Press Release

IACHR Completes Working Visit in Argentina

June 24, 2019

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to the province of Mendoza, Argentina, on June 3–5, 2019. The aim of the visit was to monitor implementation of the precautionary measure granted in favor of the Almafuerte and San Felipe prisons, and to follow up on the friendly settlement agreement in Case 12,532, concerning Mendoza’s incarceration facilities. The delegation was led by Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, IACHR Rapporteur for Argentina.

The Commission thanks the State for consenting to the visit, and for facilitating and coordinating events to enable significant participation by the authorities. During the visit, Commissioner Vargas held talks with various Mendoza provincial authorities, including Governor Alfredo Cornejo, and Luis Romero, Provincial Public Prosecutor in Charge of Persons Deprived of Liberty. Events during the visit were also attended by the security minister, the head of prisons, the director for International Legal Affairs at the Argentinian government’s Department for Human Rights and Pluralism, and the provincial government’s head of Human Rights, among other authorities.

On June 3, 2019, Commissioner Vargas held meetings with provincial authorities in Mendoza and with relatives of persons deprived of liberty or persons who were once incarcerated, with the aim of obtaining information about their conditions. On June 4, 2019, Commissioner Vargas visited the Almafuerte and San Felipe prisons, in the context of precautionary measure 35-14. Finally, on June 5, 2019, Commissioner Vargas held working meetings to discuss that precautionary measure and to monitor the agreements made in the friendly settlement concerning Case 12,532 (Mendoza Incarceration Facilities). State representatives and authorities involved in implementing that friendly settlement took part in those meetings. The Commission thanks the State for facilitating transportation and logistics, so that both prisons could be visited on the same day. During the visit, Commissioner Vargas was able to meet freely with persons deprived of liberty in both facilities, with no restrictions.

Commissioner Vargas obtained information from Mendoza Governor Alfredo Cornejo on provincial efforts to improve infrastructure and address current overcrowding. Commissioner Vargas was also told about a series of measures taken to overcome overcrowding. Such measures include keeping as operational as possible the current accommodation in penitentiaries; building new wards and units; opening the San Rafael penitentiary; and transferring to the federal jurisdiction any inmates charged with federal crimes, among others. Similarly, the State provided details about action that is set to be taken in the fields of healthcare, education and employment in favor of persons deprived of liberty in both prisons. Commissioner Vargas acknowledged improvements. He commended national and provincial authorities for their efforts to address the situation, and urged them to ensure that Mendoza’s solutions to the prison problem can serve as an example for the whole region.

In his visits to penitentiary facilities, Commissioner Vargas confirmed that overpopulation persists in criminal justice units, which remains a major cause of conflict among persons deprived of liberty as well as a serious hurdle for adequate and sufficient access to basic goods and services. In both prisons, Commissioner Vargas was informed of the persistence of inadequate conditions of detention. This was particularly the case in the San Felipe Complex, where Commissioner Vargas saw evidence of continuing serious infrastructure problems. Those problems have led to a generally poor state in sanitation and wiring, which put the rights of persons deprived of liberty at risk and demand immediate repairs and maintenance. As he toured both prisons, Commissioner Vargas was repeatedly told by inmates of the difficulties they had to obtain medication, sufficient medical supplies and adequate, specialized treatment to address their health conditions.

The Commission acknowledges the efforts and improvements made by various authorities, as well as the will they have expressed to implement the precautionary measure in place and to monitor compliance with the friendly settlement. In that context, the Commission highlights the importance of complying with the standards developed by the IACHR in its Report on the Human Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, its Practical Guide to Reduce Pretrial Detention, and its Report on the Use of Pretrial Detention in the Americas. In particular, the IACHR stresses the use of alternatives to deprivation of liberty as an essential tool to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

The Commission will assess the information it collected during the visit and will continue to request the relevant periodic State reports on the issue. The Commission thanks inmate representatives and relatives for their cooperation during this visit.

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. 157/19