed their concern about the lack of budgetary resources for its full implementation. They also inquired into the deaths that have occurred in the Melchor Romero psychiatric hospital and their lack of investigation. On this last point, the state said it would respond in writing.
In terms of freedom of expression and the changes made by the executive branch to the Audiovisual Communication Services Law, the Committee experts manifested concern regarding the law’s modification by decree and the risk that the current scheme produces greater concentration in media ownership. The state’s representatives tried to justify the use of decrees of necessity and urgency to reform the law, and they reiterated their intention to get new legislation passed to regulate audiovisual services within the next year.
In mid-July the Committee will release its final observations regarding Argentina’s compliance with the obligations that arise from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
This evaluation defined a clear agenda regarding some of the country’s grave human rights problems that require specific policies and institutional initiatives. The Committee members expressed concern about several of these structural issues and some of the decisions made in the last few months. During the evaluation, the state committed itself to some measures, although it did not respond with definitions regarding concrete policies on important matters. In the near future, it should make good on its commitment by complying with the recommendations that the Committee sets forth in its final observations.
In addition to the shadow report that we presented to the Committee, we also submitted thematic reports in alliance with other organizations regarding the rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of migrant persons and the abortion situation in Argentina.