University of Minnesota




Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.43, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay, Doc. 13 corr. 1 (1978).


 

 

CHAPTER IV

RIGHT TO PERSONAL INTEGRITY

American Declaration, Article I- Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.[1]

1. Article 65 of the Constitution of the Republic of Paraguay provides that:

No one shall be subjected to torture nor to cruel or inhuman treatment.

2. Since it was given its mandate, the Commission has received a number of communications denouncing the use of physical and psychological duress and the cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees in Paraguay. A number of these communications are cited in the document “Información sobre la situación de los Derechos Humanos en la República del Paraguay,” and allege “that such cruel, oppressive and unusual punishments as electric shock, immersion in freezing or unclean water, blows with rubber bludgeons, cauterization of the genital organs, extraction of nails, thirst, hunger and lashing were inflicted upon detainees.”[2]

3. The Commission has adopted five resolutions wherein it established 18 cases of torture attributed to Paraguayan authorities to be presumed to be confirmed. Two of these resolutions (Cases 1763 and 1988) were transmitted to the Government of Paraguay through notes dated December 19, 1973 and October 20, 1976, respectively.[3]

4. The Government did not answer the first note and limited its reply to the second communications to the following:

Mr. Chairman:

I have the pleasures to acknowledge receipt of your note of October 20 of this year, with which you enclosed the Resolution on Case 1988 (Paraguay) adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS on June 1, 1976. In this regard, I would like to inform you that your note and the enclosure were referred to the component agency for proper handling.

5. Subsequent to adoption of the Resolution on Case 1988, whereby the Commission declared that it presumed the tortures inflicted upon Alberto Alegre, to be confirmed, the claimant submitted the following account:

Information leaked from police jails in Asunción report that ALBERTO ALEGRE continues to be held in quarters of the Department of Investigations. A fellow prisoner, later released, provided us the first concrete reference which we forwarded to you at that time to the effect that ALBERTO ALEGRE and BIENVENIDO ARGUELLO were being held incommunicado in the Investigations Department, and that both had been kept in handcuffs since the time of their arrest and were led away to daily torture sessions. Electric shock was used on the most sensitive parts of their bodies, including the head, and they were then submerged in pools of dirty water containing human waste products. The punishment and humiliation had no limit.

Another individual (whose name appears in the Commission’s files) had a curious, almost mysterious encounter with ALEGRE. Visiting in Asunción, he was detained by the police. That same day he was confined in a cell with ALBERTO ALEGRE until the following day when his transfer to another jail was ordered. He verified what we had learned from the former prisoner as to the worse-than inhuman and bestial treatment that Alegre continued to receive. The cell in which he lives, or more exactly, where he is slowly wasting away, is no larger than 2 x 2 meters, and this has been his entire world for many years now. There he is forced to satisfy his biological needs in what was once an oil can, and the stench is always present in the air that he breathes. In addition to being kept in handcuffs for years and often with his legs in stocks, his body is literally covered with open sores; his shirt, the only article of clothing that remains from the time of this arrest, sticks to his skin as if glued, as result of the combined effect of the blood, sweat and filth that flows from him and then dries on his body. The monstrous image seen by this witness was such that he suffered an emotional shock that is today still difficult for him to overcome.

6. The different communications and other information received by the Commission, in which the practice of physical and psychological duress in Paraguay is denounced, contain allegations that are in agreement that the torture sessions are conducted in a number of offices of the Asunción Police, specifically in the Department of Investigations and in the Robbery and Theft Division, Special Laws Division, Policy Division (located on calle Presidente Franco, between Nuestra Señora de la Asunción and Chile) and, a half block away at the Vigilance and Crime Section (calle Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, between Presidente Franco and Palma). At the latter, according to the informants, sessions involving submersion, the pool and electric shock are used. Also denounced are lashings with braided cables and whips made from steel fibers, blows, stamping and kicking. It is also reported that various houses in the neighborhood of the Third Precinct (calle Chile between Jejuí and 14 de Julio) are use as places of tortures.

7. The claimants add that, as a rule, the sessions begin after nine o’clock at night, and that a radio is turned on at full volume in order to try to drown out the cries of the individuals being tortured.

8. The Commission has in its files extensive documentation that supports these allegations.

9. By way of example, we feel it particularly important to cite the pastoral letter issued by the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference, mentioned in Chapter II of this report, wherein the Paraguayan bishops state the following:

3. The out-breaks of violence and the response of institutional and police repression now under way have a profound effect not only upon our churches but also upon the country itself, as the property, the honor, the liberty and the very life of individuals are at stake…

4. We would like to list briefly the facts that constitute this move of testing for Christians and all good citizens. These are:

a) Indiscriminate repression and imprisonment of students and peasants;

b) The practice of torture has increased…;

e) Priests, seminarians, and employees of church institutions have been taken into custody and held totally incommunicado…;

7. …Often the authorities go further: in order to secure information, perhaps essential to the public safety, using the logic of violence they resort to moral and physical torture. As if information extracted through torture were certain or could be regarded as reliable. Torture deeply offends a Christian conscience.[4]

8. … We recognize the Government’s right to resort to force but this right does not exempt it from the respect due citizens, nor from moderation in the use of force. In a word: terrorism through subversion cannot be answered by terrorism through repression.

10. This information from the Paraguayan Catholic Church is also in accord with that obtained through international organizations that have had the opportunity to visit Paraguay in the recent past.[5]

11. With regard, to torture, the Commission stated the following in its Annual Report for 1976:[6]

Another aspect of the problem which particularly concerns the Commission is the widespread practice of sophisticated means of the torture in several American States. The spread of these means of repression is due to the lack of norms that would effectively protect persons detained or due to the fact that these norms are not applied in practice or, what is more serious, due tot he self disqualification of judges and senior authorities of the administration, who do not perform their duty of preventing these acts by investigating and punishing those responsible for such acts with all force.

And equally disturbing form of mistreatment of detainees is the lack or inadequacy of medical attention in jails and other detention centers, which has been repeatedly denounced and which in no few instances has caused death or permanent injury to the victims of this kind of violence.

12. And it recommended the following to the governments:

That an effective policy be applied against torture, for which purpose everything possible should be done to enable the judges to investigate denunciations received about these violations, without prejudice to the duties the administrative authorities themselves have, to make the appropriate investigation and to impose the sanctions established in the laws and regulations. Only through rigorous investigation, submission to trial, and the imposition of severe penalties on the persons responsible for these tortures will it be possible to put and end, or at least to limit, this abominable practice and prevent its recurrence.

That the detention centers and prisons be provided with the staff and the means necessary for giving adequate medical assistance to the prisoners or convicts and to authorize the transfer of these prisoners to public or private hospitals or clinics, outside of these centers, when the resources available there are not sufficient to ensure the treatment required by the patients.

13. The many communications received from the country itself in which tortures are alleged, the verisimilitude and consistency of the occurrences and methods of torture denounced, the silence on the part of the Government of Paraguay in the face of these serious accusations which have been officially communicated to it by the Commission, the denunciation on torture contained in the pastoral letter of the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference, the information compiled by international institutions that have visited Paraguay and the articles that have appeared in the international press lead to the conclusion that the Government has taken no measures whatever either to prevent or to curb the practice of torture. Furthermore, in the face of numerous denunciations, of physical and psychological duress imputed to the authorities and communicated to the Government, the Commission has received no information to the effect that the Government of Paraguay has sanctioned anyone for the use of such methods.


APPENDIX TO THE CHAPTER IV

CASE 1763[7]

WHEREAS:

In a cable dated February 1, 1973, the denunciation was made that Mr. Aníbal Florentín Peña, after suffering barbaric torture and serving two years in prison, was in danger of death because of a prolonged hunger strike;

In a cable dated February 1, 1973, concerning the situation of Mr. Peña, and by a note dated February 16, 1973, regarding the other cases mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs of this preamble, the Commission requested the Paraguayan government to provide the appropriate information (Article 42 of the Regulations);

At its 30th session (April 1973), in view of the seriousness of the acts denounced and the prompt action required by the circumstances, the Commission decided to request the Paraguayan government once again that it provide the information previously requested within a period not to exceed 60 days. This decision was transmitted to the Government of Paraguay by note date June 15, 1973;

The Paraguayan government’s only reply to the Commission, dated July 6, 1973, was that it had “taken the pertinent action” on the note of June 15 and its appendices and had “referred them to the competent national agency”;

Article 51.1 of the Regulations of the Commission provides as follows:

The occurrence of the events on which information has been requested will be presumed to be confirmed if the government referred to has not supplied such information within 180 days of the request, provided always, that the invalidity of the events denounced is not shown by other elements of proof”; and

In view of the time that has elapsed, during which the Paraguayan government has not furnished the Commission with the information it requested,

THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

RESOLVES:

1. To apply Article 51,1 of the Regulations and presume the occurrence of the events indicated in the preamble of this resolution to be confirmed.

2. To recommend to the Government of Paraguay that the persons mentioned be immediately freed.

3. To call the attention of the Government of Paraguay to the fact that these acts constitute very serious violations of the right to liberty and personal security, the right of protection from arbitrary arrest, the right to a fair trial and the right to due process of law, set forth in Articles I, XXVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

4. To include this resolution in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (Article 9 (bis) c. iii of the Statute).

CASE 1988[8]

WHEREAS:

A denunciation dated October 31, 1975 alleged that Bienvenido Argüello and Alberto Alegre, Paraguayan citizens, were being held in the Asunción jail after having been kidnapped by Paraguayan officials in the town of Clorinda, Formosa Province, Republic of Argentina.

According to the denunciation, the kidnapping took place on May 12, 1975 and the two individuals were taken to the police station in the border town of Falcón, where they were tortured;

In a note dated December 12, 1972, the Commission transmitted to the Government of Paraguay, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the pertinent parts of the denunciation and requested that it provide information on the allegations as well as any other date that would enable the Commission to determine whether the domestic legal remedies had been exhausted. A copy of that communication was sent on the same day to the Permanent Representative of Paraguay to the Organization of American States;

Despite the time elapsed, the Government of Paraguay has not provided any information, even though the period established in Article 51,1 of the Regulations has passed;

On the 12th of this month the 180-day period elapsed, after which, according to Article 51,1 of its Regulations, the Commission can, in the event that the Government of Paraguay fails to respond, presume the occurrence of the events denounced, as long as there is no evidence tot he effect that the denunciation is unfounded.

THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

RESOLVES:

1. In application of Article 51,1 of the Regulations, to presume the occurrence of the events denounced.

2. To call the attention of the Government of Paraguay to the fact that these acts constitute a serious violations of the right to liberty and personal security (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) and to recommend that the Government adopt the necessary measures to see to it that the individuals named in the denunciation regain their freedom immediately and that those responsible be penalized in accordance with Paraguayan law, and that these measures be reported to this Commission within a maximum period of 60 days.

3. To transmit this resolution to the Government of Paraguay and to the claimants.

Summarized below are three resolutions adopted by the IACHR at its 41st session (May 1977), which are now being processed; the occurrence of the acts denounced were presumed to be confirmed in application of Article 51,1 of the Regulations, in light of the Government’s silence:

CASE 2006[9]

i. In a number of communications, the first of which is dated December 17, 1975, it was denounced to this Commission that Professor Miguel Chase Sardí, Victorio Suárez, Mauricio Schwartzman, a sociologist, and Marilyn Rehnfeldt –all from the “Marandú” project—as well as Gloria Estragó, an employee of the Indian Bureau of Paraguay, had been detained at the beginning of December;

ii. According to the claimant, Miguel Chase Sardí, Victorio Suárez and Gloria Estragó were brutally tortured; Chase Sardí suffered a number of fractured ribs, which made it difficult for him to move his arms, and an ear infection; but did not receive the necessary medical attention;

iii. In notes dated February 10 and June 2, 1976, the IACHR transmitted to the Government of Paraguay the pertinent parts of the denunciation and requested that it provide the corresponding information (Article 42 of the Regulations), but no reply has been received;

iv. As a consequence, the Commission decided to call the attention of the Government of Paraguay to the fact that these acts constitute very serious violations of the right to liberty and personal security (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man).

Case 2021[10]

i. A communications dated March 10, 1976 denounced the detention of 53 individuals –whose names are listed—and further denounced that a number of them had disappeared;

ii. According to the denunciation, this list included only part of the approximately 200 individuals who were detained in Paraguay during November and December of 1975;

iii. The denunciation alleges six cases of torture involving women, the sick and the elderly;

iv. According to the claimants, the authorities have not informed the members of their families of the whereabouts or the prisons where the individuals detained are to be found;

v. In a note dated March 29, 1976, the Commission transmitted to the Government of Paraguay the pertinent parts of the denunciation and requested that it provide the corresponding information (Article 42 of the Regulations), but no reply has been received;

vi. Therefore, the Commission decided to call the attention of the Government of Paraguay to the fact that these acts constitute very serious violations of the right to liberty, personal security and integrity (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man).

Case 2029[11]

i. A communication dated March 1, 1976 denounced to this Commission a number of deaths, disappearances, illegal detentions and torture, especially of women;

ii. According to the denunciation, Julia Solalinde, Juana Peralta, Antonio Perrucino y Blanca Pereyra died as a result of torture;

iii. The claimant alleges that in 1974 María Rosa Aguirre was “brutally tortured, to an excessive extent”, lost her mind and died giving birth to a baby girl, who was turned over to the Sisters of Charity;

iv. María Candelaria Remírez, according to the claimant, lost her unborn baby child under torture, did not receive medical attention, and was released only when she was near death;

v. In a note dated April 29, 1976, the Commission transmitted to the Government of Paraguay the pertinent parts of the denunciation and requested that it provide the corresponding information (Article 42 of the Regulations); in a note dated February 4, 1977 the Commission repeated its request for information, extending the deadline for response by 90 days, but no reply has been received;

vi. Therefore, the Commission decided to call the attention of the Government of Paraguay to the fact that these acts constitute very serious violations of the right to life, liberty, personal security and integrity (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man); of the right to protection of the family (Article VI); of the right of protection for mothers and children (Article VII); of the right to preservation of health and well-being (Article XI); of the right to a fair trial (Article XVIII); of the right to protection from arbitrary arrest (Article XXV), and of the right to due process of law (Article XXVI).

 

Notes__________________

[1] American Convention on Human Rights

Article 5

1. Every person has the right to have his physical, mental and moral integrity respected.

2. No one shall be subjected to torture of to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

3. Punishment shall not be extended to any person other than the criminal.

4. Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be segregated from convicted persons, and shall be subject to separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons.

5. Minors while subject to criminal proceedings shall be separated from adults and brought before specialized tribunals, as speedily as possible, so that they may be treated in accordance with their status as minors.

6. Punishments consisting of deprivation of liberty shall have as an essential aim the reform and social readaptation of the prisoners.

[2] OEA/Ser.L/V/II.19, doc.2, 8 September 1964, p. 14.

[3] The other three resolutions (Cases 2006, 2021 and 2029) were adopted at the 41st session (May 1977) and transmitted to the Government of Paraguay on May 27, 1977.

[4] Emphasis added

[5] Such as: The international League for Human Rights: First and Second Reports of the Commission of Enquiry into Human Rights in Paraguay, September 1976 and December 1977. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the International Movement of Catholic Lawyers: Report of the Observatory Mission to Paraguay, June 1976.

[6] Annual Report for 1976 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights tot he General Assembly. OEA/Ser/G/CP/doc. 652/77, corr. 1, 3 March 1977, p. 26.

[7] OEA/Ser.L/V/II.31, doc. 42, rev.1, 23 October 1973. This Resolution refers to Cases 1758, 1759 and 1762. The Government made its reply to this case on August 7, 1977, in its observations on the Report of the Commission. See that reply on page 47.

[8] OEA/Ser.L/V/II.38, doc.20, 2 June 1976. The Government replied to this case on August 7, 1977, in its observations on the Report of the Commission. See that response on page 50.

[9] OEA/Ser.L/V/II.41, doc.10, 13 May 1977. The Government responded to this case on August 7, 1977, its observations on the Report of the Commission. See this reply on page 51.

[10] OEA/Ser.L/V/II.41, doc.8, 12 May 1977. The Government answered this case on August 7, 1977, in its observations on the Report of the Commission. See this reply on pages 52-53.

[11] OEA/Ser.L./V.II.41, doc.9, 12 May 1977. The Government sent its reply to this case on August 7, 1977, its observations on the Report or the Commission. See this response on page 54.



Home || Treaties || Search || Links