1.          INTRODUCTION


          At its Ninth Regular Session, held in La Paz, Bolivia, from October 22 through 31, 1979, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States approved a resolution wherein it stated that it had considered and made note of the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the year 1978.1


          In operative paragraph 8 of that resolution, the General Assembly decided to request the Commission to continue to monitor the exercise of human rights in Paraguay, among other countries, and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its next regular session.


          In keeping with that mandate, at its most recent regular session, the Commission continued to consider the situation of human rights in Paraguay, in accordance with the regulations that govern the Commission and on the basis of the provisions contained in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


          In that regard, it has continued to process individual denunciations and to analyze those documents that concern the situation of human rights in Paraguay. As for the processing of individual denunciations, it should be noted that in recent months the Paraguayan Government has replied to the Commission’s request for information with greater frequency.


          The purpose of this report is to inform the General Assembly of the situation of human rights in Paraguay since the last report submitted to that organ of the OAS.




          In the resolution approved by the General Assembly of the OAS on October 31, 1979, at its ninth regular session, the Paraguayan Government was urged to demonstrate its willingness to cooperate with the Commission by setting a date certain in the near future for the Commission’s visit to that country.


          Based on that mandate, on April 1 of this year, at its forty-ninth session the Commission again discussed the projected on-site observation in Paraguay. In that regard, it decided to send a cable to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of that country in connection with the General Assembly’s resolution requesting that Government to set a specific date for the agreed-upon observation; it also decided that should the government fail to answer in the affirmative, a note would be sent to the Secretary General of the OAS advising him to that effect, so that he might bring it to the attention of the Permanent Council and the General Assembly of the Organization.


         His Excellency Alberto Nogués

         Minister of Foreign Affairs

         Asunción (Paraguay)


         I have the honor of addressing Your Excellency in order to inform you that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at its 49th session, decided to request Your Excellency to provide specific information as to how the Government of Paraguay would deal with the appeal contained in operative paragraph 6 of Resolution 443 of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, which urges the Government of Paraguay to demonstrate its willingness to cooperate with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by establishing a date certain in the near future for the on-site observation to be conducted by the Commission in Paraguay. In this regard, the Commission would like to suggest to your Government that it consider the second half of July or, as an alternative, some time next November, as possible dates for that visit.


         Accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.


         Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro



          On April 28 of this year, the Commission received a cable reply from the Paraguayan Government in which it states its refusal to establish the date for the on-site observation claiming sovereignty on a matter such as the on-site observation to which the Paraguayan Government had already agreed. The reply received by the Commission from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay is as follows:


         Mr. Tom J. Farer

         Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

         General Secretariat, Organization of American States

         Washington, D.C. USA


         With reference to your cable and as I had an opportunity to state in my note of July 2, 1979, I must repeat that the Government of Paraguay, for reasons of sovereignty which are its exclusive purview and a matter of its own initiative, continues to reserve the right to decide when the Commission may visit my country.




         Alberto Nogués

         Minister of Foreign Affairs of



          Pursuant to the decision taken by the Commission at its forty-ninth session, last May 28 it addressed a note to the Secretary General of the OAS informing him with respect to the measure taken and its outcome.2




          Since its last Report to the General Assembly, the Commission has continued to monitor the situation of human rights in Paraguay, both through individual denunciations, which have been duly processed, and through an analysis of the overall situation in the country in this regard.


          While it can be acknowledged that since that time there has been a relative decrease in the number of violations of human rights, this is not sufficient to state that human rights are fully respected in Paraguay. The Government authorities, at various levels, have continued to commit acts that violate basic rights of the human being as set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in other international juridical instruments.


          An important aspect of the situation in question is the continued existence of the State of Siege in Paraguay. This creates a climate of insecurity and fear that is clearly prejudicial to the observance of basic human rights. While the State of Siege is limited to the Central Department, which is the most important in the country and includes the capital, the situation is generalized through special measures which makes the State of Siege an institutionalized system. Under these circumstances any individual who is detained, who is “delayed” for inquiries in place where the State of Siege is not in effect, becomes subject to the system once he or she is transferred to Asunción; thus, the interpretation of the system is broad. The National Commission for the Defense of Human Rights is frequently harassed and its activities are subject to limitation. Its President, Mrs. Carmen Lara de Castro, has been a victim of this. The State of Siege is kept in effect under these conditions, even though the General Assembly of the OAS, in its resolution of October 31, 1979, resolved to request the Government of Paraguay to lift the State of Siege throughout the entire country and allow exiles to return.


4.       RIGHT TO LIFE


          The right to life has been violated, though not in a generalized and systematic manner in recent months. Nevertheless, there have been attacks and assassinations imputed to the authorities, according to information the Commission has obtained.


          The most pathetic situation of violations of the right to life is the repression of the rural sectors, especially in the eastern part of the Department of Caaguazú, including during the first months of 1980. In March 1980, around ten farm workers accused of attacking a bus were detained. When this event was denounced, the Government replied to the Commission that the individuals in question were reprobates and not organized farm workers. Later it informed the Commission that the thirteen individuals detained in connection with the Caaguazú case had been placed in the hands of regular criminal courts, accused of armed attack, attempted murder, wounds, illegal possession of arms and usurpation of authority; it also reported that the men were being held in the National Penitentiary at Tacumbú and the women in the Buen Pastor prison. However, the Commission has received reports that the individuals detained were not involved in the problem in question; rather, they were men and women whom the Government had accused of having ties with the individuals who had been killed at Caaguazú.




          The right to personal liberty has been seriously transgressed in Paraguay. Individuals are detained by virtue of the State of Siege, with no specific charges being brought against them. A number of individuals were detained and later released in 1979, including Dr. Domingo Laíno, a leading political figure. He was taken prisoner on September 15, 1979, and confined at a site in the interior of the country. He was also held incommunicado in the Technical Section of the Police, and was not allowed to speak with his attorney or with his friends; also detained were Dr. Héctor Rodríguez and a journalist named Alcibíades González Delvalle.


          About three years ago, Mr. Napoleón Ortigoza had spent fifteen years in prison and had served the respective sentence. He has still not been released. Also in prison for many years was Mr. Escolástico Obando. The two were accused of conspiracy against the prevailing regime. Mr. Alonso Silva Quintana and Mrs. María Saturnina Almada de Silva have been held since 1968; they were released for a period of fifteen months and then imprisoned again. Relatives of Mr. Sandino Gil Oporto, a known opponent of the Government have had their freedom restricted. In July 1979, Mr. Juan Crisóstomo Figueredo was detained, but the Government informed the Commission in May of that year that Mr. Figueredo “does not appear on any list of detainees.” Other examples of violations of the right to personal liberty are as follows:


a.       Amílcar Latino Santucho, Argentinean. After being imprisoned for a number of years, he was turned over to the Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and on September 21, 1979, he went to Sweden;


b.       José Gil Ojeda, being held in the detention center known as “La Emboscada,” was released early in 1979. He had been held incommunicado;


c.       Virgilio Bareiro, detained in 1964. On January 11, 1979, the Government replied that the individual in question was still being held and was accused of subversive activities;


d.       Luis Hugo López and Elida Vega de Lugo, he is a metallurgist. They were detained. The Government reported their release and said that they were only detained for inquiries;


e.       Román Martínez González, was detained on January 21, 1975, in a delicate state of health. In December 1979 and in May 1980, the Government reported that he was still being held by virtue of the state of siege;


f.        Gunter Otto Portenschlag-Ledermayr, an Austrian, was detained and then expelled from Paraguay on July 24, 1979.




          The use of various forms of duress continues in Paraguay and involves not only those who have been detained for political reasons but also common prisoners, according to information seen by the Commission. Some of the farmers taken in March 1980 because of the event in Caaguazú have been subjected to physical and psychological duress.


          The Commission has been informed that in many instances relatives or other individuals or entities do not denounce this type of measure because of a fear of governmental reprisals. A number of individuals detained because of their opposition to the Government have been held incommunicado for lengthy periods of time and their houses have been searched without a court order.


          According to the denunciation received by the Commission, Mr. Juan Crisóstomo Figueredo was tortured through continuous beatings. He was also robbed of objects valued at four hundred and fifty thousand guaranties, the equivalent of some three thousand dollars. Engineer Virgilio Bareiro, who was held for a long period of time, was also tortured.




          The Judiciary is not independent of the Executive Power, which is prejudicial to a sound and impartial application of justice and the right to due process of law. The remedies of Amparo and Habeas Corpus do not function under these circumstances and are manipulated through delaying tactics. The judges receive instructions from the authorities, among them the Chief of the Investigations Department of the Police of Asunción, considered to be the regime’s political police, through the procedure known as “justice by phone.”


          The Commission has been informed that when a judge acts against the Government’s interests he is immediately transferred to a less important post in the Judiciary. Others have been removed from their posts. All of this shows that in Paraguay, the right to a fair trial and to due process of law lack essential guarantees.


          Another aspect that affects this fundamental right of the individual is the persecution of attorneys in the exercise of their profession, some of whom have been victims of serious violations. As an example of this it is sufficient to cite the cases of Dr. Julio César Vasconcellos, who was expelled from the country and who was defending a businessman accused of a common crime; and Dr. Milcíades Melgarejo, who was imprisoned and tortured, according to information in the hands of the Commission. Dr. Melgarejo was the defense attorney for the inhabitants of the place known as Fernando de Mora. Both attorneys were the targets of kidnapping attempts, a new technique used by the security forces. An attempt was also made on Lic. Luis A. Resck, a member of the Acuerdo Nacional, according to information that appeared in the newspapers “ABC” and “Última Hora.”




          The right to express one’s thoughts and freedom of information are notoriously limited, as the mass communications media do not dare level serious criticism against high government officials, especially the military chiefs.


          The arrest of Héctor Rodríguez and Alcibíades González Delvalle, journalists with the Independent newspaper “ABC Color,” is proof of what has been said, as is the 1979 thirty-day suspension of the newspapers “La Tribuna” and “Última Hora,” without any reasonable explanation.


          The foregoing notwithstanding, some sources feel that some degree of critical journalism has been allowed in newspaper articles in recent months; thus, criticism of the actions of certain government institutions and mention of certain topics that concern the administrative machinery, including the rural problem, have been permitted.


          On the other hand, it should be pointed out that through indirect means the Government prevents any radio time being given to news from the National Committee for the Defense of Human Rights.




          The right of assembly and freedom of association are also limited in Paraguay, both with respect to unions and political institutions. In 1979 the Union of Journalists of Paraguay was founded, but the Government, through administrative sophisms and without justification, has not wanted to grant it recognition as a union, that is, juridical personality.


          Union organizations cannot operate to any extent, since organizations of this kind are not established because of fear. All that exists is the Government-controlled General Confederation of Laborers. Its President is the General Manager of Railroads, which is a state agency. Hence, he is a public official. In early 1980, there were some strike attempts at certain businesses, but they were settled without further problems.




          The right to religious freedom and worship is subject to restrictions since, as said in earlier reports, the juridical personality of the religious congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses was withdrawn and has not been reestablished. That religious sect is not allowed to conduct any form of activity. Nevertheless, the Commission feels that, in general, there is religious tolerance in Paraguay.




          Political rights and the necessary guarantee that such rights require are not fully developed.  The Government places various kinds of obstacles in the way of party organizations that oppose it and sporadically harasses the leaders of Government-opposition sectors.  Exiles, most of who have lived abroad for more than twenty-five years, are not allowed to return.


          In February, 1979, a document was signed that formalized the entity know as the Acuerdo Nacional, which is made up of the Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico, the Partido Febrerista, the Partido Demócrata Cristiano, and the Movimiento Popular Colorado, MAPOCO, which operates in exile.  Despite this, the Government makes it difficult for the Acuerdo Nacional to function, inasmuch as the Government avoids coalitions and does not allow coordinated action on the part of the Acuerdo Nacional, which it has refused to recognize.


          The only parties that can participate in elections are the Partido Colorado de Gobierno and the Partido Febrerista.  However, the latter has abstained from participating for approximately eight years, because of the lack of effective political guarantees.  The Democracia Cristiana is excluded because it does not meet the requirements as regards the number of members.  It has failed to achieve this because of the climate of fear that exists.  The Partido Liberal Auténtico, too, is not allowed to function politically, except a small minority of that body, which is the Partido Liberal Radical.  Under these circumstances, it is difficult to have effective political opposition, although in practice that opposition has become greater, although moral in nature as it focuses on administrative corruption.




          The right of residence and movement is also subject to limitations.  As has already been stated, it should be pointed out that exiles who have been abroad for more than 25 years are not allowed to return to the country; some who have attempted it have been expelled again.  Some of those who oppose the Government, as in the case of Dr. Domingo Laíno, are confined in isolated places and are not allowed to move about.  Individuals who did not subscribe to the regime are prevented from obtaining passports or travel papers through administrative delays.


13.              CONCLUSIONS


1.       A careful examination of the documents and other information that the Commission has had at its disposal allow one to conclude that a climate conducive to full observance of basic human rights does not exist in Paraguay because of fear and insecurity, the continued and persistent enforcement of the State of Siege, and the application of laws that are prejudicial to constitutional guarantees and individual freedoms.


2.       Although the Commission acknowledges that during the period covered in this report the general situation of human rights has improved, essential rights of man such as the right to life, personal liberty, physical integrity, religious freedom and worship, the right to assemble and freedom of association, the right to a fair trial and due process of law, freedom of expression and of information, and the right of residence and movement are frequently thwarted by direct or indirect means that are the result of actions taken by the Government organs.


          3.          Under the present conditions in Paraguay, unrestricted development of human rights and of party organizations which make it possible for a democratic system to function under a state of law is not possible.




          At this time the Commission formulates the following recommendations:


a.       That the Government of Paraguay lift the State of Siege, so as to make possible a true state of law.


b.       That the Government of Paraguay guarantee the complete independence of the Judiciary and, within that context, the application of justice, the right to due process of law and the exercise of the legal profession.


c.       That the Government of Paraguay authorize the return of exiles and recognize their political and civil rights so as to make possible free, democratic interplay and political pluralism in the country.


d.       That the Government of Paraguay guarantee the freedom to unionize and the organization of independent bodies of this kind, to accomplish their trade- and labor-union objectives.


e.       That the Government of Paraguay guarantee complete freedom of expression of thought, so that natural and juridical persons that do not agree with the conduct of the Government may explain their ideas to the national and international public, without fear.


f.        That individuals who are being held and serving lengthy prison sentences or who have been imprisoned without properly proven legal cause, be released or, where appropriate, brought to trial, with al the guarantees of impartiality inherent in due process of law.


g.       That the Government of Paraguay, in accordance with Resolution 443 of the General Assembly of the OAS, set a date certain in the near future for the on-site observation of the Commission.



[ Table of Contents | Previous | Next ]


1            AG/doc.1101/79, and CIDH-OEA/Ser.L/V/II.47, doc.13 rev. 1, June 29, 1979.

2            Since its twenty-ninth session, held from October 25 through November 5, 1976, the Commission has made repeated overtures to conduct an on-site observation in Paraguay; it requested the Paraguayan Government’s permission on February 4, 1977. At its forty-second session, held from October 31 through November 12, 1977, the Commission received the Paraguayan Government’s permission to conduct an on-site observation and it was established that the date of the visit would be a matter of mutual agreement. Nevertheless, since that time and despite the Commission’s repeated overtures, the Government has systematically refused to set the date for the on-site observation.