Press Release

IACHR Urges Paraguay to Investigate Discovery of Human Remains at the “House of Horror” Site

September 26, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the state of Paraguay to investigate the clandestine grave site at the property known as Finca 66 in Ciudad del Este. It also urges the state to take all necessary steps to exhume and identify the human remains found at the site.

According to the information available to the IACHR, on September 5, a group of people found human remains buried in the bathroom of a property that is linked to former Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda. The house is on the Finca 66 property in Ciudad del Este and became known as the “House of Horror” after being reported years ago as a place where serious human rights violations such as torture and extrajudicial executions had been carried out. The property was uninhabited until last month, when a group of families moved onto the land.

In the case of Goiburú et al. v. Paraguay, the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognized that various forms of enforced disappearance were perpetrated in Paraguay in the 1970s and 1980s, when state power was used as a means of and resource for carrying out human rights violations. In this case, the IACHR and Court once again noted that it is the state’s responsibility to conduct a swift, serious, impartial, and effective ex officio investigation into these events as a fundamental condition for protecting certain rights that are affected or denied in cases of extrajudicial execution, forced disappearances, and other serious human rights violations. Furthermore, the IACHR has repeatedly insisted that crimes constituting serious human rights violations, such as enforced disappearances, are not extinguishable. Indeed, the duty to investigate events of this nature remains in force as long as there is uncertainty around what ultimately happened to people who are missing, because the right of victims’ families to know the victim’s fate and, where applicable, to find their bodily remains, is a fair expectation that the state must meet through all available means. Furthermore, the state must hand over victim’s bodily remains to their relatives as soon as possible after it has identified the deceased person using different forensic means of identification.

“It is fundamental that the State investigate whether these human remains are the results of grave human rights violations,” said Joel Hernández, the IACHR Rapporteur for Paraguay. “The area must be preserved so that the remains can be identified and the circumstances in which they were buried there can be determined,” he said.

Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, the Rapporteur on Memory, Truth, and Justice, said, “the State must ascertain whether the site is a clandestine cemetery for victims from this period and guarantee that the matter is fully investigated and that the remains are handed over to victims’ families in a way that respects their dignity.”

The IACHR urges the state of Paraguay to ensure that all available information on this burial site is gathered and that it is identified, recorded, protected, and preserved in accordance with Paraguay’s international obligations in this regard. The Commission also calls on the state to begin the necessary proceedings for the exhumation of the remains and to ensure that different means of forensic identification are used.

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. 240/19