Excessive force used during protests against pension reforms later passed by Congress

Peaceful Assembly

As previously reported on the Monitor, in December 2017 protests over proposed pension reforms rocked the capital, Buenos Aires. Clashes between police and protesters erupted outside government buildings. A week later on 18th December, while government officials debated the pension reforms again, thousands took to the streets in protest against the changes. Police responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators who threw stones and burned barricades. Reports indicated that at least 60 people were arrested and hundreds injured. Despite the violent protests and public outrage, the government passed the controversial pension reform on 19th December. 

The Argentina-based organisation Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Centre for Legal and Societal Studies) issued a statement with concerns over the violence, stating that:

"The increase in the number of injured and the severity of several of the cases set off the alarms about how force is being used to respond to the protests, with interventions that threaten the physical integrity of and put protesters at risk. The absence of protection and the repeated repression of public mobilisations are worrisome messages that seek to limit the exercise of a fundamental right". (Translated from Spanish) 

In January 2018, the Centre also reported at least seven protesters remained in detention - a month after the protests were quelled. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found that during the protests "at least 26 journalists and media workers were reportedly attacked by police forces while they were covering the demonstrations on both days". In addition, the IACHR reminded the Argentine government that:

"[I]n democracies, States should act based on the legality of protests or public demonstrations and under the assumption that they do not constitute a threat to public order".


On 23rd January 2018, the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearances (CED) closed its Urgent Action initiative on the disappearance of activist Santiago Maldonado in Argentina. On 7th August 2017, the Committee had requested the government of Argentina to search for Maldonado who had, according to information received by CED, disappeared during or after clashes between security forces and demonstrators in the Chubut province, which was previously reported on the Monitor. 

The CED closed the case after Maldonado's body was found and identified with drowning as the alleged cause of death. However, the CED has called for an independent and thorough investigation into Maldonado's disappearance and death. Maldonado鈥檚 family and civil society organisations have also called for justice to be served. Taty Almeida, a member of Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), informed the media that neither the family nor human rights organisations monitoring the case will accept drowning as the cause of death without further investigation.