American Declaration, Article I –        Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.[1]

1.         Many of the denunciations that the Commission has received in recent years have referred to cases of violation of the most basic human rights, such as those that protect life, liberty, and personal security.


2.         Some of these denunciations are presented here in summary form and grouped as follows:


A.                   Homicides imputed to the authorities by the claimants


3.          On March 1, 1976, the Commission received a communication denouncing the death, resulting from torture, of Julia Solalinde, Juana Peralta, Antonio Perrucino y Blanca Pereyra. Also denounced was the death of María Rosa Aguirre, who it was claimed, had been “brutally tortured, during an advance stage of pregnancy, until she became crazy and died as she gave birth to a baby girl. The baby was turned over to the Sisters of Charity.”

The Commission classifies this case as number 2029 and decided to process the denunciation in accordance with the special procedure established under Article 53.


4.         In a note dated April 29, 1976, the Commission forwarded to the Government of Paraguay the pertinent parts of the denunciation, together with a request for the corresponding information. In another note, dated February 4, 1977, the request for information was repeated, extending the deadline for a response by ninety days; but the deadline passed without the Commission having received any response. Consequently, the Commission approved a resolution presuming the events denounced to be confirmed.[2]


5.         Subsequently, in its observations on the Report on the situation of human rights in Paraguay, sent to the Commission on August 7, 1977, the Government of Paraguay reported the following with regard to Case 2029:


Case 2029

Categorically denied by the Police of the Capital City. These individuals were never detained.


6.         A number of similar cases, in which other deaths are imputed to the authorities, are now being processed by the Commission. In view of their seriousness, a decision was reached to include them in this document, by way of example. Due to the fact that the processing of these cases has not been concluded, however, no substantive comments are added.


7.           These denunciations can be summarized as follows:


Case 2525[3]

Arturo Bernal, 50 years of age, married, father of five children, in charge of the food cooperative run by the peasant movement of the Cordillera with headquarters in the settlement of Pirebebuy, was arrested by de police in his home on May 12, 1976, and held incommunicado in the Asuncion Department of Investigations. After 55 days of arbitrarily being held incommunicado, his corpse was turned over to his family without any further explanation.[4] The Commission forwarded the pertinent parts of this denunciation to the Government of Paraguay on January 18, 1977.


In the aforementioned observations sent by the Government of Paraguay, the latter replied regarding the case in question in the following terms:


Case 2081[5]

Arturo Bernal was in fact arrested in May of 1976 for his evident association with the O.P.M., a criminal organization already described in this report. Suffering from a serious liver problem, he was taken shortly thereafter to the “Rigoberto Caballero” Clinic. Members of his family were with him and were able to observe the course of this illness, which culminated in his death.

Case 2158


Joelito Filártiga, 17 years of age, was kidnapped on March 29, 1976 from his home in Asunción. His corpse appeared four hours later, brutally tortured.


His father displayed the corpse of his son so that all those who went to offer their condolences might see the wounds from the torture.[6]


Américo Peña, a police official, is named as the individual responsible for planning the kidnapping and the torture.


With regard to this case, in its observations of August 7, 1977, the Government of Paraguay stated the following:


Case 2158


Joel Filártiga was killed during a dramatic episode by the husband of an unfaithful wife discovered in a flagrant act of adultery with the deceased. The murdered, Duarte Arredondo, confessed his guilt during the judicial proceeding being conducted in the Regular Courts. All the background information on this case is public knowledge and the events are followed by the citizenry in the newspaper, due to the obvious attraction that this type of incident has for most of the public. It is totally false that the police participated in this crime; the clarification of which, moreover, is now the responsibility of the judges of the Judicial Branch.


8.                   The Paraguayan Episcopal Conference, meeting in Special Assembly in Asunción on June 12, 1976, approved a pastoral letter entitled, “On the World’s Persecutions and God’s Consolation.” It is appropriate to present here the following paragraphs of this important document:


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 limiting 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;


b) The practice of torture has increased again, and there is more than one involving the death of disappearance of detained individuals, under circumstances which have not been properly clarified.[7]


B.        Individuals detained and presumably dead


9.        The Commission has also received communications denouncing the disappearance of individuals following their arrest by the authorities.


10.       It would seem advisable to present here the following paragraphs from the Annual Report of the Commission for 1976, which state the following:[8]


There have already been may cases recorded of “missing persons,” that is persons who according to witnesses and other evidence have been detained by military or police authorities but whose detention is denied and whose location is unknown. Added to the illegal deprivation of freedom in these instances is the anguish of friends and relatives who do not know whether such missing persons are dead or alive and who are unable to avail themselves of the recourse established under law or to lend them material and moral assistance. The growing number of cases of this kind in several American countries is a reason for serious concern to the Commission and is, properly, one of the aspects of the situation in the area of human rights that has warranted very special attention by the Commission as well as the governmental and non-governmental bodies which function in this area in one way or another.


The status of “missing” seems to be a comfortable expedient to avoid application of the legal provisions established in defense of personal freedom, physical integrity, dignity and human life itself. In practice this procedure nullifies the legal standards established in recent years in some countries to avoid illegal detention and the use of physical and psychological duress against persons detained.


11.          In October 31, 1975, the Commission received a communication denouncing the arrest of Bienvenido Argüello on May 12, 1975, in the locality of Clorinda, Formosa Province, Argentina. The denunciation went on to say that the individual in question had allegedly been taken to police headquarters in Falcón, a border town, where he was tortured, and later transferred to prison in Asuncion.


This communication was classified as Case 1988 and the Commission decided to apply to special procedure established under Article 53.


12.          In a note dated December 12, 1975, the Commission forwarded to the Government of Paraguay, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the pertinent parts of the denunciation and asked that it provide information regarding the matters denounced therein, as well as any other data that would enable the Commission to determine whether the domestic legal remedies had been exhausted. On that same a copy of the communication was forwarded to the Permanent Representative of Paraguay to the Organization of American States.


13.          However, the Government of Paraguay did not reply to this request from the Commission. Consequently, once the period established in the Regulations had elapsed, the Commission adopted a resolution applying Article, 51,1 of the Regulations, whereby it presumed the occurrence of the events denounced to be confirmed.[9] It went on to declare that these events constituted a serious violation of the right to liberty and personal security. It recommends that Mr. Argüello be released and that the necessary measures be taken to punish those individuals responsible, and provides that the Commission was to be informed of the measures adopted within a period of 60 days.[10]


14.          This Resolution was forwarded to the Government of Paraguay by a note dated October 20, 1976. The Government replied, through note D.P.I. Nº 683, dated November 16, 1976, to the following effect:


Mr. Chairman:


I have the honor of acknowledging receipt of the note of Your Excellency dated October 20 of this year, with which you enclosed the resolution on Case 1988 (Paraguay), adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS on June 1, 1976. In this regard, I would like to report that the note and the enclosure in question were referred to the competent organ for the proper handling.


15.                   It should be pointed out that nine months after that brief note the government of Paraguay provided the following reply in its observations on this report:


Case 1988


According to reports, Bienvenido Argüello was arrested in Argentina but was never handed over to Paraguay, something which could only occur through the corresponding extradition proceedings which had they taken place, would be a matter of public knowledge.


16.          At its 41st session, the Commission continued its consideration of individual cases related to violations in this area and approved a resolution on Case 2018, which is summarized below:[11]


Case 2018


         i.         A communication dated February 28, 1976 denounced the arrest of Miguel Angel Soler, on November 30, 1975, by the Paraguayan police. According to the claimant, Mr. Soler was taken to the Third Precinct in Asuncion, where he was held incommunicado in an underground cell, in total darkness and without ventilation and in which the available space barely allowed him to move;


         ii.         In December, according to the claimant, Mr. Soler was taken to the Investigation Department, where, allegedly, he was brutally tortured by the Department Chief; since that time his whereabouts are unknown;


         iii.         In a note dated March 15, 1976, the Commission forwarded to the Government of Paraguay the pertinent parts of the denunciation and asked that it provide the corresponding information (Article 42 of the Regulations). On February 8, 1977, the IACHR repeated the request for information made to the Government of Paraguay in its note of March 15, extending the deadline for receiving a reply until March 31 of the same year; nevertheless, the Government of Paraguay provided no information whatever;


         iv.         In application of Article 51,1 of the Regulations, the Commission presumed the occurrence of the events denounced to be confirmed. It further stated that these constituted very serious violations of the right to liberty, and personal security, the right to justice, the right to protection against arbitrary arrest, and the right to due process.


17.          In its observations on the Report, the Government of Paraguay pointed out the following with regard to Mr. Soler’s case:


Case 2018


Miguel Angel Soler, reputed Secretary General of the Paraguayan Communist Party, has lived abroad for many years. News was received from Montevideo to the effect that he had moved to Moscow. Since that time Miguel Angel Soler has neither entered the country nor been held prisoner in any police or military unit in Paraguay. The confusion may have some connection to the case of Ubaldo Soler, who was in prison a number of years ago and who was later released.


18.          At the same time 41st session, the Commission adopted two other Resolutions with regard to the cases summarized below:[12]


Case 2021


         i.         A communication dated March 10, 1976 denounced the arrest of 53 individuals, and the alleged disappearance of the following: Martín Barros, Dina de Barua, Nilo Benítez, Hugo Magereger, Federico Mallorquín, Cándido Oviedo, Ildelfonso Silva, María Fernanda Velilla, Víctor Vera Vargas and Derlis Villagra.


         ii.         In a note dated March 19, 1976, the Commission forwarded to the Government of Paraguay the pertinent parts of the denunciation and requested that it provide the corresponding information. However, the period established in the Regulation elapsed without the Government’s having replied to that request.


         iii.         Therefore, the Commission, in application of Article 51,1 of its Regulations, decided to presume the occurrence of the events denounced to be confirmed. It further declared that these constituted serious violations of the right to liberty, and personal security.


19.          With reference to this case, in its observations of August 7, the Government pointed out the following:


Case 2021


A number of the individuals mentioned in this case were arrested as part of an investigation into subversive Communist activities and were then immediately released. The last of those named Derliz Villagra Arzamendia, had been arrested on June 25, 1965, and released on November 7, 1972. A known Communist terrorist, Villagra was arrested at that time by virtue of the power granted to the Executive under Article 79 of the National Constitution. After his released he left the country, settling in Uruguay and then in the Soviet Union. It is not true that he was arrested in 1976.


Case 2029


         i.         A communication dated March 1, 1976 denounced to the Commission, among other violations, the disappearance of the following individuals who were being held at police stations: Doralicia Sosa, Lorenzo González, Estanislao Sotelo, Aurelio Gaona, Feliciano Franco, Tomás Casey, Silvio R. Fernández and Oscar Centurión.


         ii.         In a note dated April 29, 1976, the Commission forwarded to the Government of Paraguay the pertinent part of the denunciation and requested that it provide the corresponding information; and in a note dated February 4, 1977, it repeated its request for information, extending the deadline for response by 90 days. The deadline passed without any response from the Government.


         iii.         Consequently, in application of Article 51,1 of its Regulations, the Commission decided to presume the disappearances of the individuals mentioned above, while in the hands of the authorities, to be confirmed. It pointed out to the Government that these events constitute very serious violations of the right to liberty and personal security.


20.          With regard to the disappearances denounced under this case, the Government of Paraguay made the following statement in its observations:


Case 2029


Some of the individuals named in this case were arrested and later released, thereby making this case similar to the preceding case. The charges that they have disappeared are false.


21.          Finally, the Commission wishes to point out it has received a number of communications denouncing the kidnapping of Paraguayans living in neighboring countries as well as that of foreigners in Paraguayan territory and their subsequent surreptitious removal to the country of their nationality. According to the claimants, this is done by the Paraguayan armed forces and police in cooperation or complicity with the authorities of other countries. These disturbing denunciations, if true, would imply a serious risk to those individuals who, in leaving their country for political reasons, expected to find safety in foreign territory.[13]

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[1] American Convention on Human Rights

Article 4

Every person has the right to have his life respected. …No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

Article 7

Every person has the right to personal liberty and security.

[2] Resolution on Case 2029 (Paraguay). OEA/Ser.L/V/II.41, doc. 9, 12 May 1977. This Resolution is being processed in accordance with Articles 56 and 57 of the Commission’s Regulations.

[3] The situation of Arturo Bernal was originally taken up under Case 2081.

[4] The Bishop of Caacupé, Paraguay, Monsignor Demetrio Aquino, appealed on two occasions to the Minister of the Interior, Dr. Sabino A. Montanaro, trying to obtain the release of Bernal and other peasants arrested from his diocese. In a letter to Minister Montanaro (published in its entirely in a publication of the Paraguayan Catholic Church entitled Sendero, Nº 78, 23 July to August 6, 1976, page 10), the Bishop, after giving and account of the events, stated the following:

“Is this your reply? The corpse of Arturo Bernal, the mourning of a peasant family; the abandonment of a widow and five children left without a father! And, doubtless, your overwhelming responsibility for the cruel death of one more citizen in subordinate offices of the Ministry for which your are responsible*

* Emphasis added

[5] As noted above, now Case 2525.

[6] The IACHR has in its files a number of photographs of the body of Joelito Filártiga, in which the signs of physical mistreatment can be seen.

[7] Emphasis added

[8] Annual Report for 1976 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the General Assembly. OEA/Ser.G/CP/doc.652/77 Corr.1, 3 March 1977.

[9] Resolution on Case 1988 (Paraguay). OEA/Ser.L/V/II.38, doc. 20, 2 June 1976.

[10] The case of Mr. Bienvenido Argüello is considered under this Chapter in view of the fact that his name does not appear on any of the official list of individuals arrested by virtue of the state of siege, which we present in Chapter III of this Report.

[11] Resolution on Case 2018 (Paraguay). OEA/Ser.L/V/II.41, doc. 7, 12 May 1977. This Resolution is being processed in accordance with Articles 56 and 57 of the Commission’s Regulations.

[12] Resolution on Case 2021 (Paraguay). OEA/Ser.L./V/II.41, doc. 8, 12 May 1977. Resolution on case 2029 (Paraguay). OEA/Ser.L/V/II.41, doc. 9, 12 May 1977. These Resolutions are being processed in accordance with Articles 56 and 57 of the Regulations of the Commission.

[13] We cite, as examples, the following such denunciations, currently being processed by the Commission: Case 1988 (Paraguay); Case 2100 (Paraguay); Case 2116 (Argentina), Case 2157 (Argentina-Paraguay) and Case 2346 (Paraguay).