In late March, the government imposed a nationwide lockdown requiring people to quarantine at home, closing down businesses and schools, and restricting travel and movement. Security officers were given enforcement authority, meaning that the police could stop and question virtually anyone on the streets. On November 6, the government announced the end of the lockdown in the Buenos Aires metropolitan region, one of the world’s longest, although movement restrictions continue in some provinces.
Media outlets and local human rights groups have reported dozens of alleged human rights violations by the national and provincial security forces tasked with enforcing these measures. The national Human Rights Secretary reported receiving 531 complaints of police abuse between late March and early August, including 25 involving deaths, compared with 71 from early December to late March.
The Covid-19 pandemic generates enormous uncertainty. Proportionate lockdowns can be a necessary and effective measure to protect public health, but proper oversight and accountability of their enforcement are essential. This is all the more important in a country like Argentina, where police officers have a record of abusive treatment, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
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