Press Release

IACHR Deeply Concerned over Acts of Violence and Repression in Context of Protests in Paraguay

April 3, 2017

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses deep concern over the serious acts of violence and repression that have occurred in the context of protests in the city of Asunción, Paraguay. It urges the State to meet its international obligations to respect and guarantee human rights in this context, particularly the full exercise of the rights to life, integrity, and personal liberty of the demonstrators, and the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and political participation.

According to the information available, on Friday, March 31, hundreds of people went to the Paraguayan Congress to express their rejection of the decision by a group of senators to change the rules of the upper chamber of Congress to approve a constitutional amendment to allow for presidential reelection.

A group of demonstrators reportedly went inside the congress building, setting fires and causing damage to the building. The IACHR condemns violent practices in protests.

The IACHR has collected information regarding a large number of injured demonstrators—including legislators opposed to the draft constitutional amendment, activists, and journalists—as a result of the indiscriminate use of tear gas and rubber bullets by the police. Moreover, according to publicly available information, in the early morning hours of April 1, police raided the headquarters of the opposition Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico and indiscriminately beat and shot at demonstrators inside, killing a young leader of that party, Rodrigo Quintana, with multiple gunshots. The IACHR urges Paraguay to undertake a prompt investigation into the young man’s death, one that can establish whether this was an extrajudicial execution and thus apply the appropriate legal responsibilities.

According to publicly released records, police arrested more than 200 people in connection with these events, including a group of adolescents, who later were reportedly released. With regard to the women who were arrested, press reports indicated that when they were taken to police headquarters they were forced to strip naked, supposedly to determine whether they were hiding drugs.

The Commission urges the Paraguayan State to urgently adopt all measures that may be necessary to guarantee the rights to life, physical integrity, and security, as well as political rights, the right to assembly, and the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression of everyone under its jurisdiction. This includes the obligation of the authorities—particularly those responsible for law and order and internal security—to take operational measures to facilitate the right to peaceful assembly, and adhere strictly to the general principles governing use of force in these contexts. The IACHR also notes that the fact that some groups or individuals employ violence in a demonstration does not, in itself, make the entire protest violent, nor does it authorize banning the right to demonstrate in times of political turbulence.

The IACHR has already stated that firearms should be excluded from the mechanisms used to control social protests. The use of these types of weapons is an extreme measure; firearms must only be used in those instances where the police, using less lethal means, are unable to restrain or detain those who are threatening the life or safety of police officers or third parties. They should never be used to fire indiscriminately on a crowd or group of people in these circumstances.

The Commission calls to mind that States must refrain from practices involving massive, collective, or indiscriminate arrests. It underscores the importance of complying with all requirements imposed by domestic laws and international standards with regard to the arrests security forces make in contexts of social protests, particularly to ensure that those detained and their families receive accurate information regarding the reasons for their arrest and the place where the person is being held.

The Commission calls on the State to undertake investigations into the reported events, as well as to reinforce all actions that guarantee that the investigations underway are carried out diligently and impartially and establish the appropriate responsibilities.

In addition, the IACHR calls for rejecting any type of violence and for promoting dialogue and genuine political participation to seek a solution that respects human rights. The IACHR is willing to work with the State of Paraguay in the framework of the Commission’s mandate and functions.

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. 042/17