Santiago Maldonado was last seen on August 1, attempting to flee a violent operation by Argentina’s Gendarmerie in the territory of the “Pu Lof de Resistencia” Mapuche community in Chubut province. The 28 year old supported the community’s land claims, which have been repeatedly met with repression. On the day Maldonado disappeared, about 100 agents from the Gendarmerie entered the indigenous community shooting rubber and lead bullets, taking no precautions to protect its members’ lives or integrity. Such episodes of repression and proven illegal intelligence-gathering against community members have sought to limit their right to protest, demonstrating a particular viciousness toward them and their demands.
For several days after Maldonado disappeared, neither the national Security Ministry – which the Gendarmerie reports to – nor the Human Rights Secretariat referred to the case or to the measures being taken to find him. There were, however, statements made by Security Ministry officials that once again endorsed the violent operations carried out against the community.
On August 7, after being informed of the case, the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances determined that the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado requires “urgent action by the state party to search for and locate him” and to identify those responsible.
In the correspondence sent to the national government, the Committee expressed its concern for Maldonado’s physical and psychological integrity and urged the state to:
– adopt “a comprehensive and thorough strategy for searching and locating,”
– immediately take “all the urgent measures necessary to find and locate him, taking into account the information provided by members of the Pu Lof Mapuche community during the repressive action,”
– guarantee “the effective conservation, protection and analysis of all the evidence already gathered in the investigation and what might arise that could allow for determining the location of Mr. Santiago Maldonado and the identity of the people responsible for his disappearance,”
– and that “Argentina’s National Gendarmerie abstain from participating in the search and the investigation of the disappearance.”
In light of the repeated episodes of harassment and repression affecting this Mapuche community, the Committee also asked the Argentine state to immediately adopt “the protective precautionary measures in favor of Mr. Santiago Maldonado’s relatives, their representatives and the members of the Pu Lof en Resistencia Mapuche community involved in the search, that may be necessary” for “preserving their life and personal integrity” and “guaranteeing that they can carry out activities related to the search for Mr. Santiago Maldonado, without being subject to acts of violence and harassment.”
Finally, the Committee solicited that the Argentine state inform it “regarding the actions taken by the state party’s competent authorities to locate him, shed light on his disappearance and guarantee that he be under the protection of the law.”
The Committee is the body that supervises states parties’ fulfillment of their obligations under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Argentina was one of the countries that promoted adoption of this instrument of the universal human rights protection system. Article 30 of the Convention establishes the Committee’s authority to solicit urgent actions from states in light of a disappearance.
This urgent action was requested by CELS – in coordination with Maldonado’s family and their lawyer, Verónica Heredia – on Saturday, August 5, four days after Santiago was last seen.