Paraguay Human Rights
Areas of Concern: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Police and Security Forces, Sexual and Reproductive Rights, Violence against Women and Girls, Human Rights Defenders
A number of violent incidents, including kidnapping and unlawful killings, were reported throughout the year, some of which allegedly involved the Paraguayan People's Army (Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo, EPP), an armed opposition group. In response, a 30-day state of exception was declared in April 2010, covering approximately half of the country. NGOs criticized the vague definition of "terrorism" contained in new anti-terrorism legislation introduced during the state of exception.
In August, Paraguay ratified the International Convention against enforced disappearance. In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education expressed concerns regarding the poor quality of education, lack of resources, inadequate infrastructure, and the lack of viable options for rural populations seeking higher education in Paraguay.
Amnesty International remains concerned with Indigenous Peoples' rights, abuses committed by police and security forces, sexual and reproductive rights, violence against women and girls, and human rights defenders.
Indigenous Peoples' rights
A public policy proposal for social development promoted by the Executive's Social Cabinet and published in February put forward Indigenous Peoples' rights and the need to safeguard their traditional lands as an "emblematic focus" of policy. The proposal cited figures showing that since 2008 Indigenous Peoples had been given title to only 26,119 hectares of land, taking the total expanse of titled territory to 55,970 hectares; the target set by the authorities was to recognize Indigenous title to 279,850 hectares of land by 2013.
In June, the Ministry of Health set up a new Indigenous health directorate. As an important first step, the directorate included ethnicity in forms used across the public health system as a means to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of policies. With the publication of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' judgment in the Xákmok Kásek case in August, Paraguay became the only state under the competence of the Court to have three separate judgments condemning its violation of Indigenous Peoples' rights.
- There was still no resolution to the Yakye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa land claims, despite Inter-American Court of Human Rights orders dating from 2005 and 2006. A proposal to provide the Yakye Axa community with alternative lands to those of their initial claim was rejected following procedural delays. In September, direct negotiations began between high-ranking government officials and the current owners of the lands claimed by both communities.
- In the context of a visit to the Puerto Colón area by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples in September, two community leaders from the Kelyenmagategma community received death threats.
- A scientific expedition organized by the UK-based Natural History Museum, in co-ordination with a Paraguayan environmental NGO and the government Environmental Secretariat, but planned without consultation with Indigenous authorities and representatives, was cancelled in November after concerns were raised that the visit could have a detrimental and irreversible impact on the livelihoods of uncontacted Ayoreo Indigenous Peoples.
- Investigations into the alleged aerial fumigation of Indigenous communities in Itakyry in 2009 had not yielded results by the end of the year.
Police and security forces and the justice system
There were serious concerns about torture and other ill-treatment, excessive use of force and procedural irregularities by police during raids and detentions, particularly in the context of security operations related to the EPP and the ensuing judicial processes. NGOs presented concerns regarding 12 emblematic cases, also involving violence committed by private individuals, in a closed hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in October.
The declaration of the state of exception in April was based on the justification that "internal upheaval caused by criminal groups operating in the area, [is] placing the normal functioning of constitutional bodies at imminent risk", but the law passed contained many flaws including lack of clarity regarding the rights that would be restricted.
- In June, two police officers died in Kuruzú de Hierro, Horqueta district, in a reported clash with alleged members of the EPP. Shortly after the incident, special police forces (Fuerza Operativa de la Policía Especializada, FOPE) raided the homes of a number of local residents, provoking allegations of excessive use of force and ill-treatment. There were concerns regarding the pace of investigation into the allegations.
Sexual and reproductive rights
In September, a Guiding Framework on Sexual Education developed in co-ordination with various government departments, civil society and UN agencies was published by the Education Ministry. The Framework would bring education programs into line with international standards regarding sexual and reproductive rights, with a view to tackling prevalent problems such as sexual abuse and violence.
Violence against women and girls
In September, a child pornography ring operating inside Tacumbú National Penitentiary was discovered, only days after a visit from the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture visited to update recommendations it made in 2009 on prison conditions. It was understood that prisoners invited young girls into the prison, forced them to perform sexual acts which were filmed and later sold. Some prison officials, including the prison director and pastors working within the prison, were alleged to have been involved in the abuse.
Investigations were continuing; the prosecutor's findings had not been published by the end of the year.
Human rights defenders
Statements made during the year demonstrated a serious deterioration in respect for the legitimacy of the role and rights of human rights defenders. Government officials called into question the role of human rights defenders and organizations working on cases related to abuses committed during security operations. This contributed to the wider misrepresentation of the role and work of defenders which was prevalent in the media.
In December, a raid was carried out on the offices of the NGO Iniciativa Amotocodie, weeks after their national and international campaign to stop a scientific expedition to an area where uncontacted tribes were present. The warrant for the raid and the actions of prosecutors implementing it, including the confiscation of documents not related to the charges, broke many procedural guarantees, and appeared to be in reprisal for the organization's work denouncing the expedition.