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Argentina’s pending debt is the effective investigation and prevention of all unlawful deaths: UN expert

25 November 2022

BUENOS AIRES/GENEVA (25 November 2022) – Argentina’s exemplary democratic and human rights achievements are in contrast to persistent – and mostly invisible – institutional violence resulting in deaths, a UN expert said today.

“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 a 11-day visit to the country.

The Special Rapporteur examined the phenomenon of institutional violence resulting in death, deaths in custody and sexual and gender-based violence in Argentina, and focused on effective 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,” the expert said.

“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 said.

In a statement issued at the end of the visit, the UN expert recalled that the mandate of the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was established in 1982, largely owing to Argentina’s human rights movement driven by victims and their families.

"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.

The UN expert met with representatives from State agencies, all branches of Government, autonomous agencies, academia and civil society and family members of victims of institutional violence, including those who died in custody and as a result of gender-based violence.

“These families often face major challenges to achieve truth and justice, including discrimination, barriers in investigations, and harassment and threats from alleged perpetrators themselves, who frequently benefit from impunity,” Tidball-Binz said.

The UN expert also expressed grave concern about gender-based violence resulting in the death of women and girls. Argentina registered 231 femicides in 2021, including a disproportionate number of these crimes committed by law enforcement officials using their service weapons while off duty.

He urged authorities to bring all those responsible for unlawful deaths to justice, guarantee legal assistance and provide protection to victims. Law enforcement personnel should be provided adequate training to ensure their actions comply with relevant standards, including 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, the expert said.

Tidball-Binz urged Argentina to approve the Comprehensive Bill Against Institutional Violence, currently pending before the country’s Congress. The draft law aims to establish a broader framework to document and prevent institutional violence and provide reparation to victims.

During his visit, the Special Rapporteur travelled to Buenos Aires, La Plata, Cordoba, Corrientes and Resistencia.

He paid tribute to civil society actors, particularly victims and their families in Argentina for their contribution to consolidating human rights in the country, through their demands for justice and accountabilty.

“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.

The expert said the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team had pioneered forensic genetics and anthropology and contributed to the development 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 UN expert said.

The Special Rapporteur will present a report on his visit to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2023.

*Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executionsis a medical doctor specialized in forensic science, human rights and humanitarian action. He is currently an Adjunct Clinical Professor in Forensic Medicine, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia and a Visiting Professor of the Department of Forensic Medicine, Ethics and Medical Law, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Portugal and of the Department of Biomedical Health Sciences, University of Milano, Italy. Mr. Tidball-Binz previously worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where he helped to establish and served as the first director of the Forensic Services and Unit. He also co-founded and directed the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, an organization that pioneered the application of scientific methods to investigate serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.

Special Rapporteurs 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 that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Argentina

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