Milagro Sala has been imprisoned arbitrarily for the last year. On January 16, 2016, she was detained for having participated in a campout protest in front of Jujuy’s provincial government building. This criminal case brought for exercising the right to protest was initiated at the request of the governor, Gerardo Morales.
In October 2016, after analyzing all the judicial cases that were opened or reopened against Sala since Morales took office, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that starting in December 2015 there was a scheme of “consecutive accusations” and a deployment of judicial cases aimed at sustaining the social leader’s deprivation of liberty indefinitely over time.
This situation has persisted until today. Milagro Sala is being held under pretrial detention, and this violates due process guarantees and the presumption of innocence. On top of this, she was convicted for protest actions, both as a crime and as a misdemeanor, which has negative consequences for exercising this right.
In one case, she was criminally convicted for a demonstration against Gerardo Morales in 2009 at which she was not present.
In the misdemeanor case, for the campout protest in Jujuy, she was fined and barred from participating in social organizations and political groups for a period of three years and three months, and the headquarters of the Tupac Amaru organization was ordered shut. For that same incident, a criminal case is pending against Sala and she could face another trial exclusively for protesting.
As the UN Working Group also indicated, the legal processes against Sala took place in the context of a violation of judicial independence since several of the judicial officials who intervened in the cases involving Sala were appointed by Governor Morales.
The Working Group ultimately concluded that in none of the criminal cases against Sala could the judicial authorities adequately justify the necessity of her detention due to a risk of flight or of obstruction of the investigation.
The Working Group’s request that Sala be immediately released was backed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the secretary general of the Organization of American States. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) made pronouncements to the same effect. Argentina’s national government has decided to not comply with these decisions and with its international commitments.
At the same time as this has occurred with Sala and the Tupac Amaru, in the last year a scenario of alarming violations of the right to protest has taken root in Jujuy: the responses of the provincial state to social conflict include activating a misdemeanor system designed to silence dissent, repressing demonstrations, and persecuting and criminalizing social and trade-union organizations.
Today, a year after she was first detained, Milagro Sala’s deprivation of liberty continues to violate the principle of innocence, the principle of legality, the right to a defense at trial, the prohibition on double jeopardy or being tried twice for the same incident, and the prohibition on being investigated by ad hoc commissions.
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales
Abogados y Abogadas del Noroeste Argentino en Derechos Humanos y Estudios Sociales