IACHR Issues Precautionary Measures in Favor of Seven Pregnant Women from the Wichí Indigenous Community in Formosa, Argentina

April 16, 2021

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Washington D.C. - On April 16, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted Resolution 32/2021, through which it granted precautionary measures in favor of seven indigenous women from the Wichí community who are currently pregnant and in hiding in the town of El Potrillo because they are in fear of the authorities of Formosa province, Argentina. As a result, there are unable to access prenatal and maternal medical care, which puts them at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable damage to their human rights.

According to the information provided by the petitioners, the situation is part of a context of complaints over alleged abuses on the part of Formosa province authorities in the implementation of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and allegations of long-standing discrimination against the Wichí community in the province. This is compounded by the women's perception that the authorities will attempt to detain them to initiate investigations over alleged false statements that were published in a report describing their predicament. Specifically, the beneficiaries are allegedly afraid of being subjected to forced cesarean sections, being separated from their babies at birth, or that their babies will be stillborn. As a result, they are allegedly in hiding in vulnerable conditions, without access to drinking water, adequate food, or basic services, and without access to the medical attention they require.

The IACHR has also taken note of the extensive, detailed information provided by the State regarding the measures adopted by the provincial and national governments to address the situation following the publication of the report mentioned above. The information received describes actions that seek to address the challenges facing the Wichí community which would, in principle, remedy several of the risks alleged by the petitioners.

Without prejudice to the this and without issuing opinions on whether or not these matters are true, the IACHR deemed that these and other factors together constitute grounds for fear on the part of the beneficiaries, giving special consideration to their indigenous worldview. This has allegedly caused a breakdown in trust on the part of the women from the Wichí community toward the authorities and has forced them into hiding to protect their rights during their pregnancy. This conclusion was reached in light of the beneficiaries' intersectional vulnerability as pregnant women who belong to the Wichí indigenous community, which puts them in an exceptional situation. With regard to the information provided by the State, the IACHR took into account the fact that the State was not in a position to exercise its international obligation to provide protection due to the women's decision to remain in hiding.

Consequently, in accordance with Article 25 of the IACHR's Rules of Procedure, the IACHR requested that Argentina: a) adopt the necessary measures to protect the beneficiaries' rights to life, personal integrity, and health. Specifically, it requested that the State adopt immediate measures to enable access to adequate medical care in accordance with the applicable international standards. These measures should be adopted with the free, prior, and informed consent of the beneficiaries, and should include a cultural and linguistic perspective, taking into account their indigenous worldview and a gender approach; and b) it should agree on the measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives.

Additionally, in assessing certain challenges affecting the processing of the request, the IACHR considered it appropriate to request that the petitioners immediately provide both the IACHR and the Argentine State any additional information in their possession relating to the predicament in which the seven beneficiaries find themselves, and to cooperate in implementing the measures in favor of the beneficiaries.

Finally, given that the State could not be told the names of the seven beneficiaries prior to the granting of these measures due to a request for confidentiality, in accordance with Article 25.5 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR shall review whether this precautionary measure should remain in force or shall be lifted at its next session.

The fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the State do not entail a prejudgment on any petition that may eventually be filed before the inter-American system to allege that the rights protected by the American Convention and other applicable instruments have been violated.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 092/21