Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of Human Rights Defender in Paraguay

February 28, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder in Paraguay of human rights defender Benjamín Lezcano, peasant leader of the "Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia" Peasant Coordination. 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 received indicates that defender Benjamín Lezcano was directly involved in activism against growing genetically modified crops by multinational corporations in the Departments of Concepcion and San Pedro. According to the information received, on February 19, 2013, two unidentified persons shot Benjamin Lezcano repeatedly when he was entering his home, in the Department of Concepción, and fled in a motorbike.

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 peasant leaders.

On December 2012, the Inter-American Commission condemned the killing, also in Paraguay, of human rights defender Vidal Vega, leader of the movement Peasants without Land (Campesinos sin Tierra) and chair of the Commission of Family Members of the 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. 13/13