9 March 2001
Original:  Spanish








          1.          On June 20, 1992, approximately three years after the fall of the dictatorship headed by Alfredo Stroessner, which held power in Paraguay for over 30 years, a National Constitutional Assembly adopted and promulgated a new National Constitution. Article 1 of that Constitution provides: “The Republic of Paraguay is forever free and independent. It is a social state under the rule of law, unitary, indivisible, and decentralized as provided for in the Constitution and statutes.  The Republic of Paraguay adopts for its form of government representative, participatory and pluralist democracy, founded on the recognition of human dignity.”


          1.          The Legislative Branch


          2.          The Paraguayan Constitution provides that the Legislative power will be vested in the Congress, made up of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.  Its members are elected directly by the people for a period of five years, and may be re-elected. Article 191 of the Constitution provides:


No member of Congress may be accused judicially for the opinions he or she expresses in the performance of his or her functions. No Senator or Deputy may be detained, from the day of their election until the day they leave office, unless found in flagrante delicto for a crime that merits corporal punishment. In such a case, the intervening authority shall place him or her under house arrest, shall immediately report the incident to the respective Chamber and the judge with jurisdiction, to whom it shall submit the respective information as soon as possible.


When a criminal complaint is brought against a Senator or Deputy before the regular courts, the judge shall so communicate, with a copy of the record, to the respective Chamber, which will examine the merits of the criminal investigation and, by two-thirds majority, shall determine whether there are grounds for suspending his or her immunity, so as to proceed to trial.  If so, his or her immunities shall be suspended.


          3.          Among the functions of the legislative chambers is to request reports on matters of public interest from the other branches of government, to summons and question ministers and other high-ranking officials of the central and decentralized public administration, with the powers to censure them and recommend to the President of the Republic or the superior of the public official in question that they be removed.  The functions of the Congress include to oversee to the observance of the Constitution and statutes; to issue the codes and all other statutes, amend them, or repeal them, interpreting the Constitution; to approve each year the law on the General Budget of the Nation; to approve or reject the treaties and all other international agreements signed by the Executive; to make the appointments that the Constitution prescribes and to impeach the President and other high-ranking officials. 

          2.          The Executive Branch


          4.          The Constitution provides at Articles 226 and 227 that “the Executive power vests in the President of the Republic” and that “there shall be one Vice-President of the Republic who, in case of impediment or temporary absence of the President, or definitive vacancy of the presidency, shall immediately replace him or her, with all of the powers of said office.”  Article 234 of the Constitution provides:


In case of impediment or absence of the President of the Republic, he or she shall be replaced by the Vice-President, and, lacking a vice-president and successively, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, and the President of the Supreme Court of Justice.


The Vice-President-elect shall assume the presidency of the Republic if it is vacant prior to or after the proclamation of the President, and shall hold said office until the end of the constitutional term.


If there is a definitive vacancy of the vice-presidency during the first three years of the constitutional term, elections will be called to fill it.  If it occurs in the last two years, the Congress, by absolute majority of its members, shall designate the person to fill the post for the rest of the term.


          5.          Among the duties and powers of the President of the Republic, the Paraguayan Constitution lists representing the State and directing the general administration of the country; abiding by and enforcing the Constitution and statutes; reporting to Congress, at the beginning of each annual session, as to the activities of the Executive branch, as well as reporting on the general situation of the Republic and plans for the future; being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; preparing and submitting the draft annual General Budget of the Nation to the legislative chambers; and enforcing the rulings of the authorities established by the Constitution.


          6.          Another function of the President is to choose the Solicitor General (Procurador General) of the Republic, whose powers and duties are established in Article 246 of the Constitution:  to represent and defend, in court or out of court, the property-related interests of the Republic; to give an opinion in those cases and for the purposes indicated by law; to provide legal counsel to the Public Administration in the manner determined by law; and all other duties and powers set by law.


          3.          The Judicial Branch


          7.          Article 247 of the Paraguayan Constitution provides that “the Judicial branch is the custodian of this Constitution. It interprets, abides by, and enforces it.  The administration of justice is entrusted to the Judicial branch, whose powers are exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice, the lower courts [tribunales and juzgados], in the manner established by this Constitution and the law.”  Article 256 of the Constitution establishes, for its part, that “all judicial judgments shall be grounded in this Constitution and the law.  Rulings may be freely criticized.”


          8.          The Constitution also provides that “the independence of the Judicial branch is guaranteed,” and that “those who attack the independence of the Judiciary and of its judges shall be disqualified from exercising any public function for five consecutive years, in addition to being subject to any penalties set by law.”


          9.          According to Article 249 of the Constitution, the Judicial branch enjoys budgetary autonomy, and its budget must be approved by the Congress.  It also provides that the Judiciary will be allocated “a sum no less than three percent of the budget for the central administration” in the General Budget of the Nation.


          10.          The designation of the members of the Supreme Court of Justice is made by the Senate, with the constitutional agreement of the Executive, after a process of selecting candidates and including them on lists drawn up by the Council of the Judiciary.  The Supreme Court of Justice, in turn, designates the members of all other tribunales and juzgados from the list proposed by the Council of the Judiciary.  Article 261 of the Constitution provides that “the members of the Supreme Court of Justice may only be removed by impeachment.  They must step down upon reaching the age of 75 years.”  Furthermore, Article 252 provides:


Judges may not be removed from their post, seat, or rank during the time for which they were appointed. They cannot be transferred or promoted without their prior and express consent.  They are designated for five-year terms, to be counted from the date of their appointment.


Those judges who are confirmed for two terms following the term in which they were chosen shall have tenure in the post until reaching the mandatory retirement age established for members of the Supreme Court of Justice.


          11.          Among the duties and powers of the Supreme Court of Justice enshrined in Article 259 of the Constitution are:  the exercise supervision of all organs of the Judiciary, and to decide, without appeal, jurisdictional conflicts, pursuant to the law; to hear and decide ordinary appeals established by law; to hear and decide writs of habeas corpus, with original jurisdiction, without prejudice to the jurisdiction of other judges or courts; to hear and decide cases of unconstitutionality; to hear and decide on final judgments, by virtue of its power of review, in the manner and to the extent established by law; to suspend on a preventive basis, acting on its own or at the request of the Trial Jury for Magistrates, those judges who are standing trial, until a final decision is reached in their case; to supervise detention centers and prisons; and to hear conflicts of jurisdiction between the Executive branch and the departmental governments, and between the departmental and municipal governments.


          4.          The Council of the Judiciary


          12.          The Constitution of Paraguay enshrines the existence of the Council of the Judiciary, whose duties and powers mentioned at Article 264 include “to propose a list of three candidates to fill each place on the Supreme Court of Justice, selected on the basis of suitability, with consideration of merits and qualifications, and to submit them to the Senate, which will appoint the members of the Supreme Court, with the agreement of the Executive branch”; and “to propose a list of three candidates, following the above criteria for selection and examination, to serve as members of the lower courts, judges, and prosecutors.”


          13.          According to Article 262 of the Constitution, the Council of the Judiciary is made up of one member of the Supreme Court of Justice, designated by it; one representative of the Executive branch; one Senator and one Deputy, both appointed by their respective Chamber; two licensed attorneys, appointed by their peers in a direct election; one law professor from the Law School at the Universidad Nacional, chosen by his or her peers; and one law professor from the private universities, chosen by his or her peers.


          5.          The Public Ministry


          14.          The Public Ministry, according to Article 266 of the Constitution, represents society before the judicial organs of the state, and enjoys functional and administrative autonomy in the performance of its duties and powers.  Its direction is vested in the Attorney General and the state attorneys, as established by law.


          15.          The Attorney General is designated by the Executive branch, from a list of three persons submitted by the Council of the Judiciary, with the consent of the Senate.  The Attorney General shall serve a term of five years, and may be re-elected.  The principal duties and functions of the Attorney General are set forth at Article 268 of the Constitution:  “to safeguard respect for constitutional rights and guarantees; to bring criminal charges to defend the property of the public and society, the environment, and other diffuse interests, and the rights of the indigenous peoples; to bring criminal charges in those cases in which initiating or continuing such an action does not require the initiative of a private party, without prejudice to the judge or court acting upon its own initiative, when so provided by law; and to obtain information from public officials in order to properly discharge its functions.”


          6.          Electoral Justice System


          16.          The Electoral Justice System, as provided for in the Paraguayan Constitution, is made up of a Superior Electoral Court (a three-person panel whose members are elected and removed following the same procedure as for the members of the Supreme Court of Justice), which shall define its organization and functions, and by the courts, prosecutorial offices, and other organs to be defined by law.


          17.          It is up to the Electoral Justice System to convoke, judge, organize, direct, supervise, and oversee the acts and issues derived from general, departmental, and municipal elections, and the rights and titles of those who are elected.  Also under its jurisdiction are the issues stemming from all types of referenda and regarding the elections and functioning of political parties and political movements.

          7.          The Human Rights Ombudsman


          18.          The Paraguayan Constitution includes an office that is very important for the promotion and defense of human rights in Paraguay, the Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo).  Following are the formal characteristics of this office as laid out in the Constitution.  In Chapter II, infra, the IACHR offers a series of considerations on the fact that eight years have elapsed since the Constitution was promulgated, and no Human Rights Ombudsman has yet to be designated in Paraguay.


          19.          Article 276 of the Constitution provides that the Human Rights Ombudsman “is a congressional commissioner whose functions are to defend human rights, channel popular complaints, and uphold the community interests.  In no case shall he or she have any judicial function or executive power.”  The following articles state that the Human Rights Ombudsman shall enjoy autonomy and be irremovable, that he or she shall be appointed by a two-thirds majority of the Chamber of Deputies, from a list of three candidates submitted by the Senate, and shall serve a term of five years, coinciding with the term of the Congress.  The Constitution also provides that the Ombudsman may be re-elected; may be removed for poor performance of his or her functions, using the impeachment procedure established in the Constitution, and that during his or her term he or she may not be part of any branch of government nor engage in any political party activity.


          20.          The main duties and powers of the Human Rights Ombudsman are spelled out at Article 279 of the Constitution, and refer to receiving and investigating reports, complaints, and claims against human rights violations and other acts established in the Constitution and by law; requesting information from the authorities, at the various levels, including the police organs and security organs in general, so as to better perform their functions, without the latter being able to keep any such material under seal; and to have access to those sites where it is alleged that such acts are performed.  The Human Rights Ombudsman also has the power to act on his or her own initiative; to censure publicly acts or conduct contrary to human rights; to report annually on his or her efforts to the Chambers of Congress; and to prepare and disseminate reports on the human rights situation which, in his or her view, require prompt public attention.




          1.          Rights enshrined directly in the Constitution


          21.          The Constitution of the Republic of Paraguay states at Article 137 that the Constitution itself is the supreme law of the land, and establishes, in Part I, a detailed series of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, such as the rights to life, personal liberty, due process, property, freedom of expression and press, freedom of assembly and public protest, conscientious objection, compensation for damages caused by the state, equality, protection for children, protection for the elderly, indigenous rights, health, education, and work.  The Constitution also enshrines a series of guarantees, such as habeas corpus, amparo, and habeas data.


2.          Incorporation of international protection to domestic law


          22.          The Constitution of Paraguay states at Article 137 that “the supreme law of the Republic of Paraguay is the Constitution.  The Constitution, treaties, conventions, and international agreements that have been approved and ratified, the statutes adopted by Congress, and other legal provisions of lesser rank, approved accordingly, make up domestic positive law, in the order of priority set forth.”  Article 141 of the Constitution indicates, similarly, that international treaties are part of the domestic legal order, with the rank established at Article 137.


          23.          Pursuant to Article 145 of the Constitution, “the Republic of Paraguay, in conditions of equality with other States, recognizes the existence of  a supranational legal order that guarantees the observance of human rights, peace, justice, cooperation and development, in the political, economic, social, and cultural spheres.”  Article 143 of that instrument also indicates that Paraguay accepts international law in its international relations, and that it accedes, among other principles, to the international protection of human rights.  Article 142 of the Constitution notes that “international human rights treaties may not be denounced other than by the procedures that govern the adoption of amendments to this Constitution.”




            1.          Regional (OAS)


          a.          Treaties ratified


          24.          The Paraguayan State has ratified the vast majority of human rights treaties and the two additional protocols signed in the context of the OAS: Paraguay is a party to the American Convention on Human Rights;[1] the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “Protocol of San Salvador”;[2] the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty;[3] the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture;[4] the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons;[5] and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, “Convention of Belém do Pará”.[6]  In addition, on November 3, 1993, Paraguay accepted the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. 



          b.          Treaties pending ratification


          25.          Although Paraguay already signed the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities, it has yet to ratify it.


          2.          Universal (United Nations)


        a.          Treaties ratified


          26.          In the United Nations framework, the Paraguayan State is a party, among other human rights treaties, to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, established by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, established, in turn, by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


          b.          Treaties pending ratification


          28.          In the UN framework, Paraguay has yet to ratify, among others, the following human rights treaties:  the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity; the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and the two recent Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, regarding, respectively, the participation of children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography.




          29.          This section includes an outline of some State plans and institutions in the area of human rights, and comments on the role of civil society in promoting and protecting human rights in Paraguay.


          1.          The State and the implementation of human rights


          30.          The Paraguayan Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches include offices dedicated exclusively to human rights.  In this same vein, a Human Rights Office is being established in the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and recently an Office on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law was established in the Ministry of Defense.  In addition, there were already Human Rights Offices in the Ministry of Justice and Labor, and in the Office of the Attorney General, currently held by Luis A. Resck.


          31.          The Supreme Court of Justice designated Justice Raúl Sapena Brugada as “member in charge of human rights issues.” He then promoted the creation of a “Human Rights Unit” whose functions include monitoring the application of human rights provisions by the domestic courts; serving as a center for research and consultation on human rights; and promoting the training of judges in the area of human rights, through seminars and conferences, and through the publication of materials on the topic.  The Honorable Supreme Court of Justice designated attorney Fátima Andrada as the coordinator of that Unit.


          32.          It should also be noted that the Senate has a Committee on Human Rights, currently chaired by Sen. Luis Alberto Mauro.  The Chamber of Deputies also has a Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Deputy Sonia De León.


          33.          The Paraguayan State informed the Inter-American Commission that on December 19, 2000, an Agreement was signed among the Presidents of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches to Prepare a National Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, which was the result of a coordinated effort by the governmental institutions.  The IACHR considers this inter-institutional effort very important, and hopes that it can be translated into specific actions on behalf of human rights in Paraguay.


          2.          Civil society and its role with respect to human rights


          34.          In its press release issued upon the conclusion of its on-site visit to Paraguay, the Commission noted that it:


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.[7]


          35.          The Inter-American Commission considers the excellent work done by the non-governmental organizations of Paraguay to be very important for the promotion and protection of human rights; they are increasingly participating in the life of the nation.  A highly representative group of these organizations has come together in the Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay, CODEHUPY, which has been carrying out several activities and significant campaigns on behalf of human rights, such as producing the report “Derechos Humanos en Paraguay--1999,” which cites this report several times.


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[1] Paraguay ratified this treaty in 1989.

[2] Ratified by Paraguay in 1997.

[3] Paraguay ratified this Protocol in the year 2000.

[4] Ratified by Paraguay in 1990.

[5] Paraguay ratified this Convention in 1996.

[6] Ratified by Paraguay in 1995.

[7] IACHR, Press Release No. 23/99, Asunción, July 30, 1999, para. 24. That press release can be found at the Commission’s web page, <www.cidh.oas.org>.