American Declaration, Article XXI - Every person has the right to assemble peaceably with others in a formal public meeting or an informal gathering, in connection with matters of common interest of any nature.


                   Article XXII – Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interest of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.[1]


1.                   With respect to these rights, the Commission has received a series of denunciations in which three distinct periods can be distinguished: November-December 1974; November-December 1975, and April-May 1976. During these periods the number of detentions, unlawful entries, interventions and closings appears to have increased, particularly against religious institutions, labor organizations and their members. New denunciations later received by the Commission have mentioned similar occurrences during the months of July and December of 1977.


2.                   The first phase –November-December 1974--, according to the claimants, was directed against the Ligas Agrarias (Agrarian Leagues), Christian cooperatives whose purpose, it is said, was to instruct the peasants as to their rights and duties and to organize them in such a way that they might make effective use of those rights. It was reported that the majority of their leaders were detained, that a number of them have disappeared and that some of them were killed. On February 8, 1976, according to a number of denunciations, an order was given for the destruction of the rural community of Jejuí. Information was provided regarding the alleged detention of Fathers Bordelon and Maciel (The latter is said to have received a bullet wound in the leg) as well as that of Mr. Cahalan and two French priests. According to the denunciations, the military forces that made these arrests were under the command of Colonel Grau who, according to information received by the Commission, is director of Emboscada Prison. The claimants add that fifteen peasants were also detained and that the town was fenced in. The farmers were not allowed to take in their harvest and so the harvests were lost. It is alleged that Father Bordelon and Mr. Cahalan spent two days in jail without being given the least explanation and that the peasants were held in detention for approximately three months.


3.                   The second wave of violence, according to communications received, began in November of 1975 and continued until the beginning of 1976. We list the events denounced below:


         i.                   In November of 1975 the “Instituto Popular Juan XXIII” was closed. This Institute, which was under the directorship of union leader Luis Alfonso Resck, belonged to the workers movement, as it had been established by the “Central Cristinana de Trabajadores” (CCT);


         ii.                   At the beginning of December 1975, the Marandú project –an institution created to organize the various groups of Paraguayan Indians, to instruct them in their rights and how to make them affective—was the object of Government “intervention”, its premises were seized, its directors detained and some torture;[2]


         iii.                   On January 13, 1976, by virtue of Decree 20.088, the Executive Power declared the “Colegio Cristo Rey” under intervention.


4.                   The denunciations received by the Commission of events that took place during the months of April and May of 1976 can be summarized as follows:


         i.       Persecution of union leaders Emigdio Colman Núñez, Secretary General of the “Central Nacional de Trabajadores Urbanos” (CNTU), Oscar Vicente Rodas, Marcos Acosta, and others;


         ii.       Entry and search of the “Seminario Metropolitano” in Azara and Kubitscheck, on April 5, and arrest and detention incommunicado of Father Ignacio Parra, Director of the “Pastoral Juvenil” of the Archdiocese;


         iii.       On April 8 the “Colegio Cristo Rey” was entered and searched when the children were about to enter classes, as was the Jesuit residence; Father José Miguel Munarriz was taken into custody;


         iv.       On April 10 the entry and search of the “Misión de Amistad” and its Promuri project (Promoción Urbana, Rural e Indígena, a socially oriented program to provide aid to peasants); and the detention and expulsion of a number of its members;


         v.       Entry and search of the “Colegio María Auxiliadora,” the “Seminario Diocesano” and the “Instituto de Desarrollo Rural (IDER) of the Diocese, located in the town of Villarrica;


         vi.       On April 29, the rectory of San Antonio was searched and Father Francisco Romero taken prisoner; he is being held incommunicado in the Department of Investigations;


         vii.       On May 1, Father Isidro Figueredo, the parish priest for Ypané, was detained;


         viii.       On May 2, the Agronomy School “Carlos Pfanel”, in Santa María (Coronel Oviedo), was searched and professors and instructors detained;


         ix.       Father José Ortega, parish priest for Santa Rosa, Misiones, was placed in a police van and taken to Clorinda (Argentina) where he was left without any explanation;


         x.       On May 6, Father Bartolomé Melía left Paraguay at the behest of the national authorities.


5.       On June 12, 1976, the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference published the pastoral letter mentioned earlier. The following paragraphs merit quotation:


3.   The outbreaks of violence and the response of institutional and police repression now under way have a profound effect not only upon our churches but also upon the country itself, as the property, the honor, the liberty and the very life of individuals are at stake. They have particularly affected the Church wounding its Christian sentiments, sullying its good name, and threatening and limited its freedom.


Disturbing events


4.   We would like to list briefly the facts that constitute this hour of testing for Christians and all good citizens. These are:


a)      Indiscriminate repression and imprisonment of students and peasants;




d)       Injury done to the Church when its schools are subjected to intervention, and when its seminaries, its apostolic institutions and schools are searched by the police;


e)       Priests, seminarians, and employees of church institutions have been taken into custody and held totally incommunicado;


f)       A number of priests of the Society of Jesus have been rudely and arbitrarily thrown out of the country;


g)       Priests (religious and secular, Paraguayan and foreign), lay people who by one means or another have had contact with Catholic institutions or movements, especially youth movements have been mentioned –without reliable proof—as among those responsible for acts of violence;



j)       An unacceptable limit on all extracurricular activity in Catholic schools themselves is established, one that is not in keeping wit the law and the freedom of the Church. Even further, attempts are made to limit the right of assembly and association of Catholics for such specific purposes as catechism and religious instruction.



14. We contend that the critical presence of the Church is essential in our country during this time of great undertaking in order to preserve the human values of development and in order to guarantee that development takes place in the Christian context of the history of salvation. Of special significance among the human and Christian values of genuine development are respect for the fundamental rights of the person; proper application of legal norms that protect individuals and institutions against arbitrary action; and a true dialogue and the broadest possible guarantees for the right of reply and for the defense of all those who are persecuted in the exercise of their ecclesiastical mission.


15. In line with these thoughts and on behalf of the faithful, of the may who today suffer persecution for Christ’s sake:


We request and end to the arbitrary procedures, massive arrests, the intimidation of entire rural communities, the confiscation of property of those accused, and the indefinite prolongation of detention incommunicado of individuals detained.


We demand that, out of consideration for the highest laws of the nation and the number of baptized Christians, the defamatory campaign against the Church be brought to an end; under the pretext of defending the Church, this campaign is waged by officials and official agencies against the bishops and clergy of the Church, its lay apostles and its institutions. Under the present circumstances, the Church is clearly and truly an object of persecution.


If we are to believe in those who govern us, adequate guarantees must be ensured so that the pastors and faithful may conduct their apostolic mission not only through acts of worship but also in the context of family, social and civic life.


16. As legitimate pastors of the faithful, we reaffirm the Church’s inalienable responsibility to promote the activities that are inherent to it and we renew our decision to put them into practice whatever the sacrifice.


6.       According to denunciations received by the Commission, 20 intellectuals were detained between July 19 and 29, 1977 among them the director, five members of the editorial board, the secretary and several collaborators on the magazine “Criterio”. The claimants add, moreover, that José Carlos Rodríguez, an executive member of the Comité de Iglesias (Committee of Churches), was detained along with four professionals who have supported the work of the “Comité” –Eduardo Arce, Oscar Rodríguez, Ursino Barrios and Juan Félix Bogado. Thirteen were released, according to information received, and seven brought before the courts, accused of violating Law 209. Subsequent to the investigatory statements (declaraciones indagatorias), it was reported that Adolfo Ferreiro was released and that the other six, Eduardo Arce, Juan Félix Bogado, Jorge Canesse, José N. Morinigo, Oscar Rodríguez and Antonio Valenzuela Candía, were returned to Emboscada Prison. Through certain information that appeared in the Paraguayan press during the month of December 1977, the Commission has become aware that the first phase of the trial, the plenary proceedings (el sumario) against the individuals mentioned above was about to end, and the next phase of the trial, the plenary proceeding (el plenario), was expected to begin after the judicial recess for the month of January 1978.


7.       According to the claimants, these detentions were due, among other causes, to the Paraguayan government’s fear of a reaction from this group to the question of the change from 50 to 60 cycles in the Paraguayan electric systems; to the closing of the offices of the Liberal Party that occurred at that time, and to the prevailing opinion among authorities with regard to the need no to show any weakness in the face of the campaign being waged by various institutions for human rights in Paraguay.


8.       The Commission recently received a number of communications denouncing numerous detentions and beatings by Paraguayan authorities in Ypacaraí, in mid-December 18¿977.


9.       According to the information, the detention in Ypacaraí took placed as the result of a meeting sponsored jointly by the “Confederación Latino Americana de Trabajadores” (CLAT), the “Central Nacional de Trabajadores Urbanos (CNTU) and the “Centro Paraguayo de Estudios Sociales” (CEPES), for the apparent purpose of reorganizing the “Ligas Agrarias”, whose destruction is imputed to the Government as a result of the repressive wave of November-December 1974, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Among the approximately 20 individuals detained in Ypacaraí, according to the denunciations, is labor leader Emigdio Colman Nuñéz, who it is alleged was detained and persecuted on various occasions, as stated previously in this chapter.[3] All of the individuals detained, the claimants add, have been brought before the courts, and have been accused of violating Law 209; however, the sources note that these individuals are being held in Emboscada.


10.       Furthermore, the Commission received denunciations reporting the harassment to which a number of individuals who actively promote defense of human rights in Paraguay have been subjected as a consequence of their activities. These individuals include: Mrs. Carmen Casco de Lara Castro, deputy in the National Congress for the Radical Liberal Party and Chairman of the “Comisión de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos del Paraguay” (Paraguayan Commission for the Defense of Human Rights), and the members of the recently formed “Juventud Paraguaya por los Derehos Humanos” (Paraguayan Youth for Human Rights.

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[1] American Convention on Human Rights


Article 15


The right of peaceful assembly, without arms, is recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect health or morals or the rights or freedoms of others.


Article 16


1.         Everyone has the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political, economic, labor, social, cultural, sports, or other purposes,


2.         The exercise of this right shall be subject only to such restrictions established by law as may be necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, public safety public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights and freedom of others.


3.         The provisions of this Article do not bar the impositions of legal restrictions, including even deprivation of the exercise of the right of association, on members of the armed forces and the police.

[2] See Chapters III and IV of this Report, pp.32 and 56 respectively.

[3] Among the others detained, according to the claimants, are four former presidents of the “Juventud Obrera Católica” (JOC), a number of former leaders of the “Ligas Agrarias” as well as collaborators from the “Misión de Amistad”, with regard to which a denunciation had already been received in April of 1976, concerning the unlawful entry of its premises.