Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.
Argentina is a federal constitutional
democracy with an executive branch headed by an elected president,
a bicameral legislature, and a separate judiciary. President
Carlos Saul Menem was reelected in 1995 for a second 4-year term,
which runs until 1999. The judiciary is generally independent
but is inefficient and subject at times to political influence.
The President is the constitutional
commander-in-chief, and a civilian defense minister oversees the
armed forces. Several agencies share responsibility for maintaining
law and order. The Argentine Federal Police (PFA) report to the
Interior Minister, as do the Border Police and Coast Guard. The
PFA also has jurisdiction in the Federal Capital. Provincial
police are subordinate to the respective governor. Members of
the police continued to commit human rights abuses.
Argentina has a mixed agricultural,
industrial, and service economy. An economic reform and structural
adjustment program, which included privatization and trade and
financial sector liberalization, led to an increase in average
annual gross domestic product of 6 percent during the period 1991-97,
with low inflation. Growth slowed to an estimated 4.8 percent
in 1998; however, due in large part to a reduction in foreign
capital flows into the country, and high unemployment persisted.
The Government generally respected
the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems
in some areas. There continued to be instances of extrajudicial
killings and brutality by the police, although the authorities
prosecuted a number of persons for such actions. Police also
arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens, prison conditions
are poor, and lengthy pretrial detention is a problem. The judicial
system is subject to political influence at times and to inordinate
delays. There were numerous threats against journalists. Discrimination
and violence against women also are problems. In addition, the
legacy of the human rights abuses of the 1976-83 military regime
continued to be a subject of intense national debate, especially
following the arrest of former junta leaders on charges of taking
or seizing babies born to dissidents in detention and giving them
out to supporters for adoption.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity
of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial
There were no reports of politically
motivated extrajudicial killings. However, police officers were
believed responsible for a number of extrajudicial killings.
The authorities investigated and in some cases detained, tried,
and convicted the officers involved.
In the province of Jujuy, the authorities
relieved 14 police officers from duty and detained them on suspicion
of involvement in the death in January of 34-year-old Carlos Andres
Sutara. The police had detained Sutara and several of his friends
for a records check. According to the police, Sutara died of
a heart attack, but his wife and three friends detained with him
claim that he was beaten brutally.
In January in the province of Buenos Aires, the authorities detained a police officer on suspicion of killing 21-year-old Walter Repetto. According to a newspaper account, Repetto was sitting in his car waiting for a friend when the policeman, who was off duty and dressed in civilian clothes, approached the vehicle. Repetto attempted to drive away and was shot and killed. In July the authorities arrested four police officers in Entre Rios province on suspicion of involvement in the death in January of 22-year-old Juan Carlos Cardozo.
Judges in Rio Negro province indicted
two former provincial police chiefs on charges of obstructing
justice in the investigation of the November 1997 deaths of three
young women in the town of Cipolletti.
Investigations continued into 1997
killings in three provinces allegedly carried out by police.
An appeals court in Neuquen rejected the indictment of an officer
accused of firing the shot that killed Teresa Rodriguez, a young
woman who died during a clash between police and unemployed workers
in the town of Cutral-Co. In Mendoza a sixth policeman was indicted
in the death of 18-year-old Sebastian Bordon. In Buenos Aires
the investigation of the murder of news photographer Jose Luis
Cabezas appeared to be drawing to a close following the suicide
in May of reclusive businessman Alfredo Yabran, who was suspected
of ordering the murder. Several police officers were under arrest
and awaiting trial in the case (see Section 2.a.).
The Buenos Aires provincial police
force continued to undergo a major reorganization, motivated in
part by its alleged involvement in the Cabezas murder. The force
was broken up into 18 departments under the overall direction
of a civilian Minister of Justice and Security.
In April a court convicted a Buenos
Aires provincial policeman and sentenced him to 10 years in prison
for the 1996 death of Cristian Javier Cicovicci, a young fur trapper.
The youth had refused to hand over his furs to the officer, who
shot him in the head. In May a court in the province of Cordoba
sentenced a police corporal to 20 years in prison for the 1996
shooting death of 19-year-old Ariel Lastra.
Six army officers were under indictment
at year's end in the continuing judicial investigation into the
alleged coverup of the 1994 death of army recruit Omar Carrasco.
In 1996 a court convicted three soldiers of murdering Carrasco
and a fourth for covering up the crime.
In May the judge investigating the
1993 disappearance of Miguel Bru was impeached and the investigation
continued under a new judge. The authorities indicted five Buenos
Aires provincial police in the case, but only one was in custody.
Two of the five are charged with torturing Bru to death; the
other three are charged with covering up the crime. All five
awaited trial at year's end.
In September a judge in Rio Negro
province indicted five police officers in connection with the
1989 deaths of two teenagers, Raquel Laguna and Sergio Sorbellini.
In March an appeals court in the
province of Buenos Aires upheld the 1994 conviction of three provincial
policemen sentenced to 11 years in prison for the 1987 shooting
deaths of three young men in the town of Ingeniero Budge. The
police had been released from custody on a legal technicality,
and when authorities tried to rearrest them they could not be
In October 1997, a Spanish court
issued arrest warrants for the former chief of the Argentine navy
and 10 aides on charges of genocide and torture during the 1976-83
"dirty war" waged by the military governments. The
Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzon, had previously ordered the arrest
of Leopoldo Galtieri, the army general who served as president
when a military junta ruled the country in 1981-82. The court
also brought charges of genocide against former naval officer
Adolfo Scilingo, who testified in Spain that he had participated
in throwing drugged and naked dissidents to their deaths in the
ocean from airplanes during the dirty war. On December 30, 1997,
the Spanish judge issued charges against another 36 Argentine
military and police officials, whose names were provided by Scilingo.
At year's end, Judge Garzon had brought charges against 110 current
or former Argentine military and police officials.
Investigations continued into the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of the city's Jewish community center (AMIA). In November the Brazilian authorities located Wilson dos Santos, who 2 weeks prior to the AMIA bombing reported that he had heard from Iranian sources that there was to be a terrorist attack in Buenos Aires. In December one of these reputed sources, Nasrim Mokhtari, was arrested at the Buenos Aires international airport. At year's end, investigators were preparing to question Dos Santos and Mokhtari about both the AMIA and Israeli embassy bombings. Also in November, the authorities indicted Carlos Alberto Telleldin, the mechanic who reportedly worked on the truck used in the AMIA bombing, on charges of having taken an active part in the attack. He joined four other Buenos Aires provincial police officers also charged with participation in the bombing.
There were no reports of politically
Although four Mendoza provincial
police were indicted in the case of Paulo Cristian Guardati, who
disappeared in the province in 1992, the indictments later were
dropped. However, in May the Mendoza government paid an indemnity
of $136,000 to his family, as recommended by the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
The Inter-American Court of Human
Rights recommended that the Government compensate the families
of Adolfo Garrido and Raul Baigorria in the amounts of $110,000
and $64,000, respectively. The two men disappeared in the province
of Mendoza in 1990. The Court also called on the Government to
investigate the disappearances and to bring those responsible
to justice. Garrido and Baigorria are believed to have died in
police custody, but no one was arrested or charged in the case.
Events in January refocused public attention on the mass disappearances that occurred during the 1976-83 military regime's dirty war against leftists. A group of national deputies announced that it would introduce a bill in Congress to annul the "Full Stop" and "Due Obedience" laws, the amnesty statutes that benefit military officers alleged to have committed human rights violations. In March Congress repealed but did not retroactively annul those laws; the repeal was largely symbolic. Also in January, President Menem announced the Government's intention to move the Naval Mechanics School (ESMA), the scene of some of the worst atrocities of the dirty war, and to build a monument to national reconciliation on the site. Human rights organizations opposed the proposal, and the courts enjoined the Government from demolishing the building.
Human rights groups also criticized a Supreme Court decision in August to uphold a ruling by the Federal Appeals Court in Buenos Aires that rejected a request for a search of government files by a parent seeking information about a daughter who disappeared during the dirty war. In a five-to-four vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the request implied a reopening of criminal cases that were already closed. However, one of the Justices who voted with the majority stated that there might be other judicial or administrative sources of relief. It was not clear whether the Supreme Court's decision would affect similar cases in the federal appeals courts in other cities. In October in a separate case, the Court ruled in favor of the public's right to seek information from the Government concerning family members who disappeared during the military dictatorship.
At the urging of the human rights
organization Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, judicial authorities
continued to investigate the illegal adoptions of approximately
250-300 children born to detained dissidents during the dirty
war. One of the investigations led to the arrest in June of former
army General Jorge Rafael Videla, the de facto President from
1979 to 1981. Videla was initially arrested and jailed but then
put under house arrest because of his age. Although Videla was
convicted for the crimes he committed during the dirty war and
sentenced to life in prison in 1985, President Menem pardoned
him in 1990. However, it is not clear whether the 1990 pardon
or the amnesty laws extend to the crime of child abduction.
The investigation by Judge Adolfo
Bagnasco and other judges into the fate of babies whose mothers
disappeared after giving birth in detention continued. In November
Judge Maria Servini de Cubria ordered the arrest of retired Admiral
(and former junta member) Emilo Massera, also in connection with
an investigation into the abduction of babies of parents who disappeared.
From prison he was moved to a hospital for medical treatment.
The judge ordered that, when released from the hospital, Massera
be placed under house arrest due to his age. In December former
navy commander Admiral Ruben Franco was arrested on suspicion
that he was a central organizer of the child abductions. In December
retired navy Captain Jorge Eduardo Acosta, formerly a senior officer
at the ESMA, surrendered and was arrested, bringing the total
to nine senior officers who were arrested, detained, or summoned
before various judges investigating the child abductions. Judge
Bagnasco questioned both Massera and Acosta.
Most reliable estimates place the
number of those who disappeared during the dirty war between 10,000
and 15,000. In 1984 the National Commission on Disappeared Persons
(CONADEP) issued a report listing 8,961 names, based on public
testimony from friends, relatives, and witnesses. Since then
the Ministry of the Interior's Under Secretariat for Human and
Social Rights, which inherited the CONADEP files, has added over
700 new names, also based on voluntary reporting. At the same
time, other names have been removed from the original list, either
through confirmation of the death or survival of the person who
disappeared, or through the identification of duplicate entries.
The absence of documentary records of those who disappeared means
that the Government must rely on public testimony, either voluntary
or court-ordered. As CONADEP noted in its report, "It has
been possible to determine that an important quantity of documentation
existed that has been destroyed or is being concealed by those
responsible for the repression."
A law granting former prisoners of
the military regime the right to apply for compensation from the
Government expired in September. Prior to the expiration date,
the Under Secretariat for Human and Social Rights, which administers
the law, had received over 13,000 applications, and by year's
end had approved over 7,000 of them. The Under Secretariat also
had received over 7,500 claims under a separate law authorizing
compensation for the families of persons who died or disappeared
during the dictatorship. The application period for this law
expires in 2000.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman,
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture,
and the Criminal Code provides penalties for torture that are
similar to those for homicide. Nevertheless, police brutality
remains a serious problem (see Section 1.a.). Human rights organizations
described widespread police brutality, the use of torture on suspects,
and corruption within the police forces. In June 1997, the United
Nations Committee against Torture criticized the Government for
tolerating continued brutality and the use of torture in police
stations and prisons. In December the Government responded to
the U.N. committee's criticism.
On January 14, a Buenos Aires magazine
carried a provocative interview with retired naval Captain Alfredo
Astiz, who was accused of torturing and murdering prisoners at
the ESMA (see Section 1.b.), including French nuns Alice Domon
and Leonie Renee Duquet and Swedish student Dagmar Hagelin. Astiz
was summoned before a federal court for questioning about his
statements in the magazine interview but said that he could not
recall the events. The navy ordered him arrested and held for
60 days for granting an unauthorized press interview. On January
23, the navy chief of staff recommended that the President discharge
Astiz, and the President did so the same day. Astiz had been
forced to retire from the navy in 1996.
The Commission for Relatives of Victims
of Social and Institutional Violence (Cofavi) works to obtain
justice in instances of police brutality and at the beginning
of the year reportedly had obtained 32 convictions for violent
crimes in cases it brought against police officers since 1992.
Prison conditions are poor in a number of overcrowded jails where the facilities are old and dilapidated. Overcrowding was a problem in the Buenos Aires provincial prisons. In September a riot broke out in the provincial prison in Olmos, reported to house twice as many inmates as it was built to accommodate. Prisoners also suffer from poor sanitary conditions and insufficient food.
The Government permits prison visits
by independent human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention,
The Penal Code places limits on the
arrest and investigatory power of the police and the judiciary,
but provincial police often ignored these restrictions and arbitrarily
arrested and detained citizens. Human rights groups find it difficult
to document such incidents and state that victims are reluctant
to file complaints because they fear police retaliation or do
not believe that their complaints would do any good.
Police occasionally detain teenagers
and young adults, sometimes overnight, sometimes for an entire
weekend, without formal charges. They do not always provide such
detainees with the opportunity to call their families or an attorney.
These detainees are released only upon a complaint from relatives
or legal counsel.
Police may detain a suspect for up
to 10 hours without an arrest warrant if they have a well-founded
belief that he has committed, or is about to commit, a crime or
misdemeanor, and if he is unable to identify himself. However,
human rights groups argue that this provision of the law is abused
widely, and that police often detain suspects who do have identification.
In March the Buenos Aires city council
enacted a Code of Misdemeanors to replace the so-called police
edicts under which the Federal Police previously had detained
suspected offenders. Human rights groups had long argued that
the edicts were used as an excuse for arbitrary detentions, particularly
of young people, immigrants, prostitutes, and transvestites.
The law provides for the right to
bail, and it is utilized in practice. Nonetheless, the law allows
pretrial detention for up to 2 years, and the slow pace of the
justice system often results in lengthy pretrial detention periods.
Three-fourths of the inmates in the federal prisons of the greater
Buenos Aires area were reportedly in pretrial detention. In the
prison system of the province of Buenos Aires this figure was
reported to be as high as 90 percent.
The law does not permit forced exile,
and it is not practiced.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an
independent judiciary; however, while the judiciary is nominally
independent and impartial, its processes are inefficient, complicated,
and, at times, subject to political influence.
The judicial system is divided into federal and provincial courts, each headed by a Supreme Court with chambers of appeal and section courts below it. The system is hampered by inordinate delays, procedural logjams, changes of judges, inadequate administrative support, and incompetence. Allegations of corruption are widely reported, especially in civil cases. In May the Justice Minister stated that "the system is in crisis."
In an effort to expedite justice
in criminal proceedings, the province of Buenos Aires implemented
a new code of criminal procedure under which the responsibility
for criminal investigations was shifted from instructional judges
Trials are public and defendants
have the right to legal counsel and to call defense witnesses.
A panel of judges decides guilt or innocence. Federal and provincial
courts continued the transition to oral trials in criminal cases,
instead of the old practice of written submissions. However,
substantial elements of the old system remain. For example, before
the oral part of a trial begins, judges receive written documentation
regarding the case, which, according to prominent legal experts,
can bias a judge before oral testimony is heard. In March Congress
enacted a law granting greater independence to federal prosecutors
and public defenders. The Council of the Magistracy, a blue-ribbon
judicial council Congress established in December 1997, got off
to a slow start, however, due to delays in the appointment of
its members. The Council has responsibility for appointing and
removing federal judges and administering the federal court system.
The Government allowed Father Juan Antonio Puigjane to leave prison in June and to begin serving the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. Puigjane, a Capuchin monk, was a leader of the leftist "All for the Fatherland" movement, which in 1989 assaulted La Tablada army barracks near Buenos Aires. Although he did not take part in the assault and denied any foreknowledge of it, a court sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He is to be eligible for parole in 2000. Some international human rights groups claim that Puigjane was jailed for political reasons, but the Government maintains that he and the 19 others sentenced with him were tried and convicted properly of involvement in a violent rebellion against a democratically elected government.
The release of Puigjane followed
the publication of an IACHR report on La Tablada. The Commission
absolved the Government of the use of excessive force in repelling
the assault, but concluded that the Government committed human
rights violations after the attackers had surrendered. The Commission
also found that the Defense of Democracy Act, under which the
La Tablada defendants were tried and convicted, effectively denied
them the right of appeal. The Human Rights Committee of the lower
house of Congress drafted a bill to amend the law in this respect,
but it was unclear whether this bill, if passed into law, would
retroactively benefit the La Tablada defendants.
There were no other reports of political
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy,
Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution prohibits such practices,
and the Government generally respects these prohibitions. Violations
are subject to legal sanction, although in practice, local police
have the right to stop and search individuals without probable
Several highly publicized cases of
unauthorized telephone taps raised public concern, and the Government
introduced a bill in Congress to address these concerns. However,
a group of prominent journalists warned that the proposed law
could be used to abridge the public's right to information, under
the guise of protecting the right to privacy. They urged the
Government to withdraw the measure and legislators to vote against
it. At year's end, the Senate had approved a bill that would
penalize the unauthorized recording of telephone conversations,
the unauthorized photographing or filming of private acts, and
the dissemination of such unauthorized records. The Chamber of
Deputies had not yet taken up the bill.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties,
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom
of speech and of the press, and the Government respects these
rights in practice.
A number of independent newspapers
and magazines publish freely, and privately owned radio and televisions
stations broadcast freely as well. All print media are privatized,
but the Federal Government still owns the Telam wire service,
a television station, and a radio network. A few provincial governments
also own broadcast media.
Nonetheless, organizations of journalists
expressed concern over a number of developments during the year,
including the growing concentration of media ownership, Supreme
Court rulings granting a "right of reply," criticisms
of the press by public officials, threats of violence against
journalists, and the failure to bring the Cabezas murder case
to a close (see Section 1.a.). In April the Supreme Court ruled
that the Buenos Aires daily newspaper Pagina 12 must print a denial
of a story that it had published about a former presidential adviser,
Domagoj Antonio Petric. Later the same month the Court also ruled
against Pregon, a daily newspaper in Jujuy province, recognizing
the right of reply of a provincial legislator whom the newspaper
had criticized. In August the Court upheld a lower court ruling
requiring the owners of the defunct magazine Somos to publish
a letter from a reader who claimed to have been slandered by an
article that appeared in the magazine in 1992.
Jose Luis Cabezas, a photographer
for the weekly newsmagazine Noticias, was murdered in January
1997 outside the coastal resort town of Pinamar, south of Buenos
Aires. His hands were cuffed behind his back, he had been shot
in the head, and his body left in his car, which had been burned.
Several provincial police were among those arrested on suspicion
of carrying out the murder, but the motive was unclear. In May
Alfredo Yabran, a reclusive businessman whom Cabezas had photographed,
committed suicide after the investigating judge issued a warrant
for his arrest on suspicion of having instigated the crime. Although
by year's end the investigation appeared to be drawing to a close,
no trial had been held yet.
In August 1997, the Association for
the Defense of Independent Journalism (ADEPA), a group of prominent
journalists, chronicled numerous threats to journalists around
the country following the Cabezas murder, many in the form of
anonymous telephone calls. In a report issued in September, ADEPA
concluded that, in view of these threats and of the authorities'
failure to bring to justice the murderers of Cabezas, "the
freedom of the press existing in our country since 1983 is seriously
compromised." In May Amnesty International stated that there
was "a prevailing climate of intimidation against journalists"
and an "increasing frequency of attacks, death threats, and
harassment." However, despite these circumstances and the
chilling effects of the Cabezas murder, the press continued to
report and criticize freely.
The law provides for academic freedom,
and the Government respects this in practice.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The Constitution and laws provide
for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.
However, police were called in to break up demonstrations in
several provinces. In March the police dispersed unemployed workers
in Neuquen after they blocked access to the airport in the provincial
capital. In May, July, and August, police clashed with public
sector workers in Jujuy who were demanding payment of salary arrears.
The police used nonlethal force to control the demonstrators in
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom
of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the
Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution and laws provide
for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.
A committee composed of representatives
of the Ministries of Justice, Foreign Relations, and the Interior
determines grants of refugee status, using the criteria of the
1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
and its 1967 Protocol. A representative of the U.N. High Commissioner
for Refugees may participate in committee hearings, but may not
vote. The Government has granted refugee status to numerous persons
and accepted them for resettlement. The issue of the provision
of first asylum did not arise in 1998. There were no reports
of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared
Section 3 Respect for Political
Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides citizens
with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens
exercise this right in practice through periodic free and fair
elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.
The Constitution stipulates that the internal regulations of political parties and party nominations for elections be subject to affirmative action requirements to encourage women's representation in elective office. A 1991 law mandates the use of gender quotas by all political parties in national elections. A 1993 decree implementing that law required that a minimum of 30 percent of all political party lists of candidates be female. As a result, the presence of women in Congress has increased. Of 257 members of the Chamber of Deputies, 70 are women. In the Senate, however, whose members still are appointed, only 2 of 72 members are women.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude
Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged
Violations of Human Rights
A wide variety of domestic and international
human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating
and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The Government
is generally cooperative, although not always responsive to their
Section 5 Discrimination Based
on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution and laws provide for equality for all citizens. A 1988 law provides for prison terms of up to 3 years for anyone who arbitrarily restricts, obstructs, or restrains a person based on "race, religion, nationality, ideology, political opinion, sex, economic position, social class, or physical characteristics."
Violence and sexual harassment against
women are problems, but the dimensions are difficult to measure.
The only available statistics are those based on the number of
cases reported to police, but many cases go unreported. The National
Council of Women, a governmental organization created in 1992
in response to recommendations in the United Nations Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,
worked with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the
design and implementation of software that would standardize data
from numerous sources and permit a more accurate evaluation of
the scope of the problem.
In 1994 Congress passed the Law on
Protection against Family Violence, which authorizes a judge to
order an offender excluded from the home. However, human rights
groups criticized this law as insufficient to address the problem.
NGO's working in the area of women's rights stress that women
too often do not have a full understanding of their rights. They
are uncertain what constitutes sexual harassment, what can be
considered rape, or when physical and mental abuse is considered
Rape is a problem, but reliable statistics
as to its extent were not available. Marital rape and acquaintance
rape are recognized by law, but the need for proof, either in
the form of clear physical injury or the testimony of a witness,
often presents a problem. A rapist is not prosecuted if he offers
to marry the victim and she accepts his proposal.
Public and private institutions offer
prevention programs and provide support and treatment for women
who have been abused, but transitory housing is almost nonexistent.
The Buenos Aires municipal government operates a 24-hour hot
line offering support and guidance to victims of violence, and
also a small shelter for battered women, but few others are known
Women encounter economic discrimination
and occupy a disproportionate number of lower paying jobs. Often
they are paid less than men for equal work, even though this is
explicitly prohibited by law. Women also are found disproportionately
in the informal, unregistered labor market, where effectively
they are denied work-related economic and social benefits enjoyed
by registered workers. In March President Menem signed a decree
calling for the "design and implementation of policies, plans,
and programs to promote the incorporation of women into the workforce
on an equal footing with men."
The National Council of Women carries
out programs to promote equal opportunity for women in education
and employment, encourage the participation of women in politics,
and support women's rights programs at the provincial level.
Education is compulsory, free, and
universal for children up to the age of 15. However, adequate
schooling is unavailable in some rural areas. There are numerous
health care programs for children as well, though not all children
have access to them. The Ministry of Interior's Subsecretariat
for Human and Social Rights works with UNICEF and other international
agencies to promote children's rights and well being.
There is no pattern of societal abuse
of children, but nongovernmental and church sources indicate that
child abuse and prostitution are on the rise. The National Council
on Children and the Family believes that those affected tend to
be younger than previously thought. The Council, which the Government
established in 1990, works with federal and local agencies to
improve child protection programs. Street children can be seen
in some large cities, although there are no reliable statistics
on their numbers.
People With Disabilities
A 1994 law aimed at eliminating physical
barriers to disabled persons regulates standards regarding access
to public buildings, parks, plazas, stairs, and pedestrian areas.
Street curbs, commuter train stations, and some buildings in
Buenos Aires have been modified to accommodate wheelchairs, but
some public buildings and lavatories are still inaccessible to
The law prohibits discrimination
against disabled persons in employment, education, and the provision
of other state services. Since the establishment of the National
Program against Discrimination in 1994, the largest single group
bringing complaints has been disabled persons. The National Advisory
Commission on the Integration of People with Disabilities, a governmental
office, and numerous nongovernmental groups were active in defending
the rights of persons with disabilities and helping them find
The Constitution recognizes the ethnic
and cultural identities of indigenous peoples and states that
Congress shall ensure their right to bilingual education, recognize
their communities and the communal ownership of their ancestral
lands, and ensure their participation in the management of their
natural resources. The National Institute of Indigenous Affairs
(INAI) is the government agency responsible for implementing these
provisions. However, attempts to offer bilingual education opportunities
to indigenous peoples were hampered by a lack of trained teachers.
There is no accurate count of the
number of indigenous people. Congress passed a law in May providing
for the 2000 census to collect information about indigenous identity.
The INAI estimates that there are 700,000 indigenous people:
450,000 in rural communities (the principal groups being the Kollas
in Salta and Jujuy, the Mapuches in the Patagonian provinces,
and the Wichis and Tobas in the northern provinces) and 250,000
in urban areas. However, the nongovernmental Indigenous Association
of the Argentine Republic estimates the indigenous population
at 1.5 million. Census data show that poverty rates are higher
than average in areas with large indigenous populations. Indigenous
people have higher rates of illiteracy, chronic disease, and unemployment.
Their standard of living is considerably below the national average.
Since 1994 the Government has restored
approximately 2.5 million acres of land to indigenous communities
and expects to return 5 million more by 1999. Nonetheless, some
communities were involved in land disputes with provincial governments
and private companies. In September a Mapuche community in the
province of Neuquen settled a dispute with the provincial government
and a group of energy companies that sought to build a gas refinery
on lands claimed by the tribe. Mapuches in the same province
filed a complaint with the IACHR, claiming that they were being
forced off their ancestral lands in Pulmari, near the Chilean
border. A group of Kollas in the province of Salta reached agreement
with a consortium seeking to build a gas pipeline there that the
Kollas claimed would damage the environment. However, there was
no solution in a longstanding land dispute between the Kollas
and a company producing sugar and citrus products in Salta.
There were scattered reports of anti-Semitism. In January about 20 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in the town of Ciudadela were vandalized. The crime resembled a December 1997 incident in which 30 gravestones were defiled in a Jewish cemetery in the town of La Tablada. Investigations continued into those two incidents, as well as an incident in the La Tablada cemetery in 1996, but there were no arrests. According to press reports, two officers dismissed from the Buenos Aires provincial police force were the main suspects in two attacks on Jewish cemeteries on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve in 1997.
In April a court sentenced three Buenos Aires youths to 3 years
in prison for assaulting a man in 1995 whom they believed to be Jewish. It was the first instance of an oral trial under the 1988 antidiscrimination law. The court found that the three had acted out of "hatred due to race, religion, or nationality," and they were given the maximum penalty provided by the law. However, they were released from prison in August pending appeal. At the sentencing in April, some persons in the courtroom shouted anti-Semitic remarks. The Interior Ministry's National Institute Against Discrimination, the nongovernmental Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, and the Delegation of Jewish-Argentine Associations filed suit demanding that the perpetrators be identified and tried under the antidiscrimination law.
In May a court sentenced one man
to 2½ years in prison, and gave three others suspended sentences
of 2 years for printing and distributing anti-Semitic literature,
another conviction under the 1988 antidiscrimination law.
Investigations continued into the
1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994
bombing of the city's Jewish community center (AMIA) (see Section
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution provides for the
right to form "free and democratic labor unions, recognized
by simple inscription in a special register," and this right
is observed in practice. With the exception of military personnel,
all workers are free to form unions. An estimated 35 percent
of the work force is organized. Trade unions are independent
of the Government or political parties, although most union leaders
support President Menem's Justicialist Party. Most unions are
affiliated with the General Confederation of Labor (CGT). The
Government granted legal recognition to a smaller federation,
the Central of Argentine Workers (CTA), in 1997.
The Constitution provides for the
right to strike, and this is observed in practice. There were
scattered local work stoppages during the year.
Many unions also are active in international
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain
The Constitution provides unions
with the right to negotiate collective bargaining agreements and
to have recourse to conciliation and arbitration, and these rights
are observed in practice. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security
ratifies collective bargaining agreements, which cover an estimated
75 percent of the work force.
In recent years, most collective
bargaining agreements have been negotiated at the plant level.
However, in September Congress passed amendments to existing
labor laws, one of which reserved to national unions the right
to represent workers at the collective bargaining table, or to
delegate this authority to lower-level unions. The new law also
called for the creation of a mediation and arbitration service
within the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to intervene
in collective bargaining if requested by labor and management.
The law prohibits antiunion practices,
and the Government enforces this prohibition. However, in February
the CTA complained to the International Labor Organization (ILO)
that three companies had violated union rights protected by ILO
conventions and that the Government had failed to prevent these
violations. The ILO asked the Government to respond to these
charges, and it did so in October.
Export processing zones exist or
are planned in several provinces. The same labor laws apply in
these zones as in all other parts of the country.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory
The law prohibits forced or compulsory
labor, and there were no reports that it was practiced. The law
also prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, and the Government
enforces this prohibition effectively.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices
and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits employment of children
under 14 years of age, except in rare cases where the Ministry
of Education may authorize a child to work as part of a family
unit. Minors between the ages of 14 and 16 may work in a limited
number of job categories but not more than 6 hours a day or 35
hours a week. The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children,
and there were no reports of its use (see Section 6.c.). UNICEF
estimated that 252,000 children under 15 years of age were working.
According to the National Council on Children and the Family,
two-thirds were working in rural areas as farm laborers with their
parents and a third were employed in urban areas, chiefly as domestic
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The national monthly minimum wage
is $200 (200 pesos), which is not sufficient to provide a decent
standard of living for an average family of four.
Federal labor law sets standards
in the areas of health, safety, and hours. The maximum workday
is 8 hours and workweek 48 hours, and overtime payment is required
for hours in excess of these limits. The law also sets minimums
for periods of rest and paid vacation. However, laws governing
acceptable conditions of work are not universally enforced, particularly
for the estimated 37 percent of salaried workers in the informal
Occupational health and safety standards
are still being developed, but federal and provincial governments
lack sufficient resources to enforce them fully. Employers are
required to insure their employees against accidents at the workplace,
and when traveling to and from work. However, a rash of accidents
in the construction industry led to demands that the law be strengthened.
Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous or
unhealthful work situations, after having gone through a claim
procedure, without jeopardy to continued employment. Nevertheless,
workers who leave the workplace before it has been proven unsafe
run the risk of being fired; in such cases, the worker has the
right to judicial appeal, but this process can be very lengthy.
[end of document]
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