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IACHR Urges the State of Argentina to respond to the Case of Milagro Sala

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the State of Argentina to give prompt attention to the decision issued by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (Working Group) that establishes the preventive detention of Milagro Sala as arbitrary, calling for her immediate release.

The UN Working Group, in its opinion 31/2016 published on October 21, determined that the preventive detention of Milagro Sala as from January 16 was arbitrary in violation of the standards of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Argentina is a Party.

Milagro Sala is a well-known civil society leader in Jujuy who was detained in the context of a social protest. The Commission and its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression have consistently maintained that protest is a legitimate exercise of freedom of expression that should be facilitated, not subject to criminal or other undue measures of repression. Although a court order mandated Milagro Salas' freedom, she was not set free due to accusations issued through judicial decisions under the jurisdiction of the province of Jujuy.

The President of the MERCOSUR Parliament has denounced Milagro Salas' detention as obstructing her possibility to carry out her function as parliamentarian, for which she was elected in December of 2015. A number of civil society organizations have come forward to denounce her ongoing detention as politically motivated. Most recently, on November 28, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro called upon the State to take action to release her.

The IACHR has closely followed this situation in the framework of a request for precautionary measures. The Commission has requested and received information from the parties on multiple occasions. Civil society has expressed its concern with this case, and Argentinian authorities have reaffirmed their historic commitment to the Inter-American System on Human Rights and invited the IACHR to visit Jujuy in order to collect information and interview Milagro Sala.

In its Report on the Use of Pretrial Detention in the Americas, the IACHR has reiterated that the presumption of innocence is the basis for the general rule that "all persons indicted in criminal proceedings must be tried at liberty." Pretrial detention must be exceptional, can only extend for a reasonable period and must not be used as a punitive measure.

Considering the mandate and decision of the Working Group, and the requirement that States act to ensure that recommendations of international human rights protection mechanisms are put in practice, the IACHR voices its concern with respect to the prolonged pretrial detention of Milagro Sala, and calls upon the Argentinian State and the province of Jujuy in particular to take prompt action to respond to the recommendations issued by the Working Group.

[Source: IACHR, Press Release 182/16, Panama, 02Dec16]

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