The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presented its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.43, doc.13, January 31, 1978) to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States at its eighth regular session, which took place from June 21 through July 1, 1978, in Washington, D.C.


          In Resolution AG/RES. 270, the General Assembly resolved “To thank the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay and to request it to continue to observe the situation of human rights in that country and to report on the matter to the General Assembly at its next regular session.”


          In its report, the Commission drew the conclusions and made the recommendations presented below:




         An objective analysis of the information available to the Commission leads to the conclusion that a state of affairs exists in the Republic of Paraguay under which the majority of human rights recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and in other similar instruments, not only are not respected in a manner in keeping with the international commitments assumed by that country, but also have become the object of a practice of constant violation.


         The many denunciations received from within Paraguay itself, information compiled by international bodies that visited the country, and a great deal of other data coming from different sources, as well as the silence of the Paraguayan Government in the face of the many observations and recommendations made to it over the years by the Commission, enable the latter to conclude that, under the state of siege which has been in force in Paraguay—in uninterrupted fashion—for more than 30 years, grave and numerous acts have been committed in violation of fundamental human rights, and in particular of the following:


         1. The right to life. Well-founded bases exist to conclude that various individuals have died at the hands of the authorities under circumstances which have not been properly clarified. Moreover, cases commonly classified as disappearances, involving individuals who had been arrested by the authorities and held for indefinite periods in “unknown” locations, may well constitute instances of violation of the right to life, although, due to a lack of direct evidence, it may not be possible to adequately establish their occurrence.


         2. The right to security of the person. The use of physical and psychological duress and of every form of cruelty in order to extract confessions or to intimidate and humiliate detainees is a constant and continuing practice in Paraguay, as attested to by denunciations and other information received from widely different sources. The foregoing is also suggested by the fact that the Paraguayan authorities impassively receive the transcriptions of such denunciations which are transmitted to them by the Commission, while allowing the time limits established for the receipt of replies to lapse, without commenting on them in any way. In addition to the above, the Commission must note that no information whatsoever has been received regarding the application of sanctions against even a single individual responsible for such inhuman treatment.


         2. The right to personal liberty. As noted in this Report, the detentions carried out under the state of siege—that is, without any form of trial or filing of charges—number in the hundreds. Some of the individuals arbitrarily detained in this manner have spent as much as 19 years in prison without being brought to trial. Indeterminate detention without charges or trial is aggravated, in many cases, by holding individuals incommunicado for indefinite periods.


         According to what has been learned, which can be easily ascertained from many sources, detentions of representatives of different political tendencies, for indefinite periods of time, not only create an atmosphere of natural anxiety and uncertainty among Paraguayans, but also contribute to the creation of serious obstacles to the free development of national life and to a return to the full legal effectiveness of democratic institutions.


         4. The right to a fair trial. As stated in various passages of this Report, individuals detained by virtue of the state of siege do not enjoy the right of due process of law. They are not brought before a competent judge within the prescribed time periods, nor are they allowed or provided lawyers to safeguard compliance with procedural norms. The remedies of habeas corpus or amparo are without effect in these cases, as there is no court or judge that considers himself competent to grant such a remedy.


         Suspected individuals are, as a general rule, held in places not suited for such purposes or in establishments which fail to meet even the minimal requirements which every prison should satisfy.


         Finally, from a number of denunciations it has also been established that lawyers who assume responsibility for defending individuals detained for political reasons and, in general, for cases involving the state of siege, are frequently the object of threats and acts of intimidation, including such measures as withholding their license to practice.


         5. The right to freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas. Regarding this right, the obvious conclusion to be drawn is that in Paraguay the mass media are not free either to accurately report the news or to express their opinions. This is so despite the fact that publications or broadcasts of certain news items or commentaries critical of the Government are occasionally ignored.


         6. The right of assembly and of association. These rights, established in Articles XXI and XXII of the American Declaration, are frequently violated and ignored in practice. The Commission has in its hands sufficient bases for judgment to state that the Paraguayan Catholic Church and other religious institutions have been the object of persecution directly affecting their seminaries, schools and institutions of higher learning, as well as the development of its social action and assistance programs.




         On the basis of al of the foregoing, and in fulfillment of its essential mission, the Commission believes it appropriate to make the following recommendations to the Government of Paraguay, aimed at rectifying the anomalies that have been described above and to guaranteeing protection of human rights in the future:


         1. To adopt the measures necessary to lift the state of siege, in view of the fact that it has been extended again and again in uninterrupted fashion over a period of 30 years, as the Commission has observed in various passages of this Report, or, in the event that circumstances of grave danger or public calamity make its maintenance absolutely necessary, to issue without delay, in accordance with the corresponding provisions of the Constitution, the regulatory law called for in order to establish the indispensable compatibility which must exist between that institution and permanent respect for fundamental human rights.


         These provisions should establish a procedure by which detentions are carried out under written orders issued by competent authorities, with a copy of the same being formally transmitted within a fixed period of time to a member of the family or an individual indicated by the detainee. The order of detention should contain all the information necessary to identify with precision the detainee and the individual taking him into custody, as well as the location where the detention is to be carried out and the name and authority ordering the measure.


         2. These regulatory provisions should also provide for additional safeguards, such as medical examinations carried out both upon entry into and departure from places of detention. Above all, the full legal effectiveness of the remedies of habeas corpus and of amparo for all classes of detainees should be reestablished or guaranteed by means of a special law, in view of the fact that under ordinary procedures these remedies are now considered incompatible with the institution of special powers.


         3. To release as soon as possible all individuals detained under the state of siege against whom charges have not been filed, or, should there be legal cause for such action, to submit them immediately to due process of law including a fair trial.


         To take all measures necessary to guarantee, with respect to women who have given birth in prison or who have been detained with an infant, the special assistance and consideration which is required due to their condition and that of their small children.


         4. To adopt administrative and practical measures aimed at ensuring that any official who commits abuses or uses cruel and inhuman methods against detainees will be made an example of an duly punished.


         5. To take the necessary measures in order to guarantee the proper protection for lawyers and judges, so that both may properly perform their special tasks.


         6. To inform the Commission as soon as possible of the measures adopted in carrying out these recommendations.


          For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Paraguay, Dr. Alberto Nogués, en a note dated July 2, 1979, concerning Resolution 370, informed the Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Carlos Dunshee de Abranches, of the following:


         1. The policy of the Government of Paraguay is to protect the peace and democratic stability of its institutions, which places my country in the best possible conditions to develop its economy in a climate of freedom highly suited to ensuring the well being of the entire populace.


         Without neglecting it steadfast commitment to those priority objectives, in recent times the National Government has wished to demonstrate, in substantive ways, its cooperation with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, by responding to the communications it receives from the Commission and, as a consequence, by adopting certain decisions that are in keeping with the legal means available to the public power to complement the Commission’s own purpose.


         Thus, for example, I hereby inform Your Excellency that to date there are only four individuals under arrest by virtue of the power granted to the executive through Article 79 of the National Constitution and that no one is being deprived of his freedom without the intervention of the competent judicial authorities.


         2. Among the individuals under arrest, by virtue of the state of siege, is an Argentine citizen, Amilcar Latino Santucho, to whom the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees granted refugee status.


         3. Paraguay lives under a genuine state of law and legality where each one of the Executive, Judicial and Legislative Powers acts within the sphere assigned to it in the provisions of the National Constitution. I would like to remind Your Excellency that the Constitution in force in the Republic of Paraguay, unlike those of other countries, is the genuine expression of the will of the National Constitutional Convention, which met in 1967, in which the legitimate representatives of five democratic parties, freely elected by the people in elections convoked for that purpose, took part.


         4. The Report of the Commission (page 15, paragraph 11) acknowledges that “the inescapable fact is that the people of Paraguay live under a system of emergency powers,” adding the adjective “emergency” (extraordinaria). We do not accept this qualifying adjective because the provisions in force in a country are either legal or illegal, without connotations that seek to weaken their efficacy. And as for the total or partial enforcement of the state of siege, I must insist once again that this remedy—absolutely legitimate and legal—in no way presupposes the replacement of the regular judges by military judges or courts, as happens in other countries.


         The Commission has expressed its concern that the rights of the individual not be deprived of all legal protection in the case of an all pervasive or absolutist will of the authorities. In Paraguay there is no right or guarantee that is subject to the all-pervasive will of any official or individual. All government acts are carried out in accordance with the legal principles that govern the country, as an expression of the free will of the people expressed through the constitutional organs, as in any other genuinely democratic regime.


         5. The free play of the democratic parties in Paraguay is an ongoing daily experience. Groups or factions that, for reasons of the juridical system of elections, are not represented in the National Congress, act freely and issue their statements, published advertisements in the commercial and independent press, hold their proselytizing meetings without any restrictions and make unlimited use of freedom of expression. Moreover, there is one party that is duly authorized to act in accordance with the electoral regulations, the “Partido Revolucionario Febrerista,” that meets and acts freely, systematically proclaims that it will abstain from elections as a form of political protest, has its own press organ, sends representatives to international political meetings of its particular ideological persuasion and is serving as a nucleus for the formation of a political group called “Acuerdo Nacional,” which seeks to attract, through dubious and circumstantial means, small dissident political factions of a variety of ideological persuasions, whose common underlying feature is the intent to subvert the constituted legal order and injure Paraguay’s image abroad.


         6. Freedom of the press is an undeniable fact in Paraguay. A number of independent and commercial newspapers and other publications that are organs of political parties, of the Paraguayan church, and of other religious or professional persuasions are published without obstacles of any kind. The “Partido Revolucionario Febrerista” which, as said, proclaims its abstention from the electoral process, has its own organ of the press, “El Pueblo” which appears every two weeks. Some days ago, all the newspapers directors in Asunción held a roundtable televised throughout the country via Channel 9 “Cerro Corá.” During the roundtable, all the directors of national newspapers stated emphatically that there is unlimited freedom of the press in Paraguay, a fact fully confirmed by the conduct of the national government in this regard.


         7. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights notes the lengthy enforcement of the state of siege and the absence of a law to govern a constitutional remedy of that kind.


         I wish to emphatically state to Your Excellency that the Government of Paraguay does have this legal remedy in its Constitution to defend the peace, a state of democratic normalcy, and institutional stability in the country, which it will not renounce because the public authority alone is competent to measure the scope of its responsibility in a matter that is within its exclusive purview. The Commission is aware that Paraguay was often the scene of attacks by guerrilla bands and other subversives, in which armed elements from abroad sought to undermine institutional legitimacy and subvert the existing order, with a view to imposing totalitarian doctrines from the extreme left. The Commission also knows that the repression of these criminal and anarchistic outbreaks has cost the forces or order and legality many lives and that their nefarious activities have seriously damaged the country’s economy, which is so in need of peace in order to develop completely.


         Despite all these manifestations of social danger, the Government makes prudent use of the constitutional measure in question. At the present time, the measure in question is in force only in the capital of the Republic, which is exposed because of its dangerous proximity to an international border and the forces that incite subversion, indiscriminate terrorism and urban guerrilla warfare.


         Regulation of the constitutional power of the date of siege is the exclusive responsibility of the legitimate leaders of the Paraguayan people, as represented in the National Congress.


         Apparently, an attempt is being made to show that the 1967 Constitution amended certain provisions in connection with the state of siege. The pertinent constitutional prescriptions are practically the same as those in the 1940 Constitution. Consequently, the power of the Executive to detain individuals suspected of participating in events that give rise to conflicts, international war, foreign invasion, internal disturbance or serious threat, remains intact. Even with this Constitutional power, the Executive has preferred to bring the suspected parties before their natural judges, so that they may be judged in accordance with Law 209 on Defense of the Public Peace.


         Enforcement of the State of Siege, which unquestionably is based on legal grounds and is supported by the vast majority of the citizenry who appear among the ranks of the Republican National Association (Partido Colorado), protects order and the free play of democracy in accordance with the law and with respect for the inhabitants and public and private property.


         8. Laws 294 and 209 regulate provisions set forth in the Constitution. The Constitution does not authorize the preaching of class hatred and proselytizing efforts in favor of doctrines which abusing democratic freedoms, in the last analysis, seek to eliminate free and representative institutions. Law 294 concerning “Safeguarding of Democracy” does not conceive of “the simple act of disseminating a particular political ideology” as a criminal act, as might be inferred from the report of the Commission. It does not penalize ideas or mere opinions, but the act of campaigning for a change in the established order, a first step toward creating an institutional crisis or a crisis of the civilized life prevailing in a free and democratic nation. The provisions of Law 209 on “Safeguarding the Public Peace and Freedom of Individuals” have been applied exclusively to persons who, either individually or in association with others, are guilty of subversion or terrorism.


         At the present time, there is not a single person under arrest or indictment because of these laws.


         9. Reply to denunciations made to the Commission. It is with great satisfaction that the government of my country can say that it is completely up to date in replying to all the communications it has received from the Commission, which cite denunciations brought to it by different people. Several times, the Ministry under my direction, has sent the Commission over which you preside, without the Commission having asked it to do so, cautionary reports and information on matters of concern to it. This exchange of communications has indeed been advantageous, because it has helped to clarify situations in which the persons making the denunciations were evidently interested in distorting the facts for political reasons.


         10. We make no reference to the basic laws of Paraguay, because on November 16, 1978, at the request of Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary of the Commission, we sent him the texts of these laws, including the Constitution.


         But we think we should say a few words on the structure of the Judiciary in Paraguay. Criminal procedure is divided into two stages: summary and plenary proceedings.


         The judge has in his possession all the necessary elements to enable him to hand down a fair judgment; he can hear the arguments of the lawyers for the defense and the prosecution, and the Ministry of minors. In short, he can give the complainant and the plaintiff every opportunity to present their explanations and allegations before the law. The judgment of the court of first instance may be appealed to a court of appeals, where three judges review the judgment and give the parties a second chance. If the judgment of this court is different, the case is taken to the Supreme Court, where five judges hand down an opinion which is final. Under no circumstances is it admissible for the judges to work with their hands tied, or to be subjected to influence. The judges are lawyers or doctors of law, and some considerations which have been raised as, for example, regarding the writ of habeas corpus, are incorrect and do not conform strictly to the law. A judge who takes it upon himself to decide whether or not to grant this writ, even though the provision of Article 79 of the Constitution (State of Siege) might apply to the case, would deviate from and upset the correctness of the laws of the republic.


         11. Although the Government of Paraguay once more states its willingness to receive the visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, it continues to hold in abeyance its decision on just when this may take place. For reasons of sovereignty, action on this matter is something that the government of my country must reserve for itself.


         12. Guarantees to persons and institutions furnishing the Commission with information, evidence, and proof. In no case has the government taken any measure which might interfere with the action of these natural or juridical persons. In our note of last April 2, we gave a detailed explanation of everything that happened in connection with Mrs. Carmen de Lara Castro, so-called president of a so-called Paraguayan Commission on Human Rights. This body has no representative quality whatever, since it is composed exclusively of a radical group of political opponents, whose evident objective is to create problems for the government through a systematic campaign of defamation and besmirchment of the country’s image to the outside world, on the pretext of defending human rights.


         As we informed the Commission in our note, the only action taken was to have Mrs. de Lara Castro appear before the sitting judge of the criminal court of the first instance, for the sole purpose of making a statement to provide information by the attorney general of the state.


          This special report will make reference to the development in the situation of human rights in Paraguay during 1978; to present an up to date a picture as possible of the situation in Paraguay, it will also cover events that occurred during the first months of 1979.




          In its first report on the situation of human rights in Paraguay, approved in January of 1978, the Commission pointed out that a state of siege has existed in Paraguay since 1929, except on days when national elections are held and for approximately 6 months during 1946. One of the recommendations contained in that report called upon the Government of Paraguay “to adopt the measures necessary to lift the state of siege” and to issue the complementary law mentioned in Article 79 of the Constitution of the Republic. The Commission also suggested certain areas to be governed by the complementary law.


          Since our report was issued, the state of siege has been lifted throughout the country, with the exception of the capital. However, this news is marred by the fact that the courts have ordered that individuals arrested in other parts of Paraguay can be taken to Asunción and held there under the state of siege. Thus, the lifting of the state of siege throughout the country, with the exception of Asunción, has little practical effect.


          To date, the government has not enacted the complementary law that would establish the scope of the limitations placed on human rights when a state of siege is declared.


          The Commission also commented upon Law 254, of October 17, 1955, entitled “Defense of Democracy” and Law 209 of September 18, 1970, entitled “Defense of public peace and physical liberty of the individual,” which makes mere dissemination of a particular ideology a criminal offense. It recalled that it had stated on another occasion that laws of this type were inconsistent with the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


          In its note of July 2, 1979, the Government alleges that Law 294 does not punish the individual for his ideas or opinions, but rather for “a proselytizing campaign aimed at altering the existing order.” The right to hold an opinion has no real content without the parallel right to express that opinion, either individually or together with others.


          The Government also states that Law 203 has been applied only “to individuals involved, either individually or in association with others, in subversive or terrorist activities.” However, as true this may be, this type of law leads to abuses because the Government itself must enter into the nebulous realm of defining subversion and terrorism.


          In actual fact, in a note dated October 13, 1978, on Case 3099, the Government of Paraguay described the formation of a coalition of political opposition as “the beginning of subversive activities against the National Government under the label of (Acuerdo Nacional.)”


          What is more, the Commission has received denunciations to the effect that members of the legal political opposition have been detained for brief periods under La 203.




A.          Homicides attributed to the authorities by the claimants


          i)          According to the claimants, Jorge Zabala Esquivel, 27 years of age and a militant member of the Organización Política Militar, was arrested by the police at dawn on January 12, 1978. Witnesses stated that Zabala died some hours later from blows received. The Government of Paraguay, in a note dated April 27, 1978, answered the request for information sent by the IACHR and stated that “the events that led to the death of Zabala Esquivel occurred precisely as recounted in the report submitted by the Minister of the Interior and were widely publicized at that time in the national press.” The Government did not attach a copy of that report. (Case 2704).


          ii)          It is alleged that Doroteo Brandel, a leader of farm workers, was shot in an ambush in August of 1978, some weeks after having spent two years under secret arrest in the Second Infantry Division in Villarica. The Government attributes the death to a dispute in a canteen. It is also alleged that Agustín Bareiro Avarilla was killed in September of 1978 by the Chief of the Eighth Police Headquarters, Lucio Soca Cardoza, who was arrested and brought to trial in January 1979.


B.          Attacks imputed to the authorities by the claimants


          In a communication dated January 20, 1979, a denunciation was filed alleging an attempt by Government agents on the life of Eulogio Constantino Coronel Zorrilla, a former leader of the Catholic Agrarian League, who had been held under arrest for political reasons from April 4, 1976, to July 20, 1978. The attempt occurred in the early morning hours of January 2, 1979, in the patio of his brother-in-law’s house where the Coronel family was staying. The Government’s official position, as it appeared in the newspaper of the Partido Colorado “La Patria,” is that the brother-in-law shot Coronel when he found him trying to rape his daughter. Coronel is being held on a charge of rape. (Case 3658).


C.          Persons detained and presumably dead


          In its first report the Commission included the case of Derlis Villagra Aramendia who, it is alleged, was detained in 1975 and then disappeared. The Government denied the arrest. In December of 1978 the wife of Villagra received, indirectly, official confirmation of the death of Villagra at the hands of the Security Guard, shortly after his arrest.






          In its first report, the Commission devoted special attention to individuals who had been detained unjustifiably for lengthy periods of time, as much as 17 years, without ever having been brought to trial or having been accused of a crime. The Commission stated that such detentions were possible because of the uncertain juridical situation that developed as a result of the indefinite period of state of siege in Paraguay.


          The first report indicated that the judicial authorities had disclaimed jurisdiction in the case of individuals detained under the special powers of the state of siege and that those powers annulled or rendered ineffective such remedies as amparo or habeas corpus and any other guarantee that might protect the detainee against excesses or abuses of power. The fact that the state of siege continues in effect in the capital and that a supplementary law to govern its operation has never been enacted means that the situation has not changed.


          The Commission is pleased with the statement made by the Government to the effect that it has made certain decisions that are in keeping with the recommendations made by the Commission in its first report. As an example, the Government reports to the Commission that at present there are only four individuals under arrest by virtue of the authority granted to the Executive by Article 79 of the Constitution. The question that arises is why those four individual, two of whom have spent more than 10 years in jail, cannot be released or brought to trial, as the Commission recommended. Further, it has also been reported that prisoners released have not received identification papers or that at times they are given especially marked identification papers that make it impossible for them to obtain work or leave the country.


          In is note of July 2, the Government of Paraguay mentions only the specific case of the Argentine citizen, Amilcar Latino Santucho (Case 2745), which the Government says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has granted refugee status. Santucho has remained under arrest since 1975, without being brought to trial, and has been regarded as a refugee by mandate of the High Commissioner, for some two and a half years. However, despite the fact that the Government of Sweden has granted him a visa, Amilcar Santucho is still being jailed unjustly in Paraguay.


          The Commission has received information to the effect that a number of lawyers working in the area of human rights have been harmed by the authorities. For example, Mario Melgarejo and Celso Castillo, lawyers residing in Fernando de la Mora who protested the excessive cost of a new sewer line, were kidnapped on the street on June 19 and disappeared until they were released three days later. Melgarejo was arrested on a charge of violating Law 209.


          In a statement presented to the Ministry of Justice and Labor and to the Supreme Court in May 1978, the Paraguayan Bar Association made the following reference to the independence of the judiciary, which was also brought up in the report of the Commission and in the note from the Government:


         We solemnly reaffirm that we need an independent judicial power in the broadest sense of the word. The constitutional guarantees of amparo must apply equally to the highest judicial authority of the nation and to the lowest ranking justice of the peace. All must again believe that the administration of justice depends solely on proper application of the laws and is not contingent upon other factors extraneous to the bench.


         It is essential that we understand the danger to the nation posed by the conviction that certain matters of litigation should be resolved outside the courtroom. To eradicate these problems, which arise in these cases from a lack of independence, will enable honest magistrates—which there are—to again sally forth.


          The Bar Association also asked that the Judiciary be composed of “honest and capable magistrates, appointed because of unique personal merits, without discrimination … and on the basis of their conduct and background in lower-ranking posts in the judiciary or in private practices” and a “Judiciary that serves the people, conscious of its important work and service to the cause of freedom, human dignity and the moral and material heritage of all Paraguayans.”




          In its note of June 2, 1979, the Government of Paraguay states that freedom of the press is an undeniable fact in Paraguay. The majority of sources acknowledge that there has been some improvement in this area since the Commission’s first report. It seems that newspapers have a little more freedom to criticize certain actions taken by the Government and more frequently contain information on the political opposition.


          However, the closing of two newspapers, La Tribuna and Ultima Hora for a thirty-day period, in June of 1979, is a negative sign in terms of freedom of the press.




          With regard to these two rights, the first report of the Commission made reference to the pressures brought to bear against a number of individuals who actively promoted the defense of human rights. Special mention was made of Mrs. Carmen Casco de Lara Castro, a former deputy of the Radical Liberal Party and Chairman of the Committee on Defense of Human Rights in Paraguay, who in March of 1979 was brought before the Criminal Judge of First Instance of First term. According to the denunciation, this was done in order to harass Mrs. de Lara Castro.


          With respect to the Commission on Human Rights of Paraguay, the Inter-American Commission is concerned over the language which appears in the note received from the Government, dated July 2, which alleges that the “supposed” Commission “is in no way representative, as it is composed exclusively of a radical group of opposition politicians whose patent objective is to create problems for the Government.” Frequently, the very nature of national human rights commissions leads to confrontations with the governments. However, this in itself does not justify government attacks either by deed or by word, upon such groups.


          Furthermore, the Paraguayan Commission sponsored the First National Congress on Human Rights, held in Asunción in December 1978, which was held without police interference.


          Certain remarks are in order in this chapter on the political parties in Paraguay. In other parts of this report it was stated that Mr. Domingo Laíno, Vice Chairman of the principal opposition party, was detained by the police for more than a month after returning to Paraguay from abroad. That party established a coalition in 1978 with two other independent parties, the Christian Democrats and the Febrerista, and the opposition sector off the Partido Colorado (MOPOCO).


          Plans to celebrate the signing of the National Agreement which resulted from this coalition in February 1978, were aborted by the police who refused to permit a public meeting that was to be held when the National Agreement was signed.


          Further, the leaders of the National Agreement planned to hold a series of meetings in Washington, D.C., in order to explain their programs, but they were dissuaded from doing so by Government officials who warned them that they would not be permitted to return to the country if they left. Other examples of harassment of political leaders include the incarceration in September 1978 of Luis Resck, a leader of the Christian Democratic Party, and Angel Bernal, a leader of the Febreristas, who were released after two days under threats of expulsion. On August 12, 1978, Aníbal Recalde, Chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, was threatened with expulsion by the Chief of Investigations, Pastor Coronel, and 11 days later, Humberto Pérez Cáceres, Chairman of the Febrerista Party, received the same threat.




          In a communication dated February 23, 1978, a denunciation was filed to the effect that the Government of Paraguay, by an official decree dated January 3, had outlawed the Christian religious group known as Jehovah’s Witnesses and its legal body, the Bible and Watchtower Society, which had operated in Paraguay for some 40 years.


          The reason for the censure was ostensibly linked to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal, for reasons of conscience and religion, to accept military service or to participate in patriotic ceremonies. The claimants point out that only a small number of individuals who are members of that faith had refused to participate in military service and only a few children had preferred not to participate in patriotic ceremonies. But the prohibition was invoked against all its congregations and all their parishioners in Paraguay.


          In a note dated April 9, 1979, the Government sent the Commission a copy of Decree Nº 3272, which “canceled the legal capacity of the Governing Body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and prohibits it from functioning in the territory of the Republic,” because the sect had not observed the provisions contained in Article 70; 3, 1 and 4; 125 and 123 of the Constitution.





          In its Resolution on the Report of the Commission on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay, the General Assembly of the OAS resolved “to make an earnest appeal to the Government of Paraguay to… grant appropriate guarantees to those individuals and institutions that may provide information, testimony, or evidence of any other kind to the Commission.”


          Domingo Laíno was a Paraguayan who attended that session of the General Assembly and who visited the offices of the Commission in order to speak with various members of the IACHR during his stay in Washington, D.C.; the individual in question is an economist and Vice Chairman of the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico of Paraguay. Less than 24 hours after his return to Paraguay from Washington, D.C., two armed men dressed in civilian clothing forced him to get out of an automobile in which he was a passenger, beat him and took him away in their automobile. This occurred in downtown Asunción around noon, on July 7, 1978. The driver of the automobile in which Laíno was a passenger was Dr. José Francisco de Vargas, a layer for the Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid, who was taken away in another vehicle. The wife of Dr. Laíno immediately inquired at all the police headquarters in Asunción as to the whereabouts of her husband. It was not until 8:30 that night when she returned to the Investigations Department, that a Government official acknowledged that he had been detained.


          On the very day of the incident, the Commission sent a cable to the Government of Paraguay requesting information and reminding it of the resolution adopted by the General Assembly.


          In a cable dated July 12, the Government stated that Dr. Laíno had been arrested by Paraguay Security Forces in connection with activities that allegedly were in violation of Laws 209 and 294 and because of which a suit was filed in 1975.


          Dr. Laíno was released by virtue of a court decision of August 8, 1979 (Case 2940).


          Similarly, by means of a note dated March 13, 1979, the Commission requested information from the Government of Paraguay in connection with a court hearing of March 6 to which Mrs. Carmen de Lara Castro had been cited. Mrs. Castro, it was said, is Chairman of the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Paraguay and, in that capacity, is in frequent contact with the IACHR. The note itself made reference to Resolution 370 of the General Assembly.


          Another Paraguayan organization on behalf of human rights, which has encountered difficulties with the authorities, is the Comité Febrerista Juvenil sobre Derechos Humanos (Febrerista Committee of Youth for Human Rights.) On June 13, 1979, fifteen leaders of that Committee were taken to police headquarters for interrogation where, it is alleged, they were harshly beaten. All were released.




          On the basis of the information that the Commission has been able to compile, including that provided by the Government of Paraguay, it can be stated that since the Commission issued its first Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay, a number of changes have taken place.


          First, virtually all the political prisoners have been released. Further, it would seem that the torture practiced by Government authorities has declined considerably during 1978. However, the Commission has not been informed of any government agent who has been brought to trial for that crime. Also, another positive step noted by the Commission has been the fact that there is less control of the press.


          On the other hand, the Commission notes that there have not been any significant institutional changes to dissipate the fears that the past will repeat itself. The state of siege continues as a permanent fact of life for most Paraguayans, since it continues to be in force in Asunción.




          The Commission reiterates to the Government of Paraguay the need for it to establish a specific date, as soon as possible, for the Commission to conduct during 1979 or during the first half of 1980, the in loco observation on the situation of human rights in that country, by virtue of the permission already granted by the Government of Paraguay.


          Again, the Commission recommends that the measures necessary to lift the state of siege throughout the Republic be adopted. As has been indicated, the existence of the state of siege opens the door to abuses on the part of Government authorities. This is especially true in the absence of the complementary law called for by the Constitution. The Commission repeats its earlier recommendation regarding the form that this law should take.


          The Commission likewise recommends that the four individuals still being detained by virtue of Article 79 of the Constitution be released or put to trial should there be legal grounds for such action.


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