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Cablegate: Argentina: 2008 Tip Interim Assessment

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1592/01 3281721
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231721Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2519
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001592

SIPDIS

WHA/PPC FOR SCOTT MILLER
G/TIP BARBARA FLECK

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KTIP KCRM KWMN PGOV PHUM PREL SMIG AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: 2008 TIP INTERIM ASSESSMENT

REF: STATE 111306

1. Per Reftel instructions, below is post,s interim
assessment of Argentina,s progress in its efforts to combat
trafficking in persons (TIP). Our response is keyed to
points found in reftel.
A) IMPLEMENTING THE RECENTLY ENACTED FEDERAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING
LAW, INCLUDING ISSUANCE OF REGULATIONS OR OTHER MEASURES TO
BRING THE NEW LAW FULLY INTO FORCE
Argentina has demonstrated progress in implementing the
recently enacted federal anti-trafficking law. Since the law
came into force on April 30, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ)
has directed each of the four internal security agencies, the
Federal Police, Gendarmeria (Border Patrol), Prefectura
(Coast Guard), and the Airport Security Police to create a
new anti-TIP investigations unit. Justice Minister Anibal
Fernandez has also appointed his Chief of Cabinet, Dr.
Silvina Zabala, to oversee the MOJ's First Responder Office
for the Rescue and Immediate Assistance of Trafficking
Victims which coordinates investigations and provides initial
assistance to trafficking victims. According to Dr. Zabala,
there is no need to issue implementing regulations, as the
law is already in force.

B) INCREASING LAW ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS TO INVESTIGATE,
PROSECUTE, CONVICT, AND SENTENCE TRAFFICKING OFFENDERS,
INCLUDING CRIMINAL CASES AGAINST ALLEGEDLY COMPLICIT PUBLIC
OFFICIALS
According to MOJ statistics provided to the Ambassador on
November 14, internal security agencies under MOJ authority
have conducted 118 raids, arrested 120 people suspected of
human trafficking, and rescued 133 victims during the period
of April 29 to November 13. The victims included 51 minors,
68 adults, and 14 victims whose age could not be determined.
Dr. Zabala told poloff in a November 5 meeting that since her
office began operations on August 6, 85 people had been
arrested in connection with human trafficking, but only 33
remain in detention. She noted that her office has had
difficulties with some federal judges who have not granted
extensions to law enforcement authorities to give them more
time to obtain testimony from potential trafficking victims.
(Note: According to Argentina's Criminal Procedural Code,
law enforcement officials may detain people for a maximum of
10 hours. In addition, law enforcement officials can only
interrogate witnesses at the crime scene. After that, judges
with jurisdiction over the case are in charge of summoning
witnesses for questioning.) In one case, a federal judge not
only ordered the release of suspects, but also instructed
potential trafficking victims to return to their captors, she
claimed. This demonstrates the need for advanced anti-TIP
training for judges, she said. She pointed out, however,
that the Ministry of Justice does not have control over the
judiciary branch. Minister Fernandez reiterated the point in
a November 14 meeting with Ambassador Wayne, when he noted
that the actions of prosecutors were not under his authority.

Although Argentina has not prosecuted, convicted, or
sentenced trafficking offenders under the new TIP law, it is
important to note that Argentina's judicial system is
extremely overburdened, and members of the Supreme Court as
well as NGOs deem the system's administrative and budgetary
support as inadequate. As a result, suspects are often held
in pre-trial detention for an average length of three years
before their case is tried. At present, Argentina's judicial
system is modeled after Europe's inquisitorial system.
Although the 1994 constitution provides for transition to an
accusatory system, implementing legislation has not been
passed. The province of Cordoba transitioned to an
accusatory system over 50 years ago and the province of
Buenos Aires made the transition 10 years ago. Both
provinces have judicial police in charge of investigations
and answer to their respective provincial Attorney General.

At the federal level, investigative judges have been
reluctant to give up their investigative authority. As a
result, many features of the inquisitorial system remain. The
GOA's goal is to implement the system at the federal level,
which would transfer investigative responsibilities from
federal judges to the prosecutors and help improve due
process. In addition, there are efforts to improve judicial
efficiency and improve case management, but the system needs
a significant increase in the number of judges and
prosecutors in order to make a real dent in the caseload.
Trials for trafficking in persons cases are subject to these
constraints.

C) IMPROVING EFFORTS TO GATHER LAW ENFORCEMENT DATA ON
TRAFFICKING CASES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY
As reported above, the MOJ's anti-TIP unit is now collecting
law enforcement data on trafficking cases throughout the
country. Their Criminal Intelligence Unit intends to use
this information to create a crime map to better assist in
law enforcement efforts to crack down on human trafficking
rings.
D) DEDICATING MORE GOVERNMENT RESOURCES FOR THE PROTECTION OF
TRAFFICKING VICTIMS, PARTICULARLY SHELTER SERVICES
The MOJ continues to provide financial assistance to the
Maria de los Angeles Foundation, which has opened a shelter
in Tucuman province which provides comprehensive legal,
medical, and psychological assistance to trafficking victims.
This is the only shelter in Argentina dedicated to TIP
victims.

According to Dr. Zabala, the MOJ's First Responder Office for
the Rescue and Immediate Assistance of Trafficking Victims
refers minor and adult trafficking victims rescued in the
City or Province of Buenos Aires to the Ministry of Social
Development's Secretariat for Children, Adolescents, and the
Family (SENAF). SENAF is the agency responsible for
referring victims to existing social and medical assistance
programs. Victims located in other provinces are usually
lodged in shelters run by the relevant provincial Human
Rights Secretariat.

While the Prosecutor General's Office of Victim's Assistance
has lost the intra-GOA lead in providing assistance to
trafficking victims to the MOJ First Responder unit and
SENAF, it continues to provide assistance on an as-needed
basis.

In addition, the Prosecutor General has transferred TIP
investigation responsibilities from the Unit to Investigate
Crimes against Sexual Integrity and Trafficking in Persons
(UFISEX) to the Unit to Assist Investigations into Kidnapping
and Extortion Crimes (UFASE).

The MOJ conducted a training seminar for law enforcement
officials in the northern provinces of Misiones (in October)
and Salta (in November). In a meeting with the Ambassador on
November 14, Minister Fernandez described his Ministry's
efforts to train internal security forces and ensure that
they do not blame trafficking victims for whatever illegal
activities in which they might be involved. He said his
instructions to security forces were to briefly question
trafficking victims to try to ascertain relevant information
about trafficking networks before handing them over to social
services for assistance. Fernandez also provided a copy of a
Ministry-produced public awareness advertisement featuring a
new "800" number hotline that will be launched nationally in
the near future. The advertisement says: "Trafficking in
Persons. You are not to Blame. You are the Victim.
Denounce the Crime." He said he hoped that the campaign
would not only raise public consciousness but help efforts to
get judges and prosecutors fully engaged in anti-TIP efforts.
Minister Fernandez expressed hope that the ad campaign would
help bring more attention to forced labor situations too, as
several of the ads focus on this phenomena.
WAYNE

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