Torture Prison Conditions In Argentina
Overcrowding, ill-treatment by guards, inadequate facilities, and inmate violence continue in Argentina’s prisons.
The National Penitentiary Office, which Congress created in 2003 to supervise federal prisons and protect detainees’ rights, reported the violent deaths of six federal prisoners during the first semester of 2018, but did not identify the individuals responsible.
The office also documented 301 alleged cases of torture or ill-treatment in federal prisons between January and June 2018, after 615 cases in 2017. In December 2017, the federal government created the National Committee to Prevent Torture, charged with monitoring the situation of people in detention.
In July 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWAD) reported that police forces often conduct criminal arrests in a discriminatory and subjective manner. Approximately 60 percent of all people behind bars in Argentina are in pretrial detention, and the period of such detention sometimes lasts up to six years.
Largely due to overcrowding, some pretrial detainees are being held in police stations. Prison guards have taken “disobedient” detainees to isolation cells without following predetermined sanction procedures.
Security forces have detained children and subjected them to abuse. Police and other security forces occasionally employ excessive force against protesters, despite a 2011 commitment by authorities in at least 19 of Argentina’s 23 provinces to ensure that force is used proportionately.
In September, a court sentenced six policemen to up to 10-and-a-half years in prison for the arbitrary arrest and torture of two teenagers in 2016.
The officers had detained the two, 15- and 18-years-old at the time, while they walked in a low-income community in Buenos Aires. One of them told the court the officers severely beat him on the back and head, kicked him as he was lying on the floor, and threatened to kill him while placing a knife at his throat.
In February, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said the government would modify the criminal code to protect police officers who shoot at a person they believe to be committing a crime.
The minister claimed that all actions by police officers should be “presumed” legal. The minister’s pledge followed a well-known case in which an officer killed a man who was running away after stabbing a tourist in Buenos Aires. At time of writing, the proposal had not been filed.
In July, President Macri announced the Armed Forces would “collaborate in interior security” operations linked to combatting drug trafficking at Argentina’s borders.
He later adopted a decree outlining a new defense policy that includes some vague language that would, for example, allow the Armed Forces to respond to threats that do not come from another state and to protect unspecified “strategic objectives.” Defense Minister Oscar Aguad said troops would not be deployed in public security operations.