Press Release

IACHR Condemns Murder of Human Rights Defender in Paraguay

August 29, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of Lorenzo Areco, a human rights defender in Paraguay. Mr. Areco was Land and Agrarian Reform Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Concepción Regional Farm Labor Organization (OCRC) and Director of the Municipal Property Registry Office in the community of Yby Yau. The Inter-American Commission urges the State of Paraguay to investigate and prosecute this crime and punish its intellectual and material authors.

The information received indicates that on August 14, 2013, just a short distance from OCRC headquarters, a Toyota Hilux pickup truck approached Lorenzo Areco. The bullets fired from the passing vehicle were aimed at Mr. Areco and killed him instantly.

The reports received also indicate that Lorenzo Areco was one of the principal leaders of the farm community of Reconquista, where he was assisting 28 families that had secured land through a squatter settlement in 2004 and 2005. In his capacity as OCRC Land and Agrarian Reform Secretary, he was also assisting other landless families in the region and coordinated with them to help them lay claim to land.

This is the third murder in Paraguay in the last ten months to claim the life of a human rights defender in the farm labor movement. In December 2012, the IACHR condemned the murder of Vidal Vega, a leader of the Landless Farm Labor movement and Chair of the Commission of Relatives of Victims of the Curuguaty Massacre. In February of this year, the IACHR condemned the murder of Benjamín Lezcano, a leader of the "Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia" Farm Labor Coordination Organization.

The IACHR is reminded 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 rights to life, integrity, and safety of human rights defenders in the country, particularly those active in the Landless Farm Labor movement.

As the Commission has previously observed, acts of violence and other attacks committed against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that every human being must enjoy, but also seek to undermine the pivotal role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The work of human rights defenders is essential to building a solid and enduring democratic society, as they play a vital role in the pursuit of 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 matter. 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. 63/13