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UN expert group concerned about the situation of deprivation of liberty in Argentina


BUENOS AIRES / GENEVA (18 May 2017) – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention today expressed its concern at the selectivity of Argentina’s criminal justice system in relation to persons from different socio-economic backgrounds and those engaged in social protest.

“Those in situations of vulnerability such as children, including street children, LGBTI persons, indigenous people and migrants, are more likely to be arrested by the police on the suspicion of the commission of a crime or ‘withheld’ for the verification of identity”, said a delegation of the expert panel at the end of their second official visit to Argentina, to assess the deprivation of liberty in the context of the criminal justice system, psychosocial disabilities, and migration.  

“We are particularly alarmed at the disproportionate response by the law enforcement authorities to the protests carried out by the indigenous peoples,” said human rights experts Sètondji Roland Adjovi and Elina Steinerte. “We encourage the Argentine authorities to refrain from disproportionate use of force and resume the process of dialogue with the indigenous communities.”

The Group’s delegation pointed out that the police powers to arrest are broad and that the use of pre-trial detention is excessive, noting that up to 60 per cent of detainees are in pre-trial detention.

“Police stations are often used to house pre-trial and even convicted persons. However, police stations are neither equipped for this purpose, nor is the police personnel suited or trained to exercise the prison guard functions,” they stressed.

“We encourage the authorities to look for alternatives to detention, and apply them in all possible cases, especially when sending a person to a custodial facility would mean sending him to an overcrowded or unsuitable setting, which in itself would amount to a form of punishment,” they said. 

The Working Group’s experts observed that the exceptionality of the deprivation of liberty in relation to juveniles was not fully enforced in Argentina. “During our visit, we heard of individuals below the age of 16 being deprived of liberty and ill-treated by law enforcement agents.”
They also called attention to the so-called ‘social patients’ or persons with psychosocial disabilities without the resources or the social networks to live with  their family or in the community, who are confined in psychiatric institutions for years and even decades without any true prospect for release.

In relation to the detention of migrants, the Working Group regretted the adoption of the Decree of Necessity and Urgency No. 70/2017, which effectively changed the provisions of the Migration Law 25.871 and removed significant safeguards.

“The detention in the context of migration must be exceptional and can only be justified if it pursues a legitimate aim and is both proportionate and necessary, with appropriate and effective judicial oversight,” the experts said.

From 8 to 18 May, the Working Group’s delegation visited the City of Buenos Aires, and the provinces of Buenos Aires, Chubut and Jujuy, where they met with the authorities at federal and provincial levels, and held consultations with the broad range of civil society representatives. They visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and interviewed around 200 persons held in such facilities.

The Working Group will present its final report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018.


The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is comprised of five independent expert members from five regions of the world: Mr. José Guevara (México), current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Elina Steinerte (Latvia), Ms. Leigh Toomey (Australia), Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Republic of Korea), and Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi (Benin).

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

Check the Working Group’s 2003 report on its first visit to Argentina

UN Human Rights country page: Argentina

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Buenos Aires (during the visit):
Gustavo Poch (+ 54 011 4803 7671 / Gustavo.poch@unic.org)
Lucie Viersma (+41 79 444 3702 / lviersma@ohchr.org)
Margarita Nechaeva (+41 79 444 3940 /  mnechaeva@ohchr.org)

In Geneva (before and after the visit):
Lucie Viersma (+41 22 928 9380 / lviersma@ohchr.org)
Margarita Nechaeva (+41 22 928 94 62 / mnechaeva@ohchr.org)
or write to wgad@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Section (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

You can access this news release online

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