Congress’ Human Rights Commission will start discussing a new bill that aims to discourage public officials and electoral candidates from making denialist claims, with the possibility of banning them from working or running for office for five to 10 years.
The bill was presented in the Chamber of Deputies by human rights organizations along with the Human Rights Secretariat on Friday, with the endorsement of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and Mothers of Plaza de Mayo-Línea Fundadora. The bill is called Mandatory training in human rights and denialism sanction law.
While the debate will start on Tuesday at 10 a.m., commission head Hugo Yasky told the Herald that the vote will likely take place after the November 19 run-off.
Yasky is a member of the ruling coalition Unión por la Patria (UxP) bloc.
“The bill is not punitive, meaning that it doesn’t include punishment with prison for denialism, but rather it focuses on training on human rights,” Yasky said.
The bill proposes adding denialism to the Criminal Code, specifically Article 213 which outlines punishments for crime apologists. This would establish that those who “deny, minimize, justify, legitimize, or vindicate crimes against humanity carried out by state terrorism” will be banned from public office for five to 10 years. This would apply to national government officials or candidates running for national office —such as president, deputy, or senator — who make such claims during the electoral campaign.
Although the scope of the bill is national, it encourages the provinces and Buenos Aires city to establish similar measures for the new rules to apply to local authorities and elections. Article 7 of the text specifically “invites” them to do so.
The proposal comes following multiple instances of denialism from presidential candidate Javier Milei and his running mate Victoria Villarruel, from far-right coalition La Libertad Avanza (LLA). Coalition members have consistently made denialist claims about the crimes against humanity committed by the last military dictatorship in Argentina. Milei, for instance, challenged the established number of disappeared people during one of the presidential debates while Villarruel held a denialist event at the Buenos Aires City Legislature building in September.
In addition, the bill would create mandatory training in human rights, genocide and crimes against humanity for all public officials and state workers from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers. If someone rejects receiving this training, they will be sanctioned by the relevant authorities.
One of many
There are many other anti-denialist bills filed in the Lower House, which will be debated during the commission session on Tuesday along with this new project.
Yasky pointed to the main difference between the older bills and the new one. “[The new bill] doesn’t limit the idea of genocide to the 1976 dictatorship, therefore it incorporates other events that happened in previous instances” in Argentina, he said, as well those from other countries, like the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide. It also doesn’t include prison sentences for denialism, like other bills do.
Another anti-denialism bill was filed in Congress last Friday, designed by Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and HIJOS, an organization that groups children of state terrorism victims. This one also includes mandatory training in human rights for public officials and sanctions for those who make denialist claims but the entity enforcing those sanctions would be the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI, by its Spanish initials).
“This would be a big step forward as a society. In Europe, punishments for denialism apply to any citizen, and not just public officials,” HIJOS member Guillermo Perez Roisinblit told the Herald.
As part of the team that designed the bill, Roisinblit said that they have been meeting with members of the Indigenous, Armenian, and Jewish communities for them to be contemplated in it.
“Sadly, those of us who suffered the consequences of state terrorism in Argentina are not the only victims [of genocide],” Roisinblit said.
Yasky said the idea of having the commission session is to try to “reach consensus and unify all of those bills in one, including those that had been filed previously.” There will be at least two more commission sessions to analyze the various bills before attempting to treat the final bill in the Lower House, he added.
However, Yasky explained that changing the Criminal Code was probably not going to be part of the final bill given that the legal concept of crime apology already exists, saying that they will instead focus on human rights training and holding public officials and candidates accountable for denialist claims.