Milagro Sala, leader of Tupac Amaru neighborhood association, has been imprisoned in Jujuy since last year

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is currently on a visit to Argentina where it is to investigate the detention of Milagro Sala in Jujuy. Sala, one of the leaders of Jujuy’s Túpac Amaru community organization, was initially detained on charges of “occupying public space, disorderly conduct and the obstruction of vehicle and pedestrian traffic” in relation to a sit in protest she held in front of the Provincial Office Building against Jujuy governor Gerardo Morales. She was later charged with fraud and alleged embezzlement while in preemptive custody. Last October the Working Group on Arbitrary (WGAD) declared Sala’s detention to be arbitrary and ordered the Argentine government to release her while her trial was underway to evaluate her involvement in alleged crimes. Both the provincial and federal government dismissed this demand, but invited the WGAD to the country to investigate.

The team arrived on Monday and will remain in Argentina until the 18th of May. They began in Buenos Aires capital and province, where they met Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and other officials. On Thursday the WGAD will travel to Jujuy to conduct interviews. Their first audience will be with the Governor of Jujuy, Gerardo Morales, the man many view as Sala’s political antagonist in the cases against her, followed by interviews with members of Jujuy’s Superior Court of Justice and the Public Prosecutor Sergio Lello Sánchez. Those interviewed will be expected to explain the reasoning for the detention and why they reject the notion of her preemptive custody as arbitrary on the grounds that her political power could unfairly influence the court’s finding.

The delegates working in Argentina are Latvian Elina Steinerte and Sètondji Roland Adjovi, from Benin. The OHCHR’s official website says that the team is to visit “a variety of places of deprivation of liberty, including prisons, health care institutions, and police stations, to meet with persons deprived of their liberty and to seek relevant information, for its assessment of the overall system”. This is the WGAD’s second time in Argentina, following up on the first visit in 2003.

After their visit to Jujuy, the WGAD is expected to continue to the province of Chubut, finally returning to Buenos Aires. The final day of the visit will involve a press conference held in Buenos Aires city on the 18th of May. The group’s final report on Argentina will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September of 2018.