The US State Department was particularly critical of Argentina in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2020 released Tuesday.
The document, which was presented by Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the White House, mentioned weak institutions and an often ineffective and politicized judicial system and questioned the lack of effective implementation of laws to prevent and punish acts of corruption.
A judiciary branch subservient to political interests was also singled out as a cause for the country's systematic failure to curb this problem that has plagued the country for decades, but reckoned all three branches of government participated in corrupt practices with impunity suggesting a lack of effective implementation of the law.
According to local NGOs, the judges of some federal criminal and ordinary courts were sometimes subjected to political manipulation.”
The report also cites investigations against political figures such as current Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and former President Mauricio Macri.
The document pays special attention to what became known as the case of the notebooks in which former President CFK and 52 other people including her children “were accused of receiving bribes, paying bribes or both in public works contracts between 2008 and 2015.
Macri was under investigation for alleged illegal espionage during his administration.
Playing a leading role in this report was former Planning Minister Julio De Vido, who was sentenced to five years and eight months [in jail] for fraud, misuse of funds and lack of supervision related to a train accident in 2012 that killed 52 people.
The first such report produced under the presidency of Joseph Biden also highlighted extortion and the protection of those involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering and the promotion of prostitution as well as in provincial and federal courts.”
Focused on human rights issues, the document spoke of several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or illegal homicides. And prison overcrowding remains a problem.
”Prison conditions were often harsh due to overcrowding, poor medical care and unsanitary conditions.
“The Committee against Torture of the Provincial Commission for the Memory of the City of Buenos Aires reported 134 deaths in 2019 due to the use of unjustified or excessive force by the police in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires. A national non-governmental organization (NGO) reported that there were 401 deaths in 2019 at the hands of police forces. Both organizations affirmed that investigations into police violence and the use of lethal force in the province were limited, ”the State Department's briefing went on.
International Transparency also drew the spotlight onto the so-called VIP vaccination scandal, an alleged scheme whereby government officials and its allies were granted priority access to the coronavirus immunizers in lieu of people who actually required it.
The report also stated that there were reports of disappearances by the security forces or on their behalf during the year and among the cases it mentions that of Facundo Astudillo Castro, who ”disappeared on April 30 while hitchhiking approximately 120 kilometers from his home to Bahía Blanca, shortly after the police arrested him for violating the COVID-19 quarantine.″
The document also cited the Penitentiary Ombudsman's Office (PPN), an independent government body that monitors prison conditions, which reported 427 cases of torture or mistreatment in 2019. As of June, it had registered 87 cases, while Impunity continued to be a major problem in the security forces at all levels.
On the other hand, the document stated that the government “in general observed” the requirements that prohibit arbitrary arrests and detentions and stated that “the police generally detained people openly with court orders based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official.”
Furthermore, it noted that “the law establishes an independent judiciary, but government officials at all levels did not always respect judicial independence and impartiality.
The report was particularly harsh on the judiciary, citing long delays, procedural backlogs, long gaps in the appointment of permanent judges, inadequate administrative support and general inefficiency hampered the judicial system.
”The wide discretion of the judges (...) to the public perception that many decisions were arbitrary,” it went on.
On a brighter note, the report also highlighted that there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees and the the government respected internet freedom, freedom of assembly and peaceful associations while large-scale anti-government protests in Buenos Aires and throughout the country ... took place without incidents.
Regarding freedom of the press, the document acknowledged that the independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, but there were reports of physical attacks, threats and harassment against journalists.