Milagro Sala got another ally in her struggle for freedom. Photo via formosa24.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (OHCHR) demanded President Mauricio Macri immediately release Milagro Sala, the Tupac Amaru leader whose imprisonment since January 16th has generated international outcry over what many consider to be her illicit detainment.

According to press reports, the OHCHR gave Macri the choice to either free Sala or justify her continued imprisonment in writing. By doing the latter, the OHCHR could pursue an international case on the issue.

Macri hasn’t responded to the request, but Justice Minister Germán Garavano stated: There shouldn’t be any interference with the judicial process, which is something the previous administration did relentlessly. We like the decisions made or we don’t.”

He added that Jujuy Province, where Sala is being held and investigated, “is an autonomous jurisdiction.” In other words: UN, butt out.

Various human rights organizations have demanded Sala’s release, notably, Amnesty International, who wrote an Op-ed here, and the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), which appealed to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) to get an injunction to “guarantee Milagro Sala’s freedom, the exercise of freedom of speech and the right for social protests in Jujuy.”

“The national government must now respond to the OHCHR for this arbitrary arrest,” declared CELS in a statement.

Protesters demanding Sala’s release. Photo via paginacentral.

Here’s a recap on the Sala controversy:

Milagro Sala is the leader of Tupac Amaru, an organization based in Jujuy Province that provides employment and endeavors to improve the living conditions of people in Jujuy, many of whom are of indigenous descent. She was arrested on January 16th on charges of “instigating criminal activity and disorder” after starting an encampment in the capital of Jujuy to demand that the new government continue providing funds to her organization.

Although she was ultimately cleared of those charges, Judge Gastón Mercau ordered for her continued arrest while new charges of fraud, extortion and illicit association are investigated. 

Sala’s embezzlement charges put a spotlight on why she is considered such a controversial figure in the province: a number of people have accused her of using money the state allocates her organization to run a political patronage system (basically, providing goods and services to “constituents” but only in return of unquestioned political loyalty) in the province or having ties to drug-trafficking organizations.

Multiple protests have taken place ever since, the most important of which was the “National Day for the Liberation of Milagro Sala” on February 17th which saw protestors create road blocks throughout the country.

For more on Milagro Sala and her controversial arrest, check out this explainer.