During the period covered by this report, the Commission has continued to observe carefully the development of the human rights situation in Paraguay.


          In general, several improvements have been made during this period in the human rights situation described in the latest reports of the IACHR. These improvements have been reflected in the smaller number of complaints received, and the reduced seriousness of such complaints. Thus, no cases have been reported of deaths for political reasons imputable to the government. In addition, there has been a sharp decline in cases of detention where there has been evidence of torture by police officials. In the latter aspect, an exception was the death on February 8, 1985, of a young peasant, Pablo Martínez Días, who was held at the Pirayu police station, where the superintendent of the local police said that he had committed suicide in his cell by hanging himself with a sheet, while the death certificate listed the cause of death as “cranial-encephalic injury.” This case is still being processed by the IACHR, and recent communications from the government and from the complainants confirm that criminal charges have been brought before Judge Edmundo Vittone, and the prosecuting attorney has ordered the imprisonment of the superintendent of police and two police agents from the locality. The IACHR hopes that investigations will be continued that will lead to the identification and punishment of the guilty parties.


          Also, during this period, the cooperation that has been developing recently between the Permanent Mission of Paraguay to the OAS and the IACHR has been continued, which has enabled the government to reply promptly to the Commission enquiries that require appropriate information. In addition, negotiations based on humanitarian reasons and justice have been continuing with the Paraguayan authorities, and these have been making it possible to eliminate situations affecting the observance of human rights, as has occurred with the cases of Ms. María Margarita Baez Romero and the attorney of the Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid, Dr. Heriberto Alegre, who were released in April and June 1985; as well as the case of Ms. Carmen de Lara Castro, who finally received her passport after having been denied it for more than three years.


          In spite of these cases of relative progress, the truth is that violations of other basic human rights continue to occur in Paraguay, and there are situations that remain unchanged since the last special report on the country issued by the Commission in January 1978, inasmuch as the government has ignored the recommendations made to it and still has not carried out the necessary institutional reforms that would result in a real change in attitude by its officials.


          The Commission must again regret that, despite the time that has elapsed and the many and repeated efforts to make an on-site visit in the country, since it obtained the government’s consent in a cablegram of September 12, 1977, from the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Alberto Nogues, it has so far been completely impossible to get the government to agree on a date for the visit.


          The state of siege that was imposed under Article 79 of the Paraguayan Constitution and that has been continuously in effect in the country since 1954, has recently been renewed by decree for another 90-day period, which together with the continued effectiveness of Laws 294 of 1955 on “Defense of Democracy” and Law 209 on “Defense of the Public Peace and Liberty of persons,” contributes to the continued maintenance of a climate of insecurity in the country because of the lack of protection and guarantees of basic rights, like the right to personal freedom, justice, and due process and protection against arbitrary arrest.


          Regarding political rights, the Commission must stress the fear and anguish of most of the political leaders who left the country. They complain of constant surveillance and acts of harassment by police officials and state that it is virtually impossible for them to move from one place to another because they are frequently detained, either without justification or for trivial reasons, to intimidate them.


          Last year, the number of these arrests has increased. For example, there was the arrest January 11-12, 1985, of 14 members of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (Bienvenido Benítez, Francisco Bigo, Pedro Sanabria, Félix Ramón Paya, Jorge Alcides Galeano, Julio César Parodi, Carlos Rubén Parodi, Leo Bigildo, Domingo Bigo, Julio Garcete, Prudencio Duarte, Blanca Torales, Juan Andrés Torales and Estela Torales) because they were attending an organization meeting of the party in San Pedro Altiges in the Department of Itapua; and more recently the arrest of Dr. Miguel Abdon Saguier, Secretary General of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party on September 8, 1985, in the interior of the country, in the locality of Aldana Cañada, while he was presiding over an organization meeting of young people of his party. While the number of these arrests of opposition political leaders, students, peasants and unionists has increased during the year, most of these persons have been held for only a few hours or at most one or two days, at the end of which they have been released or charges have been brought against them and they have been brought before the courts of justice.


          In addition, the Commission has learned that just this September there have been two new cases of banishment: leaders of the opposition Colorado Party, Drs. Alejandro Stumpfs and Enrique Riera have just been confined in the localities of Mbuyapey and Caraguatay, respectively, more than 100 kilometers from Asunción.


          In addition, the government continues to refuse to recognize the political coalition “National Agreement” (Acuerdo Nacional) and its member organizations: the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, the Popular Colorado Movement, the February Revolutionary Party and the Christian Democratic Party, which continue to be regarded as “irregular groups,” acting outside the constitution and the laws of the country.


          Although some improvements have been made regarding the right to justice and due process, serious questions continue to be raised about these rights, and the remedy of habeas corpus is still inoperative, because of the permanent state of siege and the nonexistence in the country of an independent judiciary.


          Regarding freedom of expression, the media continue to operate under very severe limitations (self-censorship, closings, seizure of editions of publications, cancellation of licenses, and intimidation). The newspaper ABC Color has been shut down for a year and a half, and there is no reason to believe that it will be able to resume publication in the near future.


          Freedom of religion and worship have been widely respected, and there has been a decline in attacks and harassment of members of the Committee of Churches and leaders of the humanitarian and social action works of the Catholic Church.


          Finally, the Commission wishes to urge again that the Paraguayan Government, in compliance with the formal commitment it assumed when it gave its approval for the Commission to make the projected on-site visit, proceed as soon as possible to set a specific date for the visit. Failure of the Paraguayan Government to do so would show that it is not willing to honor that commitment.


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