IACHR: Argentina Must Respect Standards for Use of Force During Protests in Jujuy Province

June 20, 2023

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) noted with concern the actions being taken to break up protests in Jujuy province in Argentina, one of the provinces with the largest self-identified indigenous population. The IACHR called on the State to respect the right to freedom of expression and inter-American standards on the use of force. It also urged it to engage in an effective, inclusive, intercultural dialogue that respects the rights of trade unions and indigenous peoples.

On June 17, in the midst of demonstrations by indigenous peoples and trade unions to protest the reform of the provincial constitution and demand salary rises for teachers, local security forces reportedly used excessive force, tear gas, and rubber bullets to dissolve nonviolent roadblocks on federal highways that respected people's right of way. According to the State, the situation has continued to develop. In response, the IACHR expressed concern about the possible escalation of provincial security forces' responses during demonstrations.

According to information provided by the Federal Council of Local Mechanisms for the Prevention of Torture, 25 people have reportedly been detained. Among the detainees was a 17-year-old, according to the records of the Office of the Ombud for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, and at least two journalists, according to a public source. According to information provided by the State, all people who were detained up to June 19 have since been released.

During the demonstrations, several people were reported injured due to the use of weapons by the police, including a 17-year-old who reportedly lost an eye. Likewise, the State reported that one individual was injured as a result of the use of a firearm, without providing further information on his condition.

The protests are taking place in response to the Constituent Assembly's decision to modify the provincial constitution. The proposed changes include reforms to the local electoral system and the total criminalization of roadblocks in the province. According to the information received, the reform allegedly did not comply with the requirements for due consultation with indigenous peoples that are set out in inter-American and international standards.

The right to consultation and free, prior, and informed consent is a fundamental principle that seeks to guarantee the effective, meaningful participation of indigenous peoples in decisions that affect their rights, territories, and natural resources. Such consultations should be inclusive, equitable processes that take place in good faith. Furthermore, they should be carried out in a timely, free, informed manner, in accordance with the customs and practices of each indigenous people.

State security forces play a fundamental role in guaranteeing the safety of people participating in demonstrations without engaging in direct repression or arbitrary detention, while also providing general security services to society as a whole. The State must clarify possible excesses in the use of force with due diligence. It must also ensure that law enforcement agents are provided with information that allows them to identify the chain of command and carry out orders.

The IACHR reminded the State that roadblocks are a legitimate form of public protest and are protected by the right to protest. There needs to be tolerance of the fact that demonstrations may cause some disruption of daily life, such as in relation to traffic and commercial activities, so as not to deprive society of its right to peaceful assembly. In this sense, the appropriate "degree of tolerance" for such actions cannot be defined in the abstract. Instead, the specific circumstances of each case need to be examined.

Consequently, the IACHR urged Argentina to establish transparent, voluntary dialogue processes that include traditional local authorities in order to address indigenous peoples' demands. In particular, it calls on local authorities in Jujuy province to engage in a broad, constructive dialogue with teachers' unions and other trade unions taking part in protests relating to teachers' salary demands and the reform of the provincial constitution. The IACHR and the offices of its Special Rapporteurs are at the State's disposal to support these dialogue processes in relation to the different mandates involved. 

Finally, the IACHR acknowledged the strong tradition of citizen participation in Argentina, which has contributed to the development of a vibrant participatory democracy. In this regard, the State is urged to respect inter-American standards on social protest in the future. The IACHR will continue to closely monitor any use of force in the context of demonstrations.

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. 127/23

2:18 PM