IACHR Takes to Inter-American Court of Human Rights Case Concerning Unlawful Arrest and Torture in Paraguay

January 11, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on November 20, 2021, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Jorge Luis López Sosa, with regard to Paraguay. This case concerns State responsibility for unlawful arrest, torture, and violations of the rights to judicial guarantees and judicial protection concerning Jorge Luis López Sosa, a police inspector.

López said that, on May 18, 2000, he received a call from the Police Commissioner asking him to appear in uniform before the National Police Command. He was informed that the government was being taken over and that this person would take temporary control of the National Police. He was told to assist proceedings and to help police personnel by warning them of potentially suspicious activities. The next day, the Police Commissioner ordered that he should be taken to Metropolitan Police Station 11, where the weapon he was institutionally entitled to bear was taken away and he was handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten up, and interrogated about an alleged coup attempt. Days later, he was locked up in a cell at the same police station and then taken to Marine Corps facilities, where he was again interrogated while blindfolded. According to the petitioning party, the victim was arrested during the state of emergency.

The Commission noted that Jorge Luis López only had access to medical examinations approximately two weeks after his arrest, and that he later received visits from a judge, a forensic doctor, and other individuals. López told them all that he had been tortured, but he was only taken to the facility known as "Cuadrilátero" for three days, as punishment, and he was offered money to withdraw his complaint. In July 2000, through a decree, he was dismissed from service for "serious shortcomings while in the position," and he remained in detention until December 2000, when he was put under house arrest. In July 2000, the Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation over the complaint that had been filed by López. Almost a year later, three police officers were charged with torture and the Public Prosecutor's Office requested a trial. The trial started in August 2019 and ended in December 2019 with the three defendants being found not guilty.

Concerning the legality of this arrest, the Commission noted in its Merits Report that the State had failed to prove that an arrest warrant had been issued or that the victim had been caught in the act to justify his arrest. The State was also said to have provided no evidence of the legality of other circumstances concerning this arrest or of how López had been notified of the reasons why he was being arrested and he had then immediately been taken before judicial authorities.

Concerning the right to humane treatment, several officers who had also been arrested testified that they, like López, had also been tortured, and that they had seen or been told of how López had been handcuffed, blindfolded, placed upside down, and beaten up in the facilities of Metropolitan Police Station 11. The State acknowledged before the IACHR that, "as alleged by the Public Prosecutor's Office, acts of torture were indeed committed against several of these detainees, including the petitioner." The IACHR concluded that ill-treatment inflicted on the victim to force him to commit perjury, threatening to link his wife to criminal law proceedings against him, meets the criteria to establish that this was indeed torture.

The Commission also noted that this investigation was not conducted with due diligence nor in a timely manner. The IACHR stressed that the State itself had admitted that proceedings to investigate the victim's allegations had taken too long, due to the defendants' malicious defense practices.

The IACHR further concluded that the State is liable for violating the rights to humane treatment, personal liberty, judicial guarantees, and judicial protection held in the American Convention (Articles 1.1 and 2) and in the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (Articles 1, 6, and 8).

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 and to defend 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. 010/22

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