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Amnesty International Report 2009 - Argentina

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2009
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2009 - Argentina, 28 May 2009, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Head of state and government: Cristina Fernández
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 39.9 million
Life expectancy: 74.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 17/13 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 97.2 per cent

Although there was some progress in bringing to justice those responsible for past human rights violations, there were also a number of setbacks during the year. Strikes and demonstrations were widespread. Several police officers were brought to trial for unlawful killings of demonstrators or criminal suspects. Conditions of detention, especially for young offenders, remained a concern.


In March a government decree raising export tax on grains sparked nationwide strikes and highway blockades. In July, the Senate rejected a bill ratifying the measures and the government revoked the decree.

Forced evictions – Indigenous Peoples

Forced evictions of Indigenous Peoples in which both police and private security guards used excessive force were reported. Evictions continued despite an emergency law passed in 2006 on Indigenous land rights which called for eviction orders to be suspended pending a review and registration of Indigenous land tenure.

Freedom of association

In November the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional an article of the trade union law that denied individuals who were not part of a trade union that had been granted union status by the government the right to represent workers. The decision emphasized the need to bring the trade union law into line with international human rights standards.

Death penalty

In August, the Senate abrogated the 1951 Military Code of Justice, creating a new system for prosecuting members of the military through the ordinary courts and abolishing the death penalty for all crimes. In September, Argentina ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Impunity – justice for past violations

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances visited Argentina in July and noted that more than 20 judgments had been handed down on perpetrators of past human rights violations and that 1,000 criminal proceedings remained open. However, several suspects died before testifying in key cases, and threats against witnesses and human rights defenders were reported.

  • In April, in the first judgment of its kind, Osvaldo Rivas and María Cristina Gómez were sentenced to eight and seven years' imprisonment respectively for the "appropriation" of María Eugenia Sampallo, the daughter of a couple who were the victims of enforced disappearance in 1977. The ex-army captain who stole the child and gave her to the couple was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in April.

  • In April, a court indicted seven military officers in connection with the "illegal appropriation" of babies from the military hospital in Campo de Mayo while their mothers were in detention. In July, Jorge Rafael Videla, former head of the military junta, was indicted on similar charges.

  • In April, Juan Evaristo Puthod, a survivor of clandestine detention centres, a trial witness and a human rights defender, was abducted by unidentified men in Buenos Aires. He was released 28 hours later, after being questioned about his human rights activities.

  • In July, five former officers, including former army general Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, received life sentences for the 1977 kidnapping, torture and murder of four political activists. Three others received shorter sentences. Luciano Menéndez was also tried, along with former provincial governor Domingo Antonio Bussi, on charges of being "co-authors" of the 1976 enforced disappearance of Tucumán senator Guillermo Vargas Aignasse. Both men received life sentences in August.

  • In July a court sentenced two former police officers to life in prison for their involvement in the August 1976 "Fátima massacre" in which 30 men and women were abducted and held in Buenos Aires before being extrajudicially executed.

  • Investigations continued in the cases of five former naval officers accused of involvement in the 1972 "Trelew massacre" in which 16 prisoners were gunned down after attempting to escape from the federal penitentiary in the city of Trelew.

  • Former naval officer Ricardo Antonio Cavallo was extradited to Argentina from Spain in March and indicted in July for the 1977 enforced disappearance of writer Rodolfo Walsh.

  • The whereabouts of Jorge Julio López, the main witness and complainant in the case against former Director of Investigations of the Buenos Aires Province Police Miguel Etchecolatz, remained unknown. He had not been seen since September 2006.

  • In December, forensic investigators announced the finding of thousands of bone fragments and a wall with 200 bullet holes in the Arana police detachment near Buenos Aires, the first time that a mass burial site has been found in a former clandestine detention centre. The process to identify the remains has been initiated.

Police and security forces

The police were accused of excessive use of force against demonstrators and during land disputes. Several officers were brought to trial on charges of unlawful killing.

In June and July, police officers were convicted of involvement in the unlawful killings of Jonathan Oros in Mendoza in January 2007 and of protester Carlos Fuentealba in April 2007 in Neuquén, Neuquén Province.

Prison conditions

Poor conditions, overcrowding, torture and other ill-treatment were reported in prisons and detention centres. In July, a judge ordered the immediate closure of two wings of the La Plata Detention Centre, which reportedly housed more than 50 young offenders, describing conditions there as "inhuman".

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