Inter-American Rights Watch

Citizenship Not Promised: Denial of Citizenship in South America’s Most Welcoming Country

By: Alessa Rodriguez

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

ARGENTINA – The country with the quickest naturalization process, with only 2 major requirements: being over the age of 18 and residency in Argentina for 2 years, is not as simple as it sounds.

Spanish and Argentinian passports. Photo courtesy of Geraldine Mercado on Pinterest.

Raghda Habbal, a Spanish citizen, moved with her daughters to Argentina in 1991 where she then remarried and had a son, applying for her citizenship in 1992. She did not meet the two years requirement by 3 months, supplementing it with a provision where she acquired property. It was determined that Habbal did not live in the domicile she claimed she did. The judge denied granting Habbal citizenship. Director of Population and Migration declared Habbal’s filings null and void, her presence in Argentina illegal, and ordered her expulsion back to Spain. The expulsion would include her three children, as they were only residents of Argentina.

A federal judge canceled her citizenship application because they believed fraud was involved. Cancelation is allowed if they can prove that the person obtaining citizenship did not meet the conditions. Habbal appealed multiple times, however, a Federal Court of Appeals denyed the appeal as they did not consider it a federal case. She would continue to travel into and out of Argentina from 1994-1996 where Argentina recognized her as a Syrian, Spanish, and Argentine citizen. ˙

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) reviewed the case and determined that administrative sanctions should only be exercised to the extent strictly necessary to protect fundamental rights from what may harm and endanger them. However, since Argentina revoked the Resolution in 2020 against Habbal, it is not up to the IACHR to decide. When a state ceases human rights violations and repairs the victims, the court cannot declare international responsibility regarding the violations. As Habbal could not allege a specific violation of rights, the court considers revocation of the Resolution an adequate reparation and thus Argentina isn’t internationally responsible.

According to the IACHR, the Argentinian courts were within their right to deny Habbal’s citizenship due to the issue of validity of the property she claimed. Therefore, Argentina has not violated the right to judicial protection.  


For further information, please see:

IACHR – Cases at the Merits Stage – Judgements – Habbal et al. v. Argentina – 31 Aug. 2022.

Lawyers Argentina – Immigrate to Argentina – 3 Sept. 2022

Where Can I Live – How to Get Argentina Citizenship – 10 Nov. 2020

Court Investigates Ecuadorian State’s Responsibility in Massacres of Uncontacted Indigenous Peoples

By: Alexa Connaughton

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Before the Inter American Court of Human Rights is Tagaeri & Taromenane Indigenous People v. the Ecuadorian State, a case on the responsibility of the Ecuadorian state in three massacres, 2003, 2006, and 2013 of uncontacted indigenous peoples. This case is the first time the Court has tried a case involving uncontacted indigenous peoples.

Alicia Cahuiya, a coordinator on women and families at the National Indigenous Confederation, watches the trial from the audience. Photo Courtesy of Mongabay News.

Uncontacted indigenous peoples live in voluntary isolation, without contact with most of the population. The plaintiffs allege the state failed to protect the uncontacted indigenous peoples and encouraged industry in their allotted land. They argue that these actions put pressure on the rainforest and increased conflict between the local communities leading to these three massacres.

The Tagaeri and Taromenane people live in the northern Amazon of Ecuador. This area is rich in oil and as a result has attracted illegal logging and mining for many years. As companies began to move in, it restricted the indigenous peoples’ ability to move freely. In 1999, the government sectioned off territory for these people, about 3,149 square miles, called the “intangible zone”. Since then, some oil blocks surrounding the zone have begun to encroach, with three posing an immediate risk. The existence of these oil blocks causes strain on the local communities and has been a cause in the three attacks. These indigenous people have a strict dependence on their ecological environment and follow a pattern of seasonal mobility. Thus, any change to their natural habitat poses a great harm to their survival.

In the 2003 attack the Waorani, a neighboring group, entered the intangible zone and attacked the Tagaeri and Taromenane. This attack is alleged to be revenge for a previous attack; however, it was not investigated because the victims did not have national identity cards. Even less is known about the 2006 attack due to the same lack of investigation. After the 2006 attack the regional commission requested Ecuador take precautionary measures to protect the Tagaeri and Taromenane people, but they failed to do so, resulting in the 2013 attack. In this attack another group of Waorani entered the Tagaeri and Taromenane area, killing 25 people and kidnapping two girls who have been living with their captors ever since.

In the present case, the plaintiffs say Ecuador has maintained the disastrous policy of putting oil interests ahead of the rights of local communities and has refused to see the connections and properly investigate the massacres. In bringing this case plaintiffs demand, recognition of the failure of the Ecuadorian state to protect the Tagaeri and Taromenane people and demand the rights of these communities be protected going forward.

In a press release, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights determined that the Ecuadorian state failed to protect and uphold the rights of uncontacted indigenous peoples. However, a decision by the court on this case likely won’t be reached for a few more months but it is important to note that the court’s decision in this case will become jurisprudence for other cases in the future.


For further information, please see:

IACHR – Resolución de La Corte – Caso Pueblos Indígenas Tagaeri y Taromenane vs. Ecuador – 18 Aug. 2022

IACHR – Resolución del Presidente – Caso Pueblos Indígenas Tagaeri y Taromenane vs. Ecuador – 19 July 2022

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, OAS – IACHR refers case on Ecuador to the Inter-American Court – 5 Oct. 2020

Mongabay News – First-ever regional court case involving rights of uncontacted peoples awaits verdict – 13 Oct. 2022


Court Determines Mexico Responsible for Failures in Investigation into Death of Human Rights Defender

By: Sallie Moppert

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — In a judgment handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, IACHR, Mexico was deemed to be internationally responsible for the failures of the investigation into the death of human rights activist Digna Ochoa y Plácido in October of 2001. The court determined that the “serious shortcomings” of the investigation into Ochoa’s death constituted a violation of the obligation to guarantee to the right of life for Ochoa in addition to a violation of the right to the truth on behalf of Ochoa’s family.

A woman leaves a tribute at a memorial set up for Digna Ochoa
after her assassination in 2001. Photo courtesy of Reforma.

Ochoa was a human rights lawyer and activist in Mexico. Prior to her death, she endured many threats and attacks against her in response to her human rights defense work. With the continued threats to her safety, Ochoa, with support and accompanied by the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and la Red de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos, came before the IACHR in 1999 to obtain preventative measures and later provisional measures to combat the continued threats and attacks. The protective measures were granted and in place for two years before IACHR terminated the provisional measures in 2001. Ochoa was assassinated two months after the protective measures were lifted.

The IACHR ruled that the investigation into Ochoa’s death was biased and corrupted from its inception. Although her body was found to have multiple gunshot wounds, Mexican officials determined that Ochoa’s death was a suicide, so the investigation was halted and the case deemed to be closed. In addition, the IACHR found that there was little equal protection under the law for Ochoa and females in general, as gender stereotypes were relied upon and intimate and personal aspects of Ochoa’s life were used against her to question her credibility. “[A]s a result of the deficient investigation and the discourse of state agents aimed at insulting her public image, the defender’s right to honor and dignity was also prejudiced,” the court found. The court also found that Mexican officials had failures in its handling of the crime scene, its documentation and the forensic autopsy, along with not investigating the facts within a reasonable time frame.

Along with its judgment, the IACHR ordered Mexico to take several measures of reparation, with the main order being to continue the necessary investigations to determine the circumstances surrounding Ochoa’s death. Other reparations included: making a public act of acknowledgment of international responsibility, creating an award for the defense of human rights that is to be named after Ochoa, and creating and then implementing a specific and specialized protocol for the investigation into attacks of human rights activists at a federal level, among others.

For further information, please see:

Center for Justice and International Law – Cejil 30 Years: Digna Ochoa

Inter-American Court of Human Rights – Judgment of the Inter-American Court in the Case of Digna Ochoa and relatives v. Mexico: The State is responsible for the serious failures in the investigation of the death of human rights defender Digna Ochoa – Jan. 19, 2022

Reforma – Llevan a Corte IDH caso de Digna Ochoa – Feb. 18, 2020

Mexican Supreme Court Declares Criminalization of Abortion Unconstitutional

By: Christian González

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Managing Editor of the News

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – The National Supreme Court of Justice unanimously voted on September 7, 2021 that criminalization of abortion is unconstitutional.

Protestors demonstrate for abortion rights in Mexico City. Green handkerchiefs have become a symbol for pro-choice and women’s rights movements in Latin America. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

The Court made its ruling when determining the validity of several provisions of the Penal Code of Coahuila, a state in northern Mexico. Article 196 of the Penal Code imposed a prison sentence of up to three years on women who voluntarily undergo an abortion and on those who help facilitate the abortion. The Court held this provision to be invalid in totality. A portion of Article 198 forbade healthcare professionals from assisting a woman with her abortion. A portion of Article 199 created an exception to penalization for abortions occurring before the twelfth week of pregnancy – but only instances of rape or artificial insemination. Both these individual portions of were also held to be invalid by the Court. Additionally, the Court ruled that section II of Article 224 – a provision that gives a lower penalty for crimes of rape between spouses, common-law partners, and civil partners – was also invalid.

In a press release, the Court stated that it “understood that the product of pregnancy deserves protection that increases over time, as the pregnancy progresses. However… this protection cannot ignore the rights of women and pregnant people to reproductive freedom. Therefore, the Plenary establishes, to absolutely criminalize the interruption of pregnancy is unconstitutional.” The President of the Court, Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea, explained the consequences of this ruling: “From now on, you will not be able to, without violating the court’s criteria and the constitution, charge any woman who aborts under the circumstances this court has ruled as valid.” The final decision of the Court has yet to be published, so what the Court’s “criteria” is remains to be seen.

Only four states in Mexico – Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Veracruz, and Mexico City – have thus far affirmatively legalized abortion, with all allowing for access to abortion before the twelfth week of pregnancy. The remaining twenty-eight states in the country all have some form of criminal penalization for abortion in their respective state codes. Since decisions from the National Supreme Court of Justice are binding to all federal and state judges, there are now constitutional grounds for challenging the restrictive laws in each of these states. Rebecca Ramos Duarte, director of the pro-reproductive rights group GIRE, believes that state legislatures will now be pressured into revising their anti-abortion laws before facing potential litigation.

Mexico, a largely conservative and Catholic country, will potentially be the largest Latin American country to allow abortion. This decision comes within a week of a new abortion law in Texas being signed into effect, which bans all abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy. The United States Supreme Court ruled to deny an injunctive order on the law on September 1. María Verza of AP News suggests that women in Texas, a state that shares a border with Coahuila, could now potentially find access to legal abortion in Mexico.

For further information, please see:

AP News – Mexico’s Supreme Court rules that abortion is not a crime – 7 Sep. 2021

Reuters – Mexico’s top court decriminalizes abortion in ‘watershed moment’ – 7 Sep. 2021

Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación – Comunicados de Prensa: Suprema Corte declara inconstitucional la criminzación total del aborto – 7 Sep. 2021

Supreme Court of the United States – Whole Women’s Health v. Jackson – 1 Sep. 2021

The New York Times – Mexico’s Supreme Court Votes to Decriminalize Abortion – 7 Sept. 2021


In a Historic Vote, Argentina Legalizes Abortion

By: Elizabeth Maugeri

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina In 2018, Amnesty International of Argentina (AIAR), Catholics for the Right to Decide (CDD), Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), and the Latin American Team for Justice and Gender (ELA) hosted a public hearing regarding reproductive rights laws in the country. This hearing, hosted alongside the IACHR, called upon the Argentine Congress to adopt a law legalizing abortion nationally.

Young pro-choice activists celebrating the passing of the abortion legalization bill. Photo Courtesy of BBC News.

At the time, under the Argentine criminal code, abortion was legal in some provinces and only in cases of rape or when the mother’s health was at risk. However, no national standard had been set to provide all women with safe access to voluntary abortions. The IACHR asserted the importance for Argentina to enact a nationwide standard that coincided with the country’s international human rights obligations.

In 2018, Congress attempted to pass a sweeping bill that would provide abortion access, although it ultimately failed when it reached the Senate. However, the prospect of a second attempt arose in 2019 when President Alberto Fernández was elected. A large part of his running platform was reproductive rights and abortion access, making the statement “I’m Catholic but I have to legislate for everyone” during his campaign. In December 2020, he delivered on his promise.

The Argentine Senate passed a bill legalizing voluntary abortion up to 14-weeks in a 38-29 vote. The same day, the CIDH – IACHR expressed approval for the Argentine Senate passing the Law on Access to Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy and Post-Abortion Care. It stated that the passing of the law marked a new set standard for inter-American human rights which it hoped would influence Argentina’s neighbors.

President Fernández asserted that providing free and legal abortions was a public health matter, highlighting how many women die from undergoing dangerous and illegal abortion procedures. Alongside this bill, the Senate also passed a piece of targeted legislation titled the “1,000-Day Plan,” which provides higher quality healthcare to pregnant women and women with young children.

Despite the new sweeping measure, anti-abortion activists have made it a point to challenge the legislation on all fronts. They have made sure doctors know they can deny a woman an abortion, they have called the laws unconstitutional, and they have filed lawsuits in at least 10 provinces.

Doctors in northern Argentina, mostly in the Jujuy province, consider themselves “conscientious objectors” and have asserted that they will not provide the services for women who ask. Only a few obstetricians and gynecologists in the province will offer the care, leaving many women in the same circumstances as before the bill was passed. The most rural provinces, where women are most likely to suffer from clandestine abortions, are those opposing the bill.

It is believed that at least one of the lawsuits will make it to Argentina’s Supreme Court. Though it is not clear as to what might happen once it arrives. However, pro-choice activists have been pushing for this legislation for years, even changing the perspectives of once anti-abortionists. Former president and current Vice President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner originally opposed a similar bill during her tenure as president but has since changed her position thanks to her daughter’s activism. This change was considered a big win for the pro-choice movement, and activists are hoping to continue this charge.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Argentina abortion: Senate approves legalization in historic decision – 30 Dec. 2020

CELS – iachr hearing on abortion: legalization is a human rights imperative – 9 May, 2018

CIDH – IACHR – IACHR approval of Law on Access to Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy and Post-Abortion Care tweet thread – 30 Dec. 2020

The New York Times – Abortion Is Now Legal in Argentina, but Opponents Are Making It Hard to Get – 7 Mar. 2021