Human rights problems in Argentina include police abuse, poor prison conditions, and endemic violence against women. A longstanding economic crisis has particularly impacted people living in poverty.
President Alberto Fernández, Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and members of the cabinet used hostile rhetoric against the judiciary, the Attorney General’s Office, and the independent press.
A political crisis fueled by economic problems and polarization has created a challenging environment for human rights progress. An investigation into a man’s attempt, in September 2022, to kill Fernández de Kirchner by triggering his gun twice near the vice president’s head, was ongoing at time of writing.
Judicial and Prosecutorial Independence
High-level authorities have used hostile rhetoric against judges and prosecutors who rule against the government or investigate the vice president’s alleged involvement in corruption.
In December 2022, a tribunal sentenced Fernández de Kirchner to six years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office due to her alleged involved in the crime of “committing fraud in public office” in connection with infraestructure projects carried out during her presidency. The ruling had not been published as of writing. The Vice President denied the allegations, accused the prosecutor of conducting an abusive and politically-motivated investigation, and said that the judges were part of a "mafia" that sought to keep her out of public office. Fernández de Kirchner is expected to appeal the decision, suspending its effects. Her position as Vice President grants her immunity from arrest.
The Fernández administration and its allies introduced several judicial reforms that could undermine the independence of courts and prosecutors. In September, pro-administration and other legislators passed a bill in the Senate expanding the Supreme Court from 5 to 15 justices, a move that prior administrations have used to pack the court. The bill had not been discussed in the House of Representatives at time of writing.
An interim attorney general has served since 2018, as the Senate cannot muster the two-thirds majority required to appoint an attorney general. In 2020, the Senate passed an administration-promoted bill to reduce the required majority, but the House had not discussed it at time of writing.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that delays in appointments, which leave temporary judges serving for years, undermine judicial independence. As of September 2022, 257 federal and national judgeships remained vacant.
In April, the Council of the Judiciary, which selects candidates for federal and national courts, changed structure, following a 2021 Supreme Court ruling: The Supreme Court president joined and presides; representatives of Congress, the Bar Association, academia, and the national judges were added. The Fernández administration criticized the structure and urged Congress to pass an administration-promoted bill changing it. The bill was approved by the Senate in April but, as of October, it had not been discussed by the House of Representatives.
A longstanding economic crisis, which deepened during the Covid-19 pandemic, has disproportionately impacted low-income people and severely limited people’s ability to realize their economic rights.
The government reported that 36.5 percent of the population lived in poverty as of June 2022, a 0.8 percent reduction from December 2021. People living in extreme poverty—i.e., unable to afford their most basic food needs—amounted to 8.8 percent of the population, a 0.6 percent increase from December 2021. Children were particularly affected: More than half of children under 14 were living in poverty and more than one in ten in extreme poverty. The central bank projected that inflation could exceed 100 percent in 2022, making it even harder for people to afford to realize their essential needs.
Freedom of Expression
High-level authorities, including President Fernández, have used hostile rhetoric against independent journalists and media.
In November 2021, a group of people threw explosives into the Buenos Aires headquarters of the Clarín Group—Argentina’s largest media conglomerate. Nobody has been held to account for this crime.
A federal court continued investigating a former director and deputy director of Argentina’s Federal Intelligence Agency on conspiracy charges for the illegal surveillance of journalists, union members, and politicians under former President Mauricio Macri.
Some provinces and municipalities lack freedom of information laws, undermining transparency.
Prison Conditions and Abuses by Security Forces
The National Penitentiary Office reported 233 cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment in federal prisons in 2021; and 117 from January through June 2022. The Attorney General’s Office reported 43 detainee deaths in federal prisons in 2021, including 9 violent deaths and 9 from Covid-19.
Almost half of the 11,280 federal prison detainees are awaiting trial, the government reports.
Security forces occasionally participate in abuses and employ excessive force. In June, a woman died in a police station in Laprida, Buenos Aires province. Five police officers were arrested for allegedly killing her and portraying her death as a suicide.
Confronting Past Abuses
The Supreme Court and federal judges, in the early 2000s, annulled pardons and amnesty laws shielding officials implicated in the 1976-1983 dictatorship’s crimes. As of September 2022, the Attorney General’s Office reported 3,631 people charged, 1,088 convicted, and 165 acquitted of crimes against humanity.
As of September, 130 people illegally taken from their parents as children during the dictatorship had been identified and many had been reunited with their families, according to the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group.
The large number of victims, suspects, and cases makes it difficult for prosecutors and judges to bring those responsible to justice while respecting their due process rights.
Impunity for the AMIA Bombing
Twenty-eight years after 85 people died and more than 300 were injured in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center, court battles continue. Nobody has been convicted.
In February 2019, a court convicted a former intelligence chief and a judge of interference in the initial investigation but acquitted former President Carlos Menem. An appeal of the judge’s conviction remained pending as of October 2022.
In 2015, prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who had accused then-President Fernández de Kirchner of covering up Iran’s role in the attack, was found dead. In 2018, a court of appeal said that he appeared to have been murdered. As of writing, nobody has been convicted in connection with his death.
A federal court, in 2021, dismissed Nisman’s accusation against Fernández de Kirchner, saying her actions did not constitute a crime.
In August 2022, President Fernández said Nisman had committed suicide and that he hoped that a prosecutor who charged Vice President Fernández de Kirchner with corruption would not do the same.
The Ombudsperson’s Office
The Ombudsperson’s Office, which is structurally independent from and can investigate the executive for human rights violations, remains vacant. Congress has failed to appoint an ombudsperson since 2009. The office’s ability to protect rights has been hamstrung since 2013, when a deputy ombudsperson’s term ended.
Women’s and Girls’ Rights
A landmark 2020 law legalized abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy, and longer in cases of rape or risk to the life or health of the pregnant person.
Authorities reported over 64,000 legal abortions during 2021. Obstacles to accessing legal abortion reportedly included lack of access to information about the law, lack of technical training, and undue delays.
Women with disabilities who have been declared legally incompetent or who are under court orders restricting their capacity to exercise their reproductive rights must have assistance from a legal representative or relative in consenting to abortions. This impedes their exercise of the right.
In August, a court released a woman who had been detained since November 2021, in Corrientes province, accused of aggravated homicide, after an obstetric emergency.
Despite a 2009 law detailing comprehensive measures to prevent and prosecute violence against women, their unpunished killing remains a serious concern. The National Registry of Femicides reported 231 femicides—the murder of women based on their gender—and only six convictions in 2021.
In an important step in 2021, Argentina became one of the first ten countries to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention 190, which establishes state obligations to protect women from violence and harassment in the workforce.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
In September, Argentina reached a friendly settlement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the 2011 violent killing of a navy officer, Octavio Romero, that was not properly investigated and in which sexual orientation could have been a motivating factor. Argentina recognized its responsibility for the lack of an effective investigation and committed to undertake public policies that promote the prevention, punishment, and eradication of gender-based violence, broadly defined. This sets an important precedent for Latin America, where authorities often fail to carry out effective investigations into crimes perpetrated against LGBT people.
Children’s Right to Education
Educ.ar, a website built and offered by Argentina’s National Ministry of Education for children’s education during the pandemic, collected and transmitted children’s personal data to advertising technology companies, enabling these companies to track and target children across the internet for advertising purposes.
Indigenous people face obstacles to accessing justice, land, education, health care, and basic services.
The Argentine Constitution protects Indigenous communal ownership of traditional lands. In 2020, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Argentina to adopt legislative measures to guarantee those rights. Yet debates on a law to concretize protections are continually postponed.
Key International Actors and Foreign Policy
In 2022, Argentina assumed the presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It supported the council’s scrutiny of rights violations in Afghanistan, Belarus, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Russia, and Ukraine. However, Argentina abstained from voting resolutions extending the mandate of a group of UN experts investigating systematic rights violations in Venezuela and proposing a debate on the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.
Argentina assumed the 2022 presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which serves as a space for regional integration and cooperation with other countries, such as China and India. In a CELAC meeting in August, President Fernández said that the CELAC should replace the Organization of American States (OAS) which, in his view, “no longer represents” Latin America and the Caribbean.
Argentina voted in favor of resolutions passed by the OAS in 2022 condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, suspending Russia’s OAS permanent-observer status, and urging the Nicaraguan government to release political prisoners.
In October, a federal court in Argentina opened a criminal investigation into Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario María Murillo for alleged crimes against humanity. The court applied the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows authorities to prosecute certain grave crimes, regardless of where they occur and the nationality of victims and perpetrators.