Mariana Fontoura Marques, Director of International Justice and Policy, Amnesty International Argentina.

The Universal Periodic Review is a governing mechanism which examines the extent to which each one of the 193 UN Member States respect their human rights obligations. The reviews take place every 5 years and two weeks ago, it was Argentina’s turn. The Bubble spoke to Mariana Fontoura Marques, the director of International Justice and Policy for Amnesty International Argentina, about how the country did.

The Universal Periodic Review is conducted by 47 members of the council, using peer to peer review (it is unique in this sense, as it is the only body where states review each other). They use three resources to conduct the report: a national report, provided by the state in question, information from independent human rights experts, and information from other stakeholders, such as NGOs and national human rights institutions. An interactive discussion between the State under review, and other UN Member States then takes place over 3 hours.

So, how has Argentine fulfilled, neglected or developed its promises?

Five years since the last review, Mariana says, Argentina was heralded for having comprehensive human rights laws, and for ratifying important human rights treaties – such as the law to access information, and the plan to eradicate violence against women.

The focus in this review, just passed, was on implementation, and in Mariana’s words, Argentina was told: ‘it is good that you have made progress in some laws, but now you need to implement these laws, and you have to provide enough budget and resources for these laws to be implemented’. One promising development was the creation of a Human Rights National Plan, which was a huge debt in terms of human rights participation, but did not include social participation in its creation.

But there is still a long way to go. One aspect of the criticism against Argentina was that there are too many barriers to implementing the sanctioned laws. For instance, with regard to Argentina’s promise to receive 3,000 Syrian refugees, details of the resettlement programme remain unspecified after a year, and despite Argentina’s establishment of a national commission for refugees 11 years ago, the law still hasn’t been regulated and this commission still lacks its own budget. Further, like many other Latin American countries, Argentina has high levels of bureaucracy, which slows down the process to update laws.   

Mariana told us that, for instance, Argentina recently renewed a law stating that indigenous people could not be removed from their territory without the government having registered the plan and knowing or mapping all the communities that exist. The legislation, however, is not being implemented as it should, and it is still not enough to guarantee the rights of indigenous people, Fontoura Márques says. For instance,  the law does not guarantee indigenous people the title to their territories.

When asked about what the review revealed about the state of women’s rights, Mariana said that ‘women’s human rights in Argentina are not the country’s best strength’. There are a lot of issues that have persisted through time, she says: ‘a huge area, for example, that we have been working on a lot – and are still currently working on – is the sexual and reproductive rights of women. This is a massive area of concern in Argentina, she says, because ‘it is true that we have legally protected the access to safe and legal abortion in certain cases [when a woman is impregnated as a result of rape, or when the pregnancy represents a health risk] for example, but in practice these are not guaranteed’.

With protest groups such as Ni Una Menos growing faster than ever, the government needs to support the work done by feminist organisations by consistently implementing existing laws for the protection of women, their right to be protected against violence, and the right to have their reproductive and sexual rights ensured.

To hear that the majority of the ‘most important recommendations that Argentina received are still on the same topics that it received 5 years ago’ is sobering news for Argentine Human Rights, and exposes the extent to which the current government needs to work to ensure the basic human rights of some of their citizens. In Mariana’s words, ‘we want to see that some progress is made, because it is due time.’

This article was co-written by Phoebe Thomson and Baya Simons.