Argentina: Organisations reject constitutional reform in Jujuy and call for the cessation of repression

Briseida Aragón Juárez

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Argentina, the Legal Action Committee (CAJ), the Legal and Social Studies Centre (CELS) and the American Human Rights League (LADH) denounce the repression of the social protest demands of the affected indigenous communities, who are affected by the constitutional reform, which threatens their internationally recognised rights.

Paris, Buenos Aires, 6 July 2023. In the province of Jujuy, in the north of Argentina, a significant number of protests have been made against the adoption of a partial reform of the provincial constitution. The reform includes restrictions on the right to protest, such as a ban on blocking roads and highways, which represents a backward movement in recognising the rights of the indigenous populations and in the protection of natural resources. On 17 June 2023, the day of adoption of the reform, the improper use of force left 40 people arrested, all now released, and 25 people seriously injured, all of them from indigenous populations. Witness statements told of the use of weapons with rubber bullets, tear gases, unidentified vans, police disguised as civilians or with their faces covered who arrested demonstrators and raided houses without warrants.

The organisations report that the process did not comply with the obligatory requirements for effecting a constitutional reform. The 90 obligatory days for debate of the text were not observed but the decision was made in only three weeks, without giving the indigenous populations the possibility of exercising their right to prior, free and informed consultation. Nor was the possibility offered of other civil society actors participating. The constitutional text was only made public when it was adopted, on 17 June 2023.

A reform that gives rise to intensification of exploitation despite the rights of indigenous populations

Similarly, with the reform, the opportunity to amend the text in force since 1986 was lost, ignoring the international and national standards on recognition of the identity and self-determination of indigenous populations and the intrinsic relationship that they have with the territory, and this represents a significant step backwards in respect of the rights recognised to these communities.

It is a cause for concern that, in a province that is particularly rich in minerals such as lithium, the reform places the focus on the extraction of those critical resources, promoting increased exploitation and production, without taking into account the ecological, social and cultural parameters of these territories and the ancestral rights of the indigenous communities over them.

The organisations reject the articles relating to restriction of the right of demonstration and freedom of assembly, since, in this way, criminalisation of the right to protest is entered into the constitutional and this is contrary to the national Constitution of Argentina and the international human rights standards.

The organisations specifically urge the provincial government to guarantee the right to prior, free and informed consultation of the affected communities. They also require that the civil and political rights of all inhabitants, the rights of the indigenous populations and of the environment be respected and guaranteed.

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