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.
THE PROJECTED ON-SITE OBSERVATION
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
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
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
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
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
VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN PARAGUAY
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
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.
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
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
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:
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
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 RIGHT TO PERSONAL SECURITY
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
THE RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS
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 FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION
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
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
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.
RIGHT OF ASSEMBLY AND FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
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
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
THE RIGHT TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND WOSHIP
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
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.
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
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.
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
At this time the Commission formulates the following
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
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.
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.
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.