Press Release

IACHR Ends Working Visit to Paraguay

November 21, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - Between October 14 and 17, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted a working visit to Paraguay to obtain information on the human rights situation in the country, in particular in relation to the situation of the rights of children and adolescents; women; and indigenous peoples; and the rights to equality and nondiscrimination; memory, truth, and justice; and the rights of people who are deprived of their freedom. The delegation was made up of by Commissioner Joel Hernández, first vice-president of the IACHR and rapporteur for Paraguay, and an expert from the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR.

The IACHR wishes to thank the Republic of Paraguay for the opportunity to carry out this working visit, which it made in response to an open invitation from the state to all human rights organizations. It also appreciates all the assistance the state provided with organizing and implementing the visit and the openness and support it received from authorities at the highest level regarding matters of interest to the IACHR. The IACHR also acknowledged the hard work of representatives of civil society organizations and human rights defenders and victims of human rights violations and their families who presented information and gave testimony.

During the visit, the IACHR held working meetings with a range of state institutions, including authorities from the office of the president, the legislature, and the judiciary, and representatives of civil society organizations. In these areas, the IACHR was pleased to note the existence of an institutional framework to protect human rights, as evidenced by the fact that there are human-rights units within all three branches of government. This scaffolding makes it possible to create public policies with a human rights perspective. In this regard, the IACHR urged the state of Paraguay to strengthen these units and provide them with the resources they need to carry out the important work they do.

During the visit, Commissioner Joel Hernández facilitated six working meetings to promote the negotiation and implementation of friendly settlement agreements between the state and petitioners. At these meetings, the parties moved toward creating work plans to negotiate and implement friendly settlement agreements with the help and support of the IACHR. The IACHR praised the willingness of the Paraguayan state to move forward on implementing the commitments it has taken on as part of various friendly settlement agreements that are being negotiated and implemented and urged it to continue striving to do so until these have been fully complied with.

The IACHR also appreciates the Paraguayan state’s efforts to help create a policy to promote friendly settlements for issues that are currently being handled by the individual petition and case system, as reflected by the state’s involvement in working meetings, its compliance with its commitments, and the respect it shows victims’ representatives. The IACHR hopes that these efforts will be reflected in the implementation of work plans designed in partnership with petitioners to ensure that the appropriate comprehensive reparations become a reality and that the agreements reached are fully complied with. Likewise, the IACHR appreciates the willingness and openness expressed by the various petitioning organizations during the working meetings and their hard work to promote compliance with friendly settlement agreements.

With regard to the rights of children and adolescents, the IACHR received alarming information on the high numbers of pregnant girls in Paraguay, including a considerable number between the ages of 10 and 14 who are pregnant as a result of sexual violence, often on the part of their own relatives. On this point, the IACHR called upon the state to review its decision to eliminate gender education from schools. This subject plays a fundamental role in advancing knowledge of the causes and impacts of child pregnancy and reducing the incidence of this. The IACHR urges the state to investigate, prosecute, and sanction those responsible for the sexual abuse of girls and teenagers.

It also received information regarding girls and teenagers who are sent by their families to work as servants in other homes in return for food and schooling, a practice that is known in Paraguay as “criadazgo.” According to UNICEF, there are more than 46,993 children and adolescents in these circumstances in Paraguay. On this point, the IACHR welcomed the state’s commitment to addressing the issue through educational programs as well as by including criadazgo within the legal concept of human trafficking.

The IACHR is also concerned over the information it received on the rate of gender-motivated attacks and murders of women. According to information from the Observatory of the Ministry of Women, 21.3% of femicide victims in Paraguay are under the age of 20, while 37.8% are women between 21 and 30. The IACHR reminded the state of its obligation to take specific steps to modify heteronormative sociocultural behavior patterns, including designing formal and informal education programs to counteract prejudices, customs, and all other practices that are based on the premise that women are inferior and that generate violence against them. The IACHR called on Paraguay to make headway on investigating and sanctioning the culprits behind these cases.

It also expressed concern over the low proportion of women holding elected positions, and the Office of the President’s veto of the Democratic Parity Law, due to the lack of appropriate mechanisms through which to achieve the initial objective of gender parity and alternating positions between men and women. In this regard, the IACHR reminded Paraguay that representative parity for women is a core aspect of equality and nondiscrimination. It called on the state to move toward implementing a regulatory framework that will foster greater participation among women.

Turning to the right to equality and nondiscrimination, the IACHR noted with satisfaction the fact that the LGBTI Pride Parade had taken place in Asunción. However, it also noted the fact that municipal authorities in the cities of Encarnación and Hernandarias decided to reject the peaceful demonstration being organized to mark LGBTI Pride Day. The IACHR was informed that after a demonstration was successfully held in Hernandarias, participants were assaulted physically and psychologically by anti-LGBTI groups. In response, the IACHR stressed that in a democratic society, the state must protect LGBTI people’s freedom of expression while guaranteeing that they can safely engage in peaceful demonstrations on equal terms. It urged the state to investigate the acts of violence mentioned above impartially and exhaustively and to punish those responsible for them.

On the matter of guaranteeing access to justice, the IACHR welcomed the decision of the Luque City Court of Justice, which condemned the murder of a trans person as being a hate crime based on the victim’s gender identity for the first time ever. In this regard, the IACHR reminded the state that people with diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities are exposed to high levels of violence as a result of discrimination motivated by their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

With regard to the rights of indigenous peoples, the IACHR noted the information it received on the challenges faced by communities that have been evicted from their ancestral lands and are experiencing exclusion, poverty, and a lack of access to their rights to health, education, housing, and work. In this regard, the IACHR reminded the state of its obligation to carry out prior consultation with communities that may be affected by displacement projects, and to guarantee the capacity of indigenous peoples to preserve, protect, and guarantee the special relationship they have with their territory.

Furthermore, regarding memory, truth, and justice, the IACHR noted with concern that, despite the state’s efforts in creating the Truth and Justice Commission of Paraguay, it has not yet made compensation payments to victims of the 1954–1989 dictatorship, despite the fact that five years have gone by since Law No. 838 was passed. With regard to the reparations that were established in this law, the IACHR reminded the state that it is obliged to provide compensation because the victims suffered grave human rights violations at the hands of the state, which must thus take all appropriate measures to guarantee that these reparations are made.

Furthermore, the IACHR was informed of the circumstances in which people are deprived of their freedom in Paraguay. Specifically, it received information on the high levels of overcrowding in the country’s prisons, the excessive use of pretrial detention, and allegations of ill-treatment and torture. According to the information provided by Paraguay’s National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, there are a total of 15,191 people deprived of their freedom in the prison system, of whom 74% of the men and 65% of the women have not been convicted. This figure is above the average for the Americas and makes Paraguay one of the countries with the highest levels of pretrial detention in the region.

The IOC also received information that the number of people who are deprived of their freedom outstrips the penitentiary system’s holding capacity. The National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture informed the IACHR that some prison institutions are operating at 786% above their capacity, taking into account the minimum standard of 7 square meters per prisoner established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Montero-Aranguren vs. Venezuela.

In response, the IACHR noted the state’s efforts to acknowledge the problem and declare a state of emergency in Paraguay’s prisons through Law 6.365/19. At the same time, it observed that overcrowding in itself constitutes a violation of personal integrity and has particularly serious effects on the rights of people who are deprived of their freedom. As a consequence, the IACHR urged the state to adopt measures to make more reasonable use of imprisonment. Specifically, it called on the state to address its excessive use of pretrial detention by implementing alternative measures, as is established in article 245 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Commissioner Joel Hernández also visited the Esperanza and Buen Pastor prisons. As this working visit was not carried out specifically under the mandate of the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of People who are Deprived of Their Freedom, no specific recommendations were made. Likewise, the IACHR drew attention to the state’s efforts in the area of social reintegration by organizing various workshops and occupational activities.

During the visit, the IACHR received information on budget cuts put forward by the state in different areas such as culture, higher education, energy, healthcare, public works, communications, security, public advocacy, and the environment and sustainable development. The IACHR is aware of the tough economic circumstances that Paraguay is facing, but it nevertheless reminded the state that budget cuts must take a human rights approach into account, including respect for economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. This implies, among other things, citizen participation, accountability, and prior evaluation of how these cuts will impact the population’s rights, especially the more vulnerable groups in society.
The IACHR also noted with concern the information it received during its visit on Congress’s processing of the Bill to Create and Regulate the Functioning of the National Institute of Nongovernmental and Nonprofit Organizations (INOGUFIL) and Establish Its Charter (D-1848553). According to the information that was provided, this law allegedly seeks to regulate the actions of nongovernmental organizations that receive public funds and could represent a form of state control of citizens’ freedom of association and political participation. In this regard, the IACHR underlined the fundamental role that civil society organizations play in democratic societies, once these have guaranteed that different sectors of society can play a part in designing and overseeing public policies.

With regard to the right to nondiscrimination, the IACHR acknowledged Paraguay’s efforts to ratify various international conventions, including the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (the Convention of Belem do Pará), the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, among others. However, it called on the state to apply international standards to different public policies. It also urged the state to ratify the Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

The IACHR wishes to once more thank state authorities, civil society organizations, international agencies, and the people of Paraguay for the role they played in this visit. The inputs the IACHR received will play an important part in strengthening its work supporting the state in making progress on its international human rights commitments.

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. 304/19