Activist Santiago Maldonado - allegedly a victim of enforced disappearance

Peaceful Assembly

On 1st August 2017, security officers (Gendarmería Nacional Argentina) broke up a Mapuche indigenous community protest in the province of Chubut, Argentina. It was reported that the officers started shooting rubber bullets and community members started running towards the river. Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old activist who was visiting the community to support their land rights actions, was reportedly the victim of enforced disappearance. Community members claim they saw the police force a person into a van and others claim they saw a man “being beaten and bundled into a white pickup truck belonging to the Gendarmería in the context of a police operation reportedly carried out at Vuelta del Río Pu-Lof, a Mapuche community”. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had granted protection measures for Santiago Maldonado.

Following the incident, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances sent a communication to the government urging them to take all necessary measures to search and locate Maldonado as well as encourage the security officers to refrain from taking part in the investigation. In addition, Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal to request the government to “adopt all the necessary measures to find Santiago Maldonado”.

The government, however, claims that “there was no record of Maldonado being detained”.

One month after Santiago’s disappearance, on 1st September 2017 thousands of citizens gathered at Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires, demanding that the government find Maldonado alive. The demonstration ended with around 30 people arrested, including three journalists covering the protest and 23 others were wounded.

On 11th September 2017, during a session of the UN in Geneva, local Argentine organisation CELS reported that the government has “for 35 days denied the participation of Gendarmeria, created false accounts and mistreat family members” instead of adopting all necessary measures to search and find him”. Human Rights Watch also reiterated that:

“When someone goes missing, no matter under which circumstances, time is of the essence. This is all the more important when the person may have been forcibly disappeared by security forces. The Argentine government should prioritize efforts to ensure the investigation is effective and capable of determining what happened to Maldonado and his whereabouts in the shortest period of time”.

Expression

According to a report by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), on 26th July 2017 radio journalist Jesús Báez do Nacimento was shot four times by two men on a motorcycle. The journalist operates a radio station near the border with Brazil, in the province of Misiones. The journalist was taken to the hospital and is currently in a stable condition.

Andres D'Alessandro, the executive director of Asociación de Entidades Periodísticas Argentinas (Adepa) (Association of Argentine Press Companies), declared that the attack agains Báez do Nacimento is considered "one of the most serious attacks against freedom of expression and a journalist's life in the last 15 years".