Argentina’s impressive advancements in political stability and civil rights contrast with chronic – and largely unseen – cases of institutional violence, according to a United Nations investigator.
“I urge the Government of Argentina to step up efforts to prevent and investigate unlawful deaths. And towards this end, I offer the full support of my mandate,” said UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Morris Tidball-Binz at the conclusion of an 11-day visit to the country.
Tidball-Binz studied the phenomenon of institutional violence resulting in death, deaths in custody and sexual and gender-based violence in Argentina, as well as strategies for investigation and prevention.
“Victims often belong to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the population, rendering the phenomenon largely invisible, while those responsible enjoy impunity,” declared the UN Special Rapporteur.
“The Argentinian state must urgently eradicate these practices by implementing specific measures, including the effective investigation of all potentially unlawful deaths, the punishment of perpetrators and the protection of victims,” Tidball-Binz added, speaking to a room full of journalists and UN officials at the EFE Hotel in Retiro
In a statement published at the end of the visit, the UN expert reiterated that the mandate of his post was created in 1982, largely as a consequence of Argentina’s victim-driven human rights movement.
"In 40 years of uninterrupted democratic governance, Argentina has consolidated a solid human rights institutional framework and culture. This is reflected in its exemplary achievements in terms of truth, justice and reparation for past crimes, as well as in its current presidency of the UN Human Rights Council,” Tidball-Binz said.
As part of his investigation in the country, the Special Rapporteur sat down with representatives from various state and autonomous agencies, branches of the executive, academic experts, and family members of victims of institutional violence, including those whose deaths occurred while in custody. Moreover, victims of gender-based violence were also included in the extensive consultation.
“These families often face major challenges to achieve truth and justice, including discrimination, barriers in investigations, harassment, and threats from alleged perpetrators themselves, who frequently benefit from impunity,” lamented Tidball-Binz, alluding to Argentina’s 231 registered cases of femicide in 2021, a disproportionate number of which were committed by law enforcement officials with their service weapons while off-duty.
The UN expert called for authorities to prosecute the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, as well as for the guarantee of protection and legal aid for victims, noting that Argentine authorities must have an applied understanding of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials; and the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on the Use of Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement.
Tidball-Binz also called for Argentine deputies to approve the Comprehensive Bill Against Institutional Violence, a measure that is currently under congressional review. The proposed version of the legislation seeks to create a more expansive framework to identify and prevent cases of institutional violence, in addition to compensating victims.
The Special Rapporteur visited Buenos Aires, La Plata, Cordoba, Corrientes and Resistencia during his time in Argentina, commending the work of civil society actors, particularly victims and their families for fortifying human rights and increasing government transparency.
“I recognise the extraordinary contribution of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team for being pioneers in the development and use of scientific methods to investigate human rights violations and identify victims,” Tidball-Binz said, just days after the passing of Hebe de Bonafini, famed founder of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Tidball-Binz also remarked that non-governmental actors promoted the adoption of universal standards and investigation models for unlawful deaths and enforced disappearances, such as the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016).
“Today, the Protocol is universally considered the gold standard for the investigation of potentially unlawful deaths.”
The Special Rapporteur will present a complete version of his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2023.