The United Nation’s work group on arbitrary detention reiterated yesterday that it qualifies the detention of Tupac Amarú community organization leader, Milagro Sala, as illegal and reiterated the organization’s call for her release.

After a 10-day-long visit to Argentina where they visited numerous prisons and police stations throughout the country — the “Alto Comedero” facility, where Sala has been held for over a year now, included — the group presented its conclusions to the press in a preliminary report. Even though it didn’t include a specific mention to Sala’s case, the group’s leaders referred back to a report issued in October — when they called her detention “illegal” — and said that their “observation persists.” That report will now be sent to the UN’s Human Rights Council.

“We trust and do not doubt the Argentine government’s will to listen to our recommendation, since it was the government who invited us to this visit,” said work group head Roland Adjovi.

“We didn’t come to follow up on any particular case nor verify any previous opinion we might have had. We visited Milagro Sala, among several other people who are detained,” added group member Elina Steinerte. Regarding the other reasons for their visit, the group also questioned the frequent use of the preemptive detention in criminal procedures, the “discriminatory” character of the criminal system, the “broad” faculties the police has to detain people and the detention of people under the age of 16.

The group made special emphasis on their disapproval of the decree that allows the government to arrest and expel immigrants who commit or have committed crimes in the country. “The detention of immigrants must be exceptional and can only be justified if it pursues a legitimate end,” Adjovi said.

Photo via Telam
Adjovi and Steinerte. Photo via Telam

According to Infobae, government representatives told the working group members that the decree is only applied to detain immigrants who have committed crimes in the country and to those who want to get in but have a criminal record.

On January 16th 2016, Jujuy police arrested controversial leader Milagro Sala for “instigating criminal activity and disorder” after setting up camp in front of the province’s government building demanding that the new government — led by Governor Gerardo Morales, a long-standing political enemy of Sala’s — continue providing funds to her organization, Tupac Amaru.

Although she was cleared of the initial charges a few days after the events took place, Sala has remained in custody. Further accusations — of fraud and extortion — were brought against her while she was in prison due to the original charges.

Basically, she has been accused of using the money that the State allocated to her organization to run a politicalized patronage system (providing goods and services to “constituents” but with the condition of receiving guaranteed political loyalty in return) in the province

At the end of last year, several human rights organizations — the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention among them — spoke up to claim that Sala’s detention was “explicitly arbitrary” and requested that she be freed. Both the Jujuy justice system and the Federal Government’s Human Rights Secretariat have denied these accusations and refuse to do so.

At the end of last year, Sala was tried in two cases in which she had been indicted. She was sentenced to a three year suspended prison sentence after the court found her guilty of instigating a violent protest against the now Provincial Governor Gerardo Morales in 2009, which the court found as the cause behind considerable damage.

A few days after, another judge ruled to issue a AR $3,700 fine for the camp and, more significantly, to prevent her from being part of any social, cultural or athletic association that needs Government authorization — i.e. Tupac Amaru — for three years. However, she is still in prison while the case for she was placed in custody over continues its course — even though she hasn’t actually been formally charged yet.