The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

TITLE:  ARGENTINA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                           ARGENTINA


Argentina is a federal constitutional democracy with an 
executive branch headed by an elected president, a bicameral 
legislature, and a separate judiciary.  The President, Carlos 
Saul Menem, was elected in 1989, under an electoral college 
system, for a single 6-year term.  In August a Constituent 
Assembly of popularly elected delegates revised the 
Constitution, changing the presidential term to 4 years, 
abolishing the electoral college system, and permitting one 
successive term in office.

The President is the commander in chief, and a civilian Defense 
Minister oversees the armed forces.  The Government abolished 
military conscription in September, partly as a result of the 
public backlash generated by the beating death of a young army 
recruit earlier in the year.  The Federal Police, which report 
to the Interior Minister; the Border Police and Coast Guard 
which report to the Defense Minister; and the provincial police 
share responsibility for law and order.  The police continued 
to be responsible for human rights abuses.

Argentina has a mixed agricultural, industrial, and service 
economy that continued its dramatic turnaround after decades of 
mismanagement and decline.  An economic reform structural 
adjustment program, begun in 1989, led to 3 years of high 
growth, sharply reduced inflation, and spurred competitiveness.
An extensive privatization program has been largely completed 
at the federal level and is now under way in the provinces.  
However, while employment grew rapidly during the first years 
of the program, national unemployment rose to a record high of 
12.2 percent in 1994, and the cost of living rose sharply.  The 
high cost of living has most severely affected those with fixed 
incomes, although the entire country benefited from the end of 
hyperinflation.

The newly revised Constitution incorporates nine international 
human rights conventions and also provides for a wide range of 
freedoms and rights which the Government generally protected.  
There continue to be instances of extrajudicial killings and 
physical mistreatment of detainees by the police and military.  
However, the central and provincial governments tried and 
convicted a number of police officials for such abuses.  The 
judicial system is subject to inordinate delays, resulting in 
lengthy pretrial detention.  The Government-sponsored National 
Commission on the Right to Identity has worked closely with 
human rights groups to locate children of parents who 
disappeared during the military dictatorship and reunite them 
with their biological families.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no credible reports of politically motivated 
killings by government forces.

However, police and military personnel were responsible for a 
number of extrajudicial killings.  The most publicized case of 
an extrajudicial killing was the beating death of a young army 
recruit, Omar Carrasco, whose body was found on April 6 in the 
province of Neuquen.  At the end of the year, three soldiers 
were being held pending trial for murder.  Two other soldiers 
were awaiting trial (but not in prison) for covering up the 
crime.  Because of a slipshod investigation at the time of 
Carrasco's disappearance (nearly 1 month passed before his body 
was found), the federal Attorney General ordered the case 
reopened in August to determine whether senior military 
officers had engaged in a coverup of the original investigation.

Police officers committed several other extrajudicial killings.
In July a police inspector allegedly killed a 15-year-old, 
Miguel Rodriguez, for having stolen a ball from his son.  The 
inspector was held for trial on murder charges.  Cordoba 
Governor Eduardo Angeloz fired the province's Police Chief, 
Deputy Chief, and Director for Internal Security after a 
serious altercation between police and residents in the town of 
San Jorge.  In another instance, a court in the province of 
Buenos Aires convicted two police officers convicted and 
sentenced them to life in prison for having brutalized 
57-year-old Ramon Buchon until he died of a heart attack.  The 
case of Diego Rodriguez Laguens, who police allegedly beat to 
death while in their custody in San Pedro in February, 
continued under investigation at year's end.

Provincial and federal authorities made a greater effort to 
arrest and try the offenders in 1994 than they did in previous 
years.  A federal judge sentenced four policemen to life 
imprisonment for the kidnaping and murder of three businessmen, 
Eduardo Oxenford, Benjamin Neuman, and Osvaldo Sivak in 1978, 
1982, and 1985, respectively.  A court sentenced three 
policemen, accused of killing three teenagers in 1987 in a 
Buenos Aires suburb, to 11 years in prison but released them 
pending appeal.  In the town of Wilde, Buenos Aires province, a 
court tried and convicted seven policemen for killing four 
people in a shootout.  A court in San Nicholas, Buenos Aires 
province, sentenced two policemen to life in prison for killing 
a 57-year-old carpenter in 1993.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances 
in 1994.  Current cases stem from unresolved disappearances in 
previous years, especially the 1976-83 military rule.

A La Plata court began the trial of 7 of 11 Buenos Aires 
provincial police officers implicated in the disappearance of a 
La Plata youth, Andres Nunez.  Three witnesses testified they 
heard him being beaten in a nearby room at the time of his 
captivity 3 years ago.  In April the authorities detained  six 
additional police officers and continued to seek four others, 
who are fugitives.  The case of Pablo Guardati, whom Mendoza 
police reportedly abducted in 1992, remains unresolved.
The authorities released three of the four police officers 
charged in this case in late 1993, and freed the fourth in 
March, all for lack of sufficient evidence.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the National Commission 
on the Right to Identity, and the Interior Ministry's 
Secretariat for Human Rights are continuing the search for 
children of couples who disappeared during the military 
regime.  Using modern genetic testing techniques to prove 
genetic relationships where blood samples are available, they 
have located 55 children out of 218 pending cases since the 
restoration of democratic government in 1983.  They have 
reunited 30 of these children with their biological families 
and allowed 13 to remain with their adoptive parents who were 
determined to have adopted the children legally.  An additional 
case moved slowly toward resolution in 1994, which will bring 
the total number of children reunited with their families to 31.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture, and the Criminal Code 
provides penalties for torture which are similar to those for 
homicide, from 8 to 15 years in prison.  Nevertheless, police 
maltreatment of detainees and lack of accountability remain 
problems.  In February Juan Carbajal entered a Buenos Aires 
provincial police station seeking information and became 
involved in an argument with several officers.  Police beat him 
and then detained him in a local hospital, telling his wife he 
was being held because he was mentally deranged.  Doctors in 
the hospital, however, said he was normal and that his bruises 
were deliberately inflicted.  The provincial Director of 
Security opened an investigation; Carbajal was released after 2 
weeks in the hospital, and two police officers were arrested.

In August a judge convicted four policemen in Entre Rios 
Province for physically abusing a suspect.  However, he imposed 
a 2 1/2-year suspended sentence to be implemented only if they 
did not pass a written examination on constitutional rights and 
guarantees.

In October the Menem administration recommended the promotion 
of two navy commanders, Antonio Pernias and Juan Carlos Rolon, 
to captain.  During their confirmation hearings, they admitted 
to having tortured detainees during the 1976-83 period of 
military rule.  A storm of controversy arose, and a Senate 
committee, dominated by the President's own Justicialist Party, 
rejected the nominations.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Penal Code places limits on the arrest and investigatory 
power of the police and the judiciary, but the provincial 
police often ignored these restrictions, as indicated in the 
cases cited above.  Human rights groups find it difficult to 
document such incidents, because victims are reluctant to file 
complaints.

Police will detain young persons (teenagers and young adults 
are most vulnerable to this practice) sometimes overnight, 
sometimes for an entire weekend, without formal charges.  They 
do not always provide such detainees the opportunity to call 
their family or an attorney and release them only upon a 
complaint from relatives or legal counsel.  Human rights groups 
were also concerned about a proposed antiterrorism bill which 
would extend the number of hours the police can hold a person 
without a formal charge from 6 to 12 hours in a police station 
and from 48 to 72 hours in judicial headquarters.

Prison conditions are poor in a number of overcrowded jails 
where the facilities are old and dilapidated.  In Buenos Aires 
province no new prisons have been built for 25 years.  A 
circuit judge in Quilmes (Buenos Aires province) denounced 
lamentable treatment of prisoners who are crowded four or five 
into a cell no larger than three meters square.  A study in 
late 1993 indicated that 60 percent of those incarcerated 
nationwide are awaiting trial; some have been detained for 
2 years or more.  Human rights groups say this problem remains 
a serious one and that prisons are virtual powder kegs of 
discontent.  A large-scale prison riot occurred in Buenos Aires 
Province in August 1994.

The law provides for the right to bail, and it is utilized in 
practice.  Nonetheless, law allows pretrial detention, and the 
slow pace of criminal trials results in lengthy pretrial 
detention periods.  Many untried prisoners are serving more 
time in prison than they would have served if they had been 
convicted and had received the maximum sentence for the crime 
for which they were arrested.  In recognition of this problem, 
the Senate passed a measure in October which would set a 
maximum 2-year limit on unsentenced prisoners and, after 2 
years, grant them 2 days of credit toward their sentences for 
every 1 day of the served before sentencing.

The Interior Ministry conducted courses for public officials 
designed to heighten awareness about human rights issues, and 
the Justice Ministry attempted to educate the public about the 
legal rights of detainees.  The Government created the position 
of Ombudsman to oversee the observance of individual rights in 
the prison system.  To improve police practices, the Interior 
Ministry's Secretariat for Human Rights signed an agreement in 
1994 with the United National Center for Human Rights to 
provide training for federal and provincial law enforcement 
officials.

The law does not permit involuntary exile, and it is not 
practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is nominally independent and impartial, but 
its processes are inefficient, complicated, and allegedly 
subject to political influence.  The judicial system is 
hampered by inordinate delays, procedural logjams, changes of 
judges, and widely reported allegations of corruption.

Trials are public, and defendants have the right to legal 
counsel.  A panel of judges decides guilt or innocence.  In 
1992, some federal and provincial courts began deciding cases 
using oral trials in lieu of the practice of written 
submissions.  Although such trials are less time-consuming, 
lawyers and judges are still struggling to adjust to the new 
procedures, and 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.

Reform of the judiciary is a high priority for the Government.  
The new Constitution provides for changes in the selection of 
judges and oversight of the legal system.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits the Government from interfering in 
the private lives of its citizens, and the Government rarely 
does so.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for the right to publish ideas 
without prior censorship.  The media fully exercise this right, 
disseminating the full spectrum of political, social, cultural, 
and economic opinion in the country.

The number of reports of attacks or threats against journalists 
decreased in 1994.  A newspaper editor in Jujuy Province 
received an anonymous threat, and the wife of a reporter for 
the Argentine news agency in Buenos Aires was mugged and 
threatened.  A correspondent for a La Pampa province paper also 
received death threats.  In Mendoza, intelligence operatives of 
the provincial police are alleged to have illegally entered a 
hotel room and intimidated three visiting Chilean journalists 
in October.  National and provincial government authorities 
condemned the incident and launched an investigation.  There 
was little progress in the apprehension and punishment of those 
responsible for these and prior attacks.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution and laws provide for the right of groups and 
political parties to assemble and demonstrate.  Many groups 
from all sectors of society exercised this right with little or 
no government interference.

The Government generally respected academic freedom.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of worship is a constitutional right.  The new 
Constitution dropped its previous requirement that the 
President be a Roman Catholic.  In practice, all religious 
denominations are able to exercise their faith freely.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Documented travel and emigration remained unrestricted in 1994.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Since its return to democratic government in 1983, Argentina 
has held free and fair elections to choose federal, provincial, 
and municipal office holders.  Universal adult suffrage is 
obligatory in national elections.  Political parties of varying 
ideologies operate freely and openly.  The Constitution 
provides that all adult citizens shall enjoy full participation 
in the political process.  In 1994 a Constituent Assembly, 
freely chosen by the electorate, revised and ratified changes 
to the Constitution of 1853 that permit the President to run 
for a second term.  The changes reduce the President's term 
from 6 to 4 years.  The new Constitution also provides for 
popular elections of the mayor of the Federal Capital District 
of Buenos Aires (previously appointed by the President), and 
mandates Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices by a 
two-thirds vote.

The Constitution stipulates that the internal regulations of 
political parties and party nominations for elections be 
subject to affirmative action requirements to assure that women 
are represented in elective office.  A 1993 decree required 
that a minimum of 30 percent of all candidates on political 
party lists be women.  Voters elected 20 new female members to 
the Chamber of Deputies in the October 1993 elections; 1 female 
deputy was reelected, and 7 served the balance of terms to 
which they were elected in 1991.  In 1994 women occupied 13 
percent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 4 percent 
of the Senate.  There were few ranking women officials in the 
executive branch; they are, however, assuming positions of 
greater authority in provincial and local governments.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights groups continue to be active, particularly 
in cases of judicial and police abuse of authority.  The 
Ministry of Interior's Secretariat for Human Rights works with 
the federal and state governments to promote greater respect 
for basic human rights among local authorities.  There are no 
restrictions on visits or activities by international 
humanitarian groups or organizations.

The Ministry of Interior created in 1994 an Institute Against 
Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism, located in Bariloche.  
Institute personnel will, among other things, have free access 
to files on persons or groups involved in crimes committed 
during the Second World War.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Sex, Race, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution and federal law guarantee equality for all 
citizens.  The 1988 Antidiscrimination Law establishes a series 
of penalties from 1 month to 3 years' imprisonment 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."  There is no evidence of any systematic 
effort by government or private groups to abridge these rights.

     Women

Provisions in the new Constitution have greatly enhanced 
women's participation in politics.  However, women encounter 
economic discrimination and sexual harassment, a situation 
which has become more serious with the entry of large numbers 
of women into the workplace in the last 10 years.  According to 
a government report, women occupy a disproportionately large 
number of lower paying jobs.  Within each job category, women 
are concentrated in the lower ranks and receive the lowest 
salaries.  Often they receive less pay for equal work done by 
men even though this is explicitly prohibited by law.  Female 
labor leaders pressured their male counterparts for affirmative 
action programs within the trade union movement to counteract 
this discrimination.  Women also make up a  disproportionately 
large share of the informal sector, which effectively denies 
them work-related economic and social benefits enjoyed by those 
in the formal sector.

The National Women's Council and the Presidential Women's 
Advisory Cabinet, created in 1992 and 1993 respectively, are 
currently working on a 3-year government action plan to promote 
equal opportunity and greater participation by women in 
society.  In November 1993, President Menem signed a decree 
against sexual harassment in the Federal Government.

Violence against women is a national problem; insensitivity 
among police and judges sometimes discourages women from 
reporting assaults, especially in domestic violence cases.  In 
response, the National Women's Council has been working with 
law enforcement authorities to include in their police training 
curriculum material on handling cases of violence against women.

     Children

The new Constitution incorporates the U.N. Convention on the 
Rights of the Child.  The Ministry of Interior's Human Rights 
Secretariat works with United Nations Children's Fund and other 
international agencies to promote children's rights and 
well-being.  After detecting several cases of trafficking in 
babies, the provincial authorities in Cordoba and Buenos Aires 
began programs to improve registration and identification of 
newborn infants.  The Chamber of Deputies approved a new 
adoption law which will greatly restrict adoption of children 
by those not resident in Argentina.  It offers more protection 
to the children and the biological parents.

Historically, Argentina has had numerous programs to provide 
public education, health protection, and recreational services 
for all children, regardless of class or economic status.  It 
recognizes there are problems of child abuse and prostitution, 
and that those affected tend to be younger than previously.  
The Government's National Council of the Child and the Family 
works with federal and local agencies to improve child 
protection programs.  Sixteen out of 24 provinces, as well as 
the Federal Government have adopted child protection laws, the 
most recent being the province of Buenos Aires which approved 
new legislation in 1994.

     Indigenous People

The revised Constitution provides the right of minorities to be 
represented in Government and incorporates international 
agreements intended to promote their economic, social, and 
cultural rights.  Estimates of the size of the indigenous 
population vary from 60,000 to 150,000, but the National 
Statistical Institute put the figure at below 100,000 as of 
1992.  Most live in the northern and northwestern provinces and 
in the far south.  Their standard of living is considerably 
below the average, and they have higher rates of illiteracy, 
chronic diseases, and unemployment.  Indigenous people and 
groups are sometimes involved in disputes over tribal lands 
which tend to be prolonged due to the inefficient court system.

     Religious Minorities

Two major events heightened the Jewish community's concerns 
about anti-Semitism in Argentina:  The terrorist bombing of the 
Argentine Jewish Mutual Association and the arrest and 
extradition proceedings against ex-Nazi official Erich 
Priebke.  Senior government officials, including the President, 
expressed solidarity with the Jewish community after the 
bombing and stated their commitment to find the perpetrators.  
Even before the bombing, anti-Semitic incidents (threats, 
assaults, graffiti) increased during the first 6 months of 
1994.  The Government actively investigates these crimes.

     People with Disabilities

Congress approved a law aimed at eliminating physical barriers 
to handicapped persons in 1994.  The law regulates standards 
regarding access to public buildings, parks, plazas, stairs and 
ramps, and pedestrian areas.  However, few buildings and public 
areas in Buenos Aires or other cities currently offer easy 
access to persons with disabilities.  Federal law also 
prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in 
employment.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

With the exception of military personnel, all workers are free 
to form unions.  Estimates regarding union membership vary 
widely.  Most union leaders believe it to be about 40 percent 
of the work force; government figures indicate union membership 
at 30 percent.

Unions have the right to strike and the law protects members 
who participate in strikes.  In 1994 major strikes occurred 
without government interference against the privatized Greater 
Buenos Aires Electric Power Utility and the aluminum smelting 
plant in the southern province of Chubut.  However, in response 
to a call for a general strike by trade union opponents of the 
Government's economic policies, the Government declared the 
strike illegal on the grounds that the constitutional right to 
strike is intended to protect workers' economic interests but 
not to be used as a political weapon.  However, the Government 
did nothing to interfere with the 1-day work stoppage.

Argentine unions are members of international labor 
associations and secretariats and participate actively in their 
programs.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law prohibits antiunion practices and the Government 
enforces it.  Argentine labor, the private sector, and the 
Government reaffirmed these rights in a framework agreement 
signed in July aimed at reforming labor-management relations in 
the context of economic restructuring and increasing global 
competitiveness.  The trend towards bargaining on a company 
level, in contrast to negotiating at the national level, on a 
sectoral basis continues, but the adjustment is not an easy one 
for either side.  For this reason, the agreement proposes to 
create a national mediation service to promote more effective 
collective bargaining.

The Committee of Experts (COE) on the Application of 
Conventions and Recommendations of the International Labor 
Organization (ILO) took note of a Teachers' Union complaint 
regarding restrictions on collective bargaining in certain 
specified sectors and asked the Government to inform the ILO of 
measures it may take or has taken to encourage voluntary 
negotiations without impediments.  Workers may not be fired for 
participating in legal union activities.  Those who prove they 
have been discriminated against have the right to be reinstated.

There are no officially designated export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor, and there were no reports that 
it was practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law prohibits employment of children under 14 years of age, 
except within the family.  Minors aged 14 to 18 may work in a 
limited number of job categories, but not more than 6 hours a 
day or 35 hours a week.  Notwithstanding these regulations, a 
Ministry of Labor report estimated that 200,000 children 
between 10 and 14 years of age are employed, primarily as 
street vendors or household workers.  Federal and provincial 
labor authorities were not well equipped to cope with this 
situation due to budgetary and personnel limitations.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The national monthly minimum wage is $200 but is insufficient 
to sustain an average family of four.

Federal labor law mandates acceptable working conditions in the 
areas of health, safety, and hours.  The maximum workday is 8 
hours and workweek 48 hours.  The framework agreement aims at 
producing legislation to modernize the accident compensation 
process and occupational health and safety norms.  In 
responding to a complaint from the Congress of Argentine 
Workers that work-related illnesses were not covered under the 
existing workers compensation system, the ILO's COE urged the 
Government to outline the measures it plans to take to fulfill 
its obligations under ILO Convention 42 on worker compensation 
(occupational diseases) which Argentina ratified in 1950.

Occupational health and safety standards are well developed, 
but federal and provincial governments lack sufficient 
resources to fully enforce them.  In spite of union vigilance, 
the most egregious cases of inhumane working conditions 
generally involve illegal immigrants who have little 
opportunity or knowledge to seek legal redress.  In October and 
November, authorities in Buenos Aires uncovered several 
"sweatshops" employing illegal immigrants working under 
deplorable conditions for minimal pay.  The Government closed 
one sweatshop immediately; the closure of the others awaited a 
court decision.

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]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1994 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.