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Nº 23/99


1.    Today, July 30, 1999, marks the end of the on-site visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("IACHR" or "the Commission") to the Republic of Paraguay, made at the invitation of that country’s government for the Commission to observe the general human rights situation there. The following members of the Commission participated in the visit: Professor Robert K. Goldman, Chairman; Dr. Hélio Bicudo, First Vice Chairman; Dean Claudio Grossman, Second Vice Chairman; Professor Carlos Ayala Corao and Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejía. Also participating were the IACHR’s Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana; the Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David J. Padilla; and specialists Dr. Ignacio J. Alvarez and Dr. Christina M. Cerna. Dr. Santiago Canton, the IACHR’s Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, also attended in that capacity. Ms. Ana Cecilia Adriazola and Ms. Tania Hernández provided administrative support during the visit.

2.    The Commission is a principal organ of the Organization of American States ("OAS"), responsible for impartially promoting the observance and defense of human rights in the hemisphere. The IACHR’s powers derive principally from the American Convention on Human Rights or the Pact of San José ("the American Convention") and from the OAS Charter, instruments which the Republic of Paraguay has ratified. In pursuit of its duty, the Commission investigates and decides on individual complaints alleging human rights violations, conducts on-site visits (such as the current one to Paraguay), prepares draft human rights treaties and declarations, and drafts reports on the human rights situations in the countries of the region. The Commission comprises seven members, elected in their personal capacity basis by the General Assembly of the OAS for a period of four years.

3.    During the visit, the IACHR met with authorities from the executive branch, from the judiciary, and from the legislative branch, as well as with different sectors of civil society, including human rights organizations, church representatives, peasants’ groups and indigenous communities, trade union leaders, and alleged victims of human rights abuses. The Commission also visited several prison facilities and traveled around different regions of the country.

4.    The Commission met with the highest ranking authorities from the three branches of Government: the President of the Republic, Dr. Luis Angel González Macchi; the President of the National Congress, Dr. Juan Carlos Galaverna; and the President of Paraguay’s Supreme Court of Justice, Dr. Wildo Rienzi Galeano.

5.    From the executive branch, the Commission also met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Miguel Abdon Saguier; the Justice Minister, Dr. Silvio Ferreira; the Minister of Defense, Dr. Nelson Argaña Contreras; the Interior Minister, Dr. Walter Bower Montalto; the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Martin Antonio Chiola; the State Attorney General, Dr. Anibal de la Cruz Cabrera Veron; the Minister of the Women’s Secretariat, Dr. Cristina Muñoz; the President of the Rural Welfare Institute (IBR), Mr. Enrique José García de Zúniga Caballero; the President of the National Indigenous Institute (INDI), Mr. Oscar Optaciano Villamayor Sanchez; the Governor of Concepción department, Mr. Modesto Guggiari Zavala; the Governor of San Pedro department, Mr. César Ramón Alvarenga; and the Governor of Itapúa department, Mr. Lucio Vergara Ríos.

6.    From the legislative branch, the Commission met with Senator Juan Carlos Galaverna, the President of the Senate; Senator Luis Alberto Mauro, Chairman of the Senate Human Rights Committee; Senator José Félix Fernández Estigarribia, Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee; Deputy Efraín Alegre, the President of the Chamber of Deputies; Deputy Sonia de León, Chair of the Chamber of Deputies Human Rights Committee; and Deputy Luis Alberto Mendoza, Chair of the Chamber of Deputies Foreign Affairs Committee. This meeting was also attended by other senators and deputies from the National Congress.

7.    From the judiciary, the Commission met with the following Supreme Court Justices: Dr. Raul Sapena Brugada, Dr. Enrique Sosa, Dr. Felipe Santiago Paredes, Dr. Carlos Fernandez Gadea, Dr. Jerónimo Irala Burgos, Dr. Luis Lezcano Claude, Dr. Elixeno Ayala, and Dr. Bonifacio Rios. The IACHR also met with Judge Jorge Bogarín. At the headquarters of the judicial branch, the Commission visited the repository of documents dealing with repression under the dictatorship known as the "Archive of Terror."

8.    The Commission spoke with representatives of numerous nongovernmental human rights organizations, including the National Human Rights Coordinating Office of Paraguay, the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), the Association of Relatives of Military Service Victims (AFAVISEM), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the National Human Rights Commission, the Paraguayan Women’s Coordinating Office (CMP), the Indigenist Network (RI), the DECIDAMOS Campaign for Civic Expression, International Children’s Defense (DNI), the Foundation for State Reform (FUNPARE), the Criminal and Social Sciences Comparative Studies Institute (INECIP), the Conscientious Objection Movement (MOC), the National Social Pastorate / Women’s Training and Study Services (SEFEM), the Paraguay Peace and Justice Service, (SERPAJ PY), the Union of Journalists of Paraguay (SPP), Tierraviva, the Committee of Churches for Emergency Help (CIPAE), and the International Human Rights Law Group.

9.    The Commission met with Msgr. Pastor Cuquejo, from the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference; Professor Luís Alfonso Resck; groups representing peasants, such as the National Peasant Federation, ONAL, Red Rural, and Tekokatu; workers’ organizations, including CNTI, CUT, and ICESITEP; the Swindled Savers in Action group; the Coordinating Office of Relatives of Political Prisoners and Victims of Persecution of Paraguay; and alleged victims of human rights violations. Dr. Santiago Canton, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, met with the editors of the following newspapers: ABC Color, El Día, La Nación, Noticias, and Última Hora. He also held meetings with representatives of radio and television channels.

10.    The Commission held follow-up meetings on cases that it is currently processing and that are going through friendly settlement proceedings. These meetings were attended by representatives of the Paraguayan Government; representatives of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Committee of Churches for Emergency Help (CIPAE), and the International Human Rights Law Group, acting on behalf of the alleged victims or their families, some of whom were also in attendance.

11.    During its visit, the IACHR carried out programmed activities in Asunción, Encarnación, San Pedro, and Concepción.

12.    In Asunción, the Commission held meetings with the authorities, individuals, and institutions listed above, and it also visited three prison facilities: Tacumbú (men), El Buen Pastor (women), and Panchito López (juveniles). The Commission toured the installations of all three and met with prison officials and inmates.

13.    The IACHR also visited Encarnación, where it visited the prison and met with local authorities and representatives of civil society. On its visit to the Encarnación penitentiary, the Commission toured the facilities and met with prison officials and inmates. Among the local authorities, the IACHR met with the Governor of Itapúa department, Mr. Lucio Vergara Ríos; from civil society, the Commission met at the Bishop’s offices with representatives of local nongovernmental organizations, including the Coordinating Office for the Victims of Yaciretá, the Social Rights Defense Commission, and the striking workers of Radio Encarnación.

14.    The IACHR went to San Pedro and Concepción for meetings with local authorities and representatives of civil society. The Commission also visited the indigenous communities of Yakye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa in the Paraguayan Chaco. From among the local authorities, the IACHR met with the Governor of San Pedro, Mr. César Ramón Alvarenga. As for civil society, the Commission met with representatives of the rural communities of Antebi Cué and Curuzu de Hierro, with other representatives of the local civil society, and with church groups and representatives.

15.    As is customary on these visits, the IACHR received complaints from people claiming, either directly or through their representatives, to have suffered human rights violations. It also met with individuals wishing to offer additional information regarding complaints that the Commission is currently processing.

16.    The IACHR would like to emphasize that it enjoyed the broadest freedom to meet with the people it wished to meet and to travel to any part of the country it wished to visit. The Government of Paraguay provided the Commission with the fullest assistance and cooperation of every kind to enable it to pursue its agenda.

17.    This on-site visit has furthered relations with the State and civil society, enabling them to continue working together on the permanent task of protecting and promoting human rights. The work carried out by the IACHR gave it an overview — albeit necessarily a provisional and preliminary one — of the general human rights situation in Paraguay.

18.    The information received will be analyzed in depth at the IACHR’s next regular session, to be held at its headquarters in September 1999, prior to drawing up a report on the human rights situation in Paraguay. By receiving, processing, and deciding on individual complaints, the IACHR performs jurisdictional functions; the Commission therefore refrains from making specific statements in its press releases that could constitute a preliminary judgment on the merits of the individual cases before it.

19.    Irrespective of the foregoing, the Commission would like to offer the following general comments on its impressions at the end of its visit:

20.    The Commission has closely followed the evolution of the general human rights situation in Paraguay, and it has noted that major progress is taking place.

21.    Paraguay has undergone a wide-ranging, significant transformation since the overthrow of Alfredo Stroessner on February 3, 1989, which put an end to 35 years of dictatorship and systematic human rights violations and established conditions for progress to be made in developing democratic institutionality and consolidating the rule of law. Through these conditions, civil liberties were restored, the oppressive dictatorial apparatus of the Stroessner regime was dismantled, and several perpetrators of human rights violations were brought to trial. The Paraguayan State then embarked on a series of reforms, promulgated a new national constitution, enacted a number of laws, and worked toward the creation of institutions intended to promote respect for human rights, including the office of the People’s Defender, human rights committees in both houses of Congress, and the General Directorate for Human Rights within the Ministry of Justice and Labor.

22.    The Commission closely followed the institutional crisis and the clashes between branches of Government that began in August 1998, when Raúl Cubas took office as President of the Republic, and involved conflicts between the executive branch and the electoral justice system on the one hand, and the legislative branch and the judiciary on the other. Following the assassination of the vice president and the subsequent resignation of President Cubas Grau, the presidency of the country was assumed by the President of Congress, Luis González Macchi, in accordance with Article 234 of the Paraguayan Constitution.

23.    The IACHR stresses that it looks favorably on the new authorities’ pledges to fully enforce the rule of law. The Commission was also able to notice the commitment of countless Paraguayans, both within the Government and outside it, toward promoting and consolidating a process of democratic expansion and fortification, aimed at full compliance with human rights.

24.    The Commission is appreciative of the existence, within Paraguayan society, of heightened awareness of and concern for human rights in the country. Thus, the Commission was pleased to note the presence of an increasingly active and participative human rights movement that expresses its opinions and, at the same time, works to promote and defend human rights and to strengthen the democratic system. In the commitment, dedication, and civic spirit of the human rights organizations, the IACHR sees an important resource for Paraguayan society as it meets the challenge of extending and consolidating the rule of law.

25.    In addition, with regard to the progress made in the country’s general human rights situation, the Commission notes as positive the promulgation of a new Criminal Code and a new Code of Criminal Procedure, with which the country has evolved from trials that were inquisitorial in nature to proceedings of an accusatorial nature. The judge is no longer simultaneously responsible for conducting the investigation, obtaining the evidence, and ruling on the accused’s guilt or innocence; instead, the task of leveling charges and the burden of proof fall on the public prosecutor or the plaintiff, as appropriate, while the judge is responsible for handing down a decision.

26.    The Commission appreciates the launching of a number of women’s rights initiatives. The IACHR was able to observe the valuable initiatives and projects of the Women’s Secretariat, its relations with bodies within civil society, and its analysis of Paraguayan law for bringing about reforms to promote gender equality.

27.    The IACHR also notes Paraguay’s constructive attitude toward working to reach friendly settlements in some of the individual cases of alleged human rights violations that the Commission is currently processing; these cases are described in greater detail later on in this document. The friendly settlement mechanism, which allows cases to be concluded in a non-contentions manner, has been used in cases from a number of countries, and has proven to be an important vehicle for resolving alleged violations that can be used by both parties (the petitioner and the State).

28.    The Commission also appreciates the Paraguayan State’s recent signing of the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, with which, following ratification, Paraguay will be a party to all the human rights treaties that exist within the inter-American human rights system.

29.    Finally, the Commission attaches great importance to Paraguay’s policy of consolidating and promoting the enforcement of human rights within the country and its active stance within the inter-American human rights system. Thus, Paraguay has supported the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the bodies responsible for protecting human rights. It also recently drew up a draft resolution on "Human Rights Defenders in the Americas: Support for the Individuals, Groups, and Organizations of Civil Society Working to Promote and Protect Human Rights in the Americas" and submitted it for consideration by the General Assembly of the OAS. This resolution was then adopted by the General Assembly at its June 1999 session in Guatemala City.

30.    Without prejudice to the progress made, the IACHR would like to offer the following preliminary comments on certain important human rights issues.

The Appointment of the People’s Defender

31.    The Commission notes with extreme concern that more than seven years after the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution, Congress has not yet appointed the People’s Defender. Article 276 of Paraguay’s 1992 Constitution created the office of the People’s Defender, whose functions were to be, according to that article, "the defense of human rights, the channeling of popular demands, and the protection of community interests." Article 277 of the Constitution states that the Defender’s appointment is to to be based on a Senate proposal of a three-name shortlist, from which the Chamber of Deputies must then make a choice, backed up by a two-thirds majority.

32.    The Commission believes that the work of the People’s Defender is essential to protect and defend Paraguayans’ basic rights, particularly those of the economically underprivileged, who generally suffer more frequent human rights violations.

33.    The appointment of the People’s Defender is an inescapable and pressing constitutional commitment that Paraguay’s senators and deputies have toward the Paraguayan people and the international community. The Commission urges the Paraguayan Congress to proceed to elect a People’s Defender for Paraguay at the earliest possible juncture.

Impunity and Human Rights Violations

34.    The Commission notes that, even though the Paraguayan State has enacted laws that demonstrate its willingness to investigate and punish the perpetrators of the serious human rights violations that occurred under Stroessner’s dictatorship (1954–1989) and make amends to the victims and their families, these laws have not generally been enforced. This has given rise to a serious situation with a tendency toward de facto impunity.

35.    The Paraguayan State has an international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators of human rights crimes, and also has an international obligation to indemnify the victims of those violations or their families. By failing to comply with these obligations, the Paraguayan State incurs in international responsibility, particularly within the inter-American human rights system.

36.    The Commission therefore appreciates that the Paraguayan State has ruled that crimes against human rights are not subject to statutes of limitations and has provided for, in law, compensation for those who "suffered violations of their human rights, life, personal integrity, or freedom at the hands of officials, employees, or agents of the State" under the "dictatorial system in power in the country between 1954 and 1989." These laws reflect Paraguay’s willingness to fight the impunity that surrounds those crimes and to meet its international obligations described above.

37.    However, in practice, these laws have not been enforced in full. The IACHR has received information indicating that, although some of the dictatorship’s most infamous perpetrators of arrests, torture, and murder have been arrested and prosecuted, in only a few cases have final, nonappealable sentences been handed down. One such case is that of the torture and extrajudicial killing of Mr. Mario Schaerer Prono, in which a final nonappealable sentence was issued by the Supreme Court of Justice in June of 1999.

38.    Regarding the compensation owed to victims and their families, in practice the law has not been enforced because it requires indemnity claims to be submitted to the People’s Defender. Since the Paraguayan Congress has not yet chosen a Defender, the victims and their relatives have not been able to claim the compensation to which they are entitled.

39.    The IACHR believes the Paraguayan courts should take the steps necessary to speed up and conclude the prosecution of human rights violations committed under the dictatorship and that they should also proceed to indemnify the victims and their families.

40.    Since the victims, their relatives, and the Paraguayan people in general are entitled to know the truth about the human rights violations that occurred during the dictatorship, the Commission also recommends the creation of an independent and impartial Investigating Commission. Based on the information contained in the "archives of terror" and other relevant sources, this body would then prepare a report on the deaths, disappearances, cases of torture, and other human rights violations committed during those years. This notwithstanding, the IACHR calls on anyone with information regarding the fate of disappeared detainees to forward it to the authorities immediately. The IACHR spoke with relatives of the disappeared who continue to live with the daily pain of not knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones.

The Events of March

41.    The Commission paid particular attention to the institutional crisis and conflict of powers in Paraguay that began with the assassination of Vice President Luis María Argaña on March 23, 1999, in an attack that also claimed the life of his bodyguard, Mr. Francisco Barrios González. The IACHR issued a statement regarding that incident, which shocked both national and international public opinion, and on the events that followed, such as the mass protests, the congressional impeachment of President Cubas, the criminal acts that led to seven youths being killed and hundreds of other people being injured, and the resignation of President Cubas.

42.    The Commission repeats its utmost condemnation of the assassination of a public figure of the stature of Dr. Luis María Argaña and, equally, it condemns the deaths of Francisco Barrios González and of Henry Daniel Díaz Bernal, Cristóbal Espínola Caballero, Armando Daniel Espinoza Cardozo, Víctor Hugo Molas Gini, Tomás Rojas, Manfred Patricio Stark González, and José Miguel Zarza Caballero, who died defending Paraguay’s democracy and institutions. The IACHR also repudiates the physical injuries inflicted on hundreds of individuals which, according to information provided to the Commission, left a total of 767 people injured between March 23 and March 28, 1999.

43.    The Commission repeats that thorough investigation of both the assassination of Dr. Argaña and the other crimes, together with the determination of those reponsible and their punishment, is essential not only to ensure that justice is done in those cases, but also for the consolidation of Paraguay’s institutions and rule of law; it is also an obligation of the Paraguayan State, both at the domestic level and internationally. To ensure the success of those investigations, they should be given all the support and means necessary to establish the facts. At the same time, the investigations and the trials of the suspects must be conducted in full compliance with the rules of due process. The IACHR will closely observe the development of these processes and their compliance with the rules governing judicial guarantees set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights.

The Right to Freedom, Judicial Guarantees, and Prison Conditions

44.    One of the most serious problems brought to the Commission’s attention is that of people kept in detention without having been convicted. This situation exists within a broader set of criticisms of the justice system which, in the opinion of numerous sectors of Paraguayan society, is not sufficiently modern or efficient to resolve society’s demands for justice swiftly and fairly.

45.    According to complaints received, in some cases the police arrest people without court orders and without their being caught in flagrante delicto. This makes it more likely that torture and other forms of cruel or degrading treatment will take place at primary detention centers. The detainees are then subjected to excessively lengthy judicial processes, in which judges are given more cases than they can cope with and in which the accused’s defense is generally handled by an over-worked court-appointed defense attorney. As a result, trials become practically endless, particularly those involving the economically underprivileged. This leads to prison overcrowding. The Commission was informed of a high percentage of prisoners who have not been convicted and was able to see this for itself on visits to Tacumbú prison, the Panchito López juvenile detention center, the Buen Pastor women’s prison, the Encarnación penitentiary, the police station used to house female prisoners in Encarnación, and the San Pedro police station prison. The IACHR spoke to people who had been in prison for periods in excess of seven years without being convicted. The IACHR also saw prisoners of more than 70 years of age being held without convictions, a situation that is prohibited by express provisions.

46.    The American Convention prohibits arbitrary arrest. It also stipulates that people are entitled to be judged within a reasonable period of time or to be released. Inherent in this is the principle of freedom during proceedings, and the principle that preventive arrest or custody is a precautionary measure, not a form of punishment, that can be applied in specific, justified cases in accordance with international standards but which cannot exceed a reasonable period of time. If it does exceed a reasonable duration, time spent in preventive custody becomes prison time served in advance, contravening the right of all people to be assumed innocent until their guilt has been legally proven, set forth in Article 8(2) of the Convention. In this regard, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that the reasonable time principle is intended to "prevent accused persons from remaining in that situation for a protracted period and to ensure that the charge is promptly disposed of."

47.    The Commission is not unaware of the amended Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, which include provisions intended to solve these problems. However, the IACHR has been informed that some of the new legal provisions will not immediately have a positive impact on the prison system. Such is the case, for example, with Article 15 of Law 1444/99, regulating the transition toward the new criminal justice system, which postpones the appointment of criminal law judges, who will be responsible for supervising compliance with the prison system and respect toward the objectives sought through punishment. In addition, for a criminal justice system to be effective, the IACHR believes that due protection should be given, by law, to victims and witnesses.

48.    Of course, solving these problems related to the right to freedom, the right to judicial guarantees, and the right of all detainees to be treated with respect for the dignity inherent in all human beings requires, in addition to the amendments that certain laws need, an awareness of the importance and magnitude of the problem and a firm, resolute political commitment toward solving it.

49.    The dire conditions faced by detainees in Paraguay are common knowledge. The IACHR was able to see a positive intent on the part of the authorities to improve conditions in detention centers, which has translated into some improvements at the Tacumbú and El Buen Pastor prisons. However, the IACHR cannot fail to mention that the most serious problems it detected were at the Panchito López juvenile detention center, where minors are kept in unacceptably overcrowded conditions, and the Encarnación penitentiary, which is characterized, inter alia, by the absence of provisions for health care. It is in those cases that the greatest efforts are needed. The IACHR has been told of plans to transfer the minors from the Panchito López detention center to a place that meets the applicable international standards. Irrespective of this, immediate steps must be taken to improve the situation of the minors detained at the Panchito López facility. The Commission was able to see that, in Encarnación, construction work is underway on a new penitentiary, which it is hoped will conclude within one year.

Military Service and Human Rights

50.    Another cause of concern to the Commission were the complaints alleging violations of the human rights of Paraguayan conscripts doing their obligatory military service.

51.    The IACHR received complaints of excesses being committed during exercises and physical punishments that left physical and mental aftereffects; it also heard that soldiers have on occasions been killed in incidents that generally go unpunished because it is highly unlikely that the military courts will establish responsibility.

52.    The Commission received information about minors doing military service, which would account for more than 50 percent of all conscripts (including children as young as 12); this is in contravention of Paraguayan law (Law 569/75), which specifically forbids recruiting those younger than 18. Although that law does stipulate that in exceptional cases the age for recruitment can be brought forward, when there is good reason and with parental authorization, such exceptions are not unusual and there have been complaints of cases in which not even the parents’ permission has been sought. The Commission would like to point out that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Paraguay has ratified, expressly and universally precludes military service by children aged under 15. In accordance with this and since human rights cannot be waived, military service must solely be performed by those who are aged over 18, and minors must not be admitted, even with their parents’ consent.

53.    The Commission was also informed that prior to enrolment in the armed forces, there is no proper medical examination of a type that, were it to exist, could promptly detect physical shortcomings or other problems incompatible with the obligatory military service regime and capable of causing deaths and accidents.

54.    The Commission calls for all measures to ensure full respect for the human rights of individuals enlisted in obligatory military service, for those responsible for human rights violations committed against soldiers to be tried and punished, and, in such cases, for the soldiers or their families to receive adequate compensation.

Gender Rights

55.    The IACHR would like to note that the law on marital rape — an unacceptable scourge that has not been erradicated from Paraguayan society — has not yet been enacted, in spite of Paraguay’s ratification of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (the Convention of Belém do Pará). The Commission was also told about provisions in different codes that do not fully guarantee women’s rights (for example, the rules that apply to the abuse of defenseless persons) and it was given figures for women’s deaths occurring as a result of abortions. The IACHR received complaints stating that women were insufficiently represented on State bodies and in the business world. The IACHR calls for prompt and decisive action in those areas and for the repeal of legislation and the abolition of practices that discriminate against women.

Children’s Rights

56.    The IACHR received complaints about children and young people being subjected to torture, and it was informed that the Paraguayan legal system tries children aged 14 by normal criminal law. A requirement to carry out a legal medical examination upon a child’s arrest would be necessary to prevent accusations of torture. The draft Children’s Code proposes setting the minimum age for criminal responsibility at 18 years, when young people are mature enough to understand the consequences of a criminal act. It is of the greatest importance that the Paraguayan Congress pass that code into law.

Situation of Indigenous Peoples

57.    The IACHR was able to gain a better understanding of the situation of Paraguay’s indigenous peoples. It held working meetings with Paraguay’s National Indigenous Institute (INDI), to find out about its programs and plans, and with representatives of several indigenous peoples, nongovernmental organizations, and church agencies active in this area.

58.    The IACHR visited Pozo Colorado district in Presidente Hayes department (El Chaco) in order to speak with the Yakye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa indigenous communities of the Enxet people. The Commission was able to see the deplorable situation of these peoples, who live alongside the national highway, without services of any kind, waiting for the authorities to allocate them the land they need.

59.    The Commission appreciates the importance of Presidential Decree No. 3789 of June 23, 1999, which declared these indigenous communities to be in a "state of emergency" on account of the extreme conditions they face. In spite of this, the Commission was told that the effective measures ordered by the executive decree for the immediate provision of medical and nutritional assistance to the families that make up that community have not yet been adopted. Similarly, the Commission will closely follow the results of the efforts that have begun to provide the indigenous communities with the land they need.

Situation of the Landless Peasants

60.    During its visit, the Commission heard about the delicate socioeconomic situation of the peasant sectors that are demanding that land be assigned to them.

61.    The Commission received information on the actions and programs of the Rural Welfare Institute (IBR). The Commission also visited Concepción and San Pedro, where it met with several peasant movements that have filed claims and requests with the IBR for the land they need to farm. In addition, the IACHR detected shortcomings that hinder or prevent effective compliance with plans to hand land over to the indigenous peoples.

62.    The Commission is aware of the complexity of this problem and of the official initiatives that have been taken. In spite of this, on account of the seriousness of the situation, the IACHR will analyze the information it has been given in detail and it will closely follow the specific steps the State continues to take to solve this problem.

Friendly Settlement Cases

63.    The Paraguayan State has been very willing to participate in friendly settlement proceedings in some of the cases alleging human rights violations in Paraguay that are currently being processed by the Commission. This mechanism allows cases to be concluded through non-contentious proceedings and has proven to be an important vehicle for resolving alleged violations. Below, the Commission describes some of the progress made with these friendly settlement proceedings.

64.    The Case of the Enxet–Lamenxay Communities (11.713), dealing with the land claims of the indigenous communities of Lamenxay and Riachito (Kayleyphapopyet), both of which belong to the Enxet-Sanapana people, submitted to the IACHR by the indigenous organization Tierraviva with assistance from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJlL). On March 25, 1998, a friendly settlement agreement was signed in this case. Under this IACHR-sponsored agreement, the Paraguayan State agreed to acquire 21,884.44 hectares of land in Pozo Colorado district, Presidente Hayes department, in the Paraguayan Chaco, hand it over to the aforesaid indigenous communities, and register it with the competent authorities as belonging to those communities. The Paraguayan State had previously complied with its commitment to acquire this land and hand it over to the communities, but the title deed formalities were still pending. During the on-site visit, at the meeting held with the President of the Republic, Dr. Luis Angel González Macchi, the Paraguayan State told the Commission that on July 27, 1999, it had registered the land in the communities’ names, thereby meeting all the commitments it had assumed. On that occasion, in the presence of the IACHR, the President of the Republic handed the indigenous communities the title deeds for the land.

65.    The Case of Víctor Hugo Maciel Alcaraz (11.607), dealing with the recruitment by the army and subsequent death on duty of a child, submitted to the IACHR by the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJlL): As a part of the friendly settlement proceedings initiated in this case, the Paraguayan State told the IACHR during its on-site visit that it had begun paying a pension to the victim’s family.

66.    The Case of the Panchito López Juvenile Correction and Reeducation Institute (11.666), dealing with conditions in which minors are detained, submitted to the IACHR by the Tekojoja Foundation and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJlL): In the friendly settlement proceedings for this case, during the on-site visit the Paraguayan State gave the IACHR a timetable of the steps leading to the planned closure of the current facility in late 1999 and its relocation to a better site.

67.    The Case of Miguel Angel Soler Canale (11.559), dealing with arrest, torture, and forced disappearance of the victim, submitted to the IACHR by the Committee of Churches for Emergency Help (CIPAE) and the International Human Rights Law Group. In the friendly settlement of this case, the Paraguayan State informed the IACHR about the legal proceedings to convict and sentence those responsible and to provide Mrs. Soler with financial compensation.

68.    The following cases are also undergoing friendly settlement: Julián Cubas (11.558), Carlos José Mancuello (11.665), Rodolfo and Benjamín Ramírez Villalba (11.667), and Ricardo Canese (12.032).

Final Comments

69.    The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Dr. Santiago Canton, accompanied the Commission on its visit in that official capacity, and today he issued a press release.

70.    The IACHR would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Paraguay in the person of its President, Dr. Luis Angel González Macchi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paraguay’s Permanent Mission to the OAS, and other state authorities for inviting the Commission and for all the facilities that enabled this visit to take place; the nongovernmental organizations, and particularly the National Human Rights Coordinating Office of Paraguay, who gave the Commission invaluable support in organizing its agenda with nonofficial sectors; the Office of the OAS General Secretariat in Paraguay, which also helped organize different aspects of the visit; the private citizens who candidly and transparently contributed their valuable testimony and documents for the effective pursuit of the visit’s mission; and all the people and institutions that, in conjunction with those already mentioned, offered the IACHR hospitality, facilities, and assistance in successfully carrying out this visit. The Commission would also like to thank the interest shown by journalists and the mass media in covering this visit and the topics it addressed.

71.    In accordance with the functions granted to it by the Charter of the OAS, the American Convention, and all other applicable international legal instruments, the Commission will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Paraguay.

72.    In compliance with the aforesaid instruments, over the coming months the IACHR will prepare a report on the human rights situation in Paraguay, containing the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations for the Paraguayan State. This report will be made public after being processed according to the Regulations and be made available to Paraguayan society and other member states of the OAS. The IACHR repeats its wish to continue working with the Paraguayan authorities and people, within the framework of its competence, to help strengthen the domestic and international mechanisms for the defense and protection of human rights within the framework of democracy and the rule of law.


Asunción, Paraguay, July 30, 1999