Commissioners: Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Emilio Álvarez Icaza (Executive Secretary), María Claudia Pulido (Executive Secretary’s Office)
Petitioners: Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM); Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay (CODEHUPY); Coordinadora del Servicio de Paz y Justicia Paraguay (SERPAJ Py); Coordinadora Nacional de Organizaciones de Mujeres Trabajadoras Rurales e Indígenas (CONAMURI); Coordinadora de Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, Paraguay (CDD Paraguay)
The events that took place last June in Curuguaty, which led to the impeachment and removal of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, are an example of the pattern of human rights violations that is a daily reality in the country, explained the petitioners at a March 15, 2013, hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, Commission). Citing violations of the rights to life, personal integrity, access to justice, health, and work, the petitioners argued that some situations had been exacerbated since June 2012, and others had been systematically ignored.
The petitioners explained that although there were accounts of acts of violence by both police officers and civilians at the Curuguaty land rights confrontation, only the civilians were criminally charged. The government detained them for months, along with others who had never been charged, including pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Likewise, the petitioners described a general increase in repression of popular protests throughout Paraguay since the events surrounding what they described as the “parliamentary coup d’état” that placed Federico Franco in charge of the country. Farmers from rural areas, who have mobilized around lands-rights issues similar to those that led to the Curuguaty confrontation, have been frequent targets of repression. At the same time, the farmers have faced violence from private individuals who are not being searched for or investigated by the authorities; the petitioners noted the case of Vidal Vega, slain leader of the Landless Campesinos movement and ex-president of the Committee of Relatives of Victims of the Curuguaty Massacre.
Turning to the situation of indigenous peoples in Paraguay, the petitioners explained that they continue to face discrimination and lack access to basic health and education resources. Many government-run health centers in areas where indigenous communities live have either been closed or have had their budgets cut so drastically that they essentially are not functioning. Of specific concern is the Ayoreo, who are threatened by deforestation as well as health care issues.
Third, the petitioners expressed their continual concern at the number of public servants who appear to have been fired for no reason, and noted that a high percentage of these employees are pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
The petitioners concluded their presentation with five requests for the Commission: 1) conduct an in loco visit to see firsthand the human rights situation in Paraguay; 2) demand recognition on the part of the government for the events in Curuguaty; 3) prepare to receive a request for precautionary measures for the pregnant and breastfeeding women currently detained for the events in Curuguaty if the government did not release them; 4) require the state to provide both the Commission and civil society organizations with information on investigations into extrajudicial killings taking place in the country; and 5) prepare to receive a request for precautionary measures in favor of the Ayoreo indigenous community.
The Paraguayan government began its presentation by emphasizing the state’s strong commitment to human rights and by mentioning that the IACHR had an open invitation for an in loco visit. Paraguay is a country living in peace, with ample liberty and no break in the constitutional order, as affirmed by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in its various extraordinary sessions on the situation in the country after President Lugo’s removal from office. Furthermore, the government explained, on April 21, 2013 the country will hold presidential elections in which candidates from many political parties would participate. Representatives further noted that the election will be monitored by the Carter Center, among others. Finally, the state argued that there was no government policy of extrajudicial killing and that the acts mentioned by the petitioners were carried out by common criminals who were being investigated to the best of the government’s ability; these investigations are ongoing and therefore domestic remedies had not yet been exhausted, and the petitioners should not have brought it before the IACHR.
Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Rapporteur for Paraguay, stated that she would definitely plan a visit to the country, as she recognized that it is a very sensitive time there, but that the Commission was receiving conflicting information from the parties as to the reality of the situation. She asked the state to address the perceived imbalance in accountability for killings perpetrated by police officers as opposed to those perpetrated by civilians. She also asked the petitioners if they could provide more information to strengthen their claim that there is a pattern of human rights violations occurring.
Speaking to the upcoming election, Commissioner Antoine asked what was being done to guarantee press freedom. She then requested that the government provide the Commission with the applicable standards for the dismissal of a civil service employee. She concluded by noting that even if there is universal healthcare, if there is a reduction in resources for particular areas of the country then that may result in a disproportionate impact on indigenous peoples.
Executive Secretary Emilio Álvarez Icaza and Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez both emphasized that the IACHR would be expecting more information from both the petitioners and the state on the situation of the women who were detained since last June, and on the assassinations of campesino leaders.