Press Release

IACHR Condemns Murder of Human Rights Defender in Paraguay

December 4, 2012

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder in Paraguay of human rights defender Vidal Vega, leader of the Campesinos sin Tierra movement (Landless Campesinos) and president of the Committee of Relatives of Victims of the Curuguaty Massacre. The Inter-American Commission urges the State of Paraguay to investigate and clear up these crimes, and punish those who perpetrated and masterminded them.

The information the IACHR has received indicates that on December 1, 2012, two individuals arrived aboard a motorcycle at the home of Vidal Vega. According to police information quoted in news reports, the victim's spouse, María Cristina Argüello, answered the door; the two unknown men asked for Vidal Vega and shot him with 12-caliber rifles, in the presence of his family.

The information received also indicates that Vidal Vega was a key witness in an investigation into the Curuguaty massacre, which happened on June 15, 2012,and where 11 campesinos and 6 policemen died. The massacre took place during a raid on Campos Morombí, Marina Cue, lands in litigation between the State and private parties. These events led to the impeachment of former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, who ended up being removed from office. It was also reported that Vidal Vega was the person responsible for the safekeeping of the documents related to proceedings by the Committee of Relatives of Victims of the Curuguaty Massacre before the National Institute of Rural Development and Land for the adjudication of the "Marina Cue" lands.

The IACHR calls to mind that it is the State's obligation to proactively investigate acts of this nature and punish those responsible. The Commission also urges the State of Paraguay to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and safety of human rights defenders in the country, particularly those who work in the Campesinos sin Tierra movement and on the Committee of Relatives of Victims of the Curuguaty Massacre.

As the Commission has stated previously, the acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to every human being, but undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The Commission also calls to mind that the work of human rights defenders is essential to the construction of a solid and lasting democratic society, and that they play a leading role in the process of pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 141/12