Identifying Human Rights Violations in the Buenos Aires Province
On week three we worked with the reception team uploading interviews and habeas corpus to the CPM’s SISCOTT system. We read the interviews and identified the human rights violations that were brought up during the team’s visit with each prisoner. During this part of the internship, I discovered that many incidents that are common in prisons, including American ones, are human rights violations. For example, placing a prisoner in a unit that prevents them from having a relationship with their family and solitary confinement are common situations that violate the prisoner’s human rights.
One of the most common violations was lack of medical attention and medication on behalf of the health unit of the prisons. I was able to sit in on interviews with PICC on week four. Both women I interviewed had serious ongoing health issues. The interview process was an emotional experience because it was frustrating to hear that after multiple interventions on behalf of the CPM, the women were still struggling to receive the medical attention they needed. The lack of proper attention anguished both women; they both cried during the interview. This was difficult to watch because, while it’s common to villainize and dehumanize people in prison, hearing the women talk about their lack of medications and ability to get appointments and see their families humanizes them again. They claimed that the health unit used ibuprofen to solve everyone’s health issues, something we heard during our first prison visit to the university center at UP 1.
One of the women I interviewed had a terminal illness called Osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that was deteriorating her skull. She is awaiting her trial, which is programed for the year 2023. This means that she is in prison with a terminal illness without having a sentence. I admire the approach my supervisor, lawyer Augusto Infante, took during the interview because he managed to help the woman look for the good in her situation. He explained that his goal was to help her spend the time before her trial at home with her family. Because her illness is terminal, for Augusto and the CPM it is unjustified that this woman spend the last part of her life in prison, especially since she has neither been proven guilty nor given a sentence.
Something that shocked me both while sitting in on interviews and reading them was that most of the people imprisoned had not been tried and therefore had no sentence. In one case, two sisters were arrested at their aunt’s house because they were there when police ambushed the house. Because they were the only ones in the house at the time of the ambush, they were taken in as suspects of illicit drug trafficking even though they were not the people the police were after. The two sisters were placed in “preventative prison” with their children, one of them having gone into labor soon after being arrested, because the judge claimed they were a flight risk.
Many prisoners are in a similar situation; however most of the people who the justice system claims are at risk of fleeing if set free to await trial do not have the means to actually flee. Most people are working class citizens with little resources—fleeing is not an option for them. Preventative prison seems more like a tactic used by the SPB and justice system to keep people imprisoned. It is frustrating to hear that many people have been in prison for years not having had a trial.
These days that we have spent at the prisons and identifying human rights violations, I have gone home feeling fulfilled because I feel like I am doing something that is genuinely helping others. The work done by the teams at the CPM is helpful to many people and knowing that I am contributing to the effort (even if it is just a small amount in comparison to the work the team does as a whole) makes me feel grateful to be a part of such a great team of people.