Case ARG 170407
Excessive use of force against protesters
The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requires your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Argentina.
Brief description of the situation
The International Secretariat of the OMCT is gravely concerned with the information received from a reliable source of the murder of Mr. Carlos Fuentealba, Chemistry professor. The crime was allegedly committed by a police officer during a public protest carried out by teachers in the city of Neuquén. The teachers have now been on strike for several weeks (see background information ahead).
Mr. Carlos Fuentealba was a 40-year-old Chemistry professor as well as a delegate of the 69° CPEM association. According to the information received, Mr. Carlos Fuentealba died after having been shot on the back of the head by a tear gas bomb on the morning of 4 April 2007. The bomb was allegedly fired against him by police officer Darío Poblete who was only a few meters away from the victim. At the time, Mr. Carlos Fuentealba was sitting in the back of a Fiat 147 which was being driven away from the place were the protest was being held.
According to the same information, First Corporal Darío Poblete, member of the special forces of the Zapala police, was arrested hours later around 1:00 am. His arrest was ordered by Public Prosecutor Sandra González Tabeda in response to the testimonies of several witnesses, video recordings of the incident and police reports. On 5 April 2007, around 5:00pm, Judge Piana informed Corporal Darío Poblete that he had been formally charged with homicide (homicidio simple).
Reports state that officer Darío Poblete had been convicted twice in the past. On the first occasion he was charged with unlawful coercion in 1997. The second time he was sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified for four years for threats to his wife. Nevertheless, he appealed the court’s decision and was allowed to continue working.
The International Secretariat of the OMCT strongly condemns these recent violations and urges the Argentinean government to guarantee that an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into these events be undertaken. This investigation is imperative in order to prevent the perpetrators of these crimes from remaining unpunished, and to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law.
According to the information received, the protests demanding a pay rise had been carried out for over a month by teachers and professors in 17 of the 23 provinces of Argentina.
President Kirchner (himself from Santa Cruz) reportedly discredited the strike on March this year. He also chose to avoid the subject of a car and two of the teacher’s union’s offices in Santa Cruz which were recently bombed using Molotov cocktails. Furthermore, the unions have reported Governor Nequén’s repressive attitude towards them. They have also requested that he assume responsibility for and order a thorough investigation into the recent events in his province, especially the death of professor Fuentealba.
Please write to the Argentinean authorities urging them to:
- Immediately take all necessary measures to grant the physical and psychological safety and integrity of all teachers who took part in the protest described above, as well as of their family members, and of all professors in the Argentinean provinces on strike;
- Order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation by civil authorities into these serious violations, particularly into the death of professor Carlos Fuentealba, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
- Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights norms, in particular the Convention against Torture which Argentina has ratified.
- Sr. Embajador Alberto J. Dumont, Permanent Mission of Argentina in Geneva, Route de l’Aéroport 10, Case postale 536, 1215 Geneva 15, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 798 59 95 / +4122.798.19 92 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Sr. Jorge Remes-Lenikov, Ambassador of Argentina in Brussels, Louisalaan 225, bus 3, 1050 Brussels. Tél.: + 32(0)2/647.78.12, +32(0)2/647.90.02 Fax: +32(0)2/647.93.19
- Sr. Néstor Carlos Kirchner, President of the Republic of Argentina, Casa Rosada, 24 Balcarce, Buenos Aires, Argentina, AAB1064, Fax: + 5411.434.43800 Fax : +54 114.344.38.45 / + 544.344.38.47
- Dr. Anibal Fernández, Minister of Interior, FAX: +54 114.339.08.00
- Dr. Alberto Iribarne, Minister of Justice and Human Rights, FAX: +54 114.328.61.48
Please also write to the Argentinean diplomatic missions in your country.
Geneva, 17 April 2007
Please inform us of any action undertaken quoting this appeal’s number.