The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) prepared a Special Report on the Status of Human Rights in Paraguay in 1978. As noted in that report in the section on background, after repeated efforts by the Commission the oft requested permission to visit the country was received from the government. The message came at the end of a telegram from the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, Dr. Alberto Nogues, to Dr. Andrés Aguilar, Chairman of the Commission. It announced that “the Paraguayan Government is willing to receive your visit on a date to be set by mutual consent.”
The IACHR was nevertheless obliged to draft and publish its report without the proposed on-site inspection, since the Paraguayan authorities never got around to setting a date for the visit. Even now, ten years later, the Government of Paraguay has yet to name the day.
In the report cited, the IACHR concluded that in the Republic of Paraguay the great majority of the rights recognized by the “American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man” and other instruments of the same nature not only were not respected in accordance with the international commitments assumed by that country, but that their violation had become common practice.
At that time, the Commission specifically cited violations of the right to life, to personal freedom, to justice, to free speech and expression of opinions and the rights of assembly and association.
The report in question was submitted to the eighth regular session of the OAS General Assembly, held June 21-July 1, 1978. The General Assembly agreed in its Resolution 370 (VIII-O/78):
To thank the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for its report on the situation of human rights in Paraguay and to request it to continue to observe the situation of human rights in that country and to report on the matter to the General Assembly at its next regular sessions.
At its ninth regular session, held in La Paz, Bolivia, October 22-31, 1979, the OAS also approved another resolution (AG/RES. 443), stating that it had taken note of the Annual Report of the IACHR for 1978.
The Government of Paraguay has not complied with the recommendations made by the General Assembly at its eighth regular session.
The operative paragraphs of the aforementioned resolution AG/RES. 443 included the following:
6. To reiterate the need for the government of Paraguay to respect human rights, and to urge that government to demonstrate the willingness it expressed in a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated July 2, 1979, to cooperate with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by setting a date certain in the near future for its visit to that country, as agreed with the Government of Paraguay in September 1977.
To request the Government of Paraguay to life the stage of siege throughout the country, and to permit all exiles to return.
8. To request the Commission to continue to monitor the exercise of human rights in Paraguay … and to report thereon to the tenth regular session of the General Assembly.
Based on the provisions of the operating paragraph 6 of Resolution AG/RES. 443, at its 49th session the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights again addressed the proposed on site observation in Paraguay and agreed on April 1, 1980 to send a cable to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, requesting that he set a specific date for the observation visit agreed upon. The IACHR also resolved at that time that in the event that the Government did not respond affirmatively, a note would be sent to the OAS Secretary General, apprising him of the situation so that he could bring it to the attention of the Permanent Council of the Organization’s General Assembly.
The text of the cable sent to the Minister is produced below:
Minister of Foreign Relations
I have the honor of addressing Your Excellency to state that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights resolved at its 49th regular session to ask Your Excellency for specific information as to the manner in which the Government of Paraguay would be willing to observe the request embodied in the sixth paragraph of Resolution 443 of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, in which it is urged that willingness to cooperate with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights be demonstrated by setting a proximate and precise date for on-site observation by the Commission in your country. The Commission takes the liberty of suggesting that Your Excellency’s Government consider the possibility that the visit take place during the latter half of July or, alternatively, during the month of November of this year.
Accept Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Luis Demetrio Tinoco Castro
On April 28, 1980, the Commission received the following reply from the Government of Paraguay:
Mr. Tom Farer
Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
General Secretariat, Organization of American States
Washington, D.C., USA
With reference to your cable, and as stated in my note dated July 2, 1979, I must repeat that, for reasons of sovereignty that stem from its exclusive purview and initiative, the Government of Paraguay continues to reserve the right to determine the occasion on which the Commission could visit my country.
Please accept the assurances of my highest consideration.
Minister of Foreign Relations of Paraguay
Pursuant to its decision at its 49th regular meeting, the Commission addressed the OAS Secretary General on May 28, 1980 to apprise him of the step it had taken and the result thereof. At the same time, the committee agreed to continue observing the development of human rights in Paraguay.
The IACHR thus continued to process the complaints received in respect to individual cases, to examine the data sent to it on the observance of human rights and to consider the general status thereof in the country. The Commission’s annual reports included the results obtained in individual cases and those of its analysis of the general status of human rights in Paraguay, on which it reported to the OAS General Assembly at the body’s regular sessions. At the same time, the Commission continued its efforts with the Paraguayan authorities to have a date set for its proposed on site observation visit to the country.
In April 1986, at its 67th regular session, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights agreed to prepare a special report on the general situation of human rights in Paraguay and to repeat its request for the Government’s permission to carry out its proposed in loco visit.
Pursuant to that decision, the Chairman of the Commission sent the following note to the Government of Paraguay on April 17, 1986:
Dr. Carlos Augusto Saldívar
Minister of Foreign Relations
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has the honor of advising Your Excellency of its decision at its 67th regular session to prepare a report on the general situation of human rights in Paraguay.
In order for that report to convey the realities of Paraguay as faithfully and objectively as possible, and encouraged by the recent decisions of Your Excellency’s Government to allow various government and nongovernmental organizations to visit Paraguay, the Commission has deemed it advisable to request the permission of your Government for a visit in loco to the country, on a specific date at the earliest possible time, but in any case prior to the end of the present year.
We would be grateful for an early reply. In the meantime, please accept, Excellency, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration.
Luis Adolfo Siles
During its 68the regular session in September 1986, the Commission reaffirmed to the Government in the last paragraph of its 1984-85 annual report the commitment it had assumed in September 1977, which had remained pending since that time, insisting that a specific date had to be set for the on site observation. It underscored the idea that:
Any other attitude on the part of the Paraguayan Government would indicate that it was not willing to respect the commitment it had accepted.
The Chairmen of the Commission, Drs. Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas and Gilda M.C.M. de Russomano met in the course of 1986 and 1987 with Foreign Minister Dr Carlos Augusto Saldívar, again emphasizing the expediency of inviting the Commission to visit the country. This was prior to the publication of the present report.
During the interview between the Chairwoman and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister gave her a note dated June 2, 1987, in which the Paraguayan Government apprised the Commission of its decision not to set a date for the visit. One of the reasons adduced for such refusal was that the Government of Paraguay gives priority to its relations with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and had acceded to the visit of a special rapporteur who had already visited Paraguay. According to the Government, assent to the visit of the Commission would have created an undesirable and dangerous duality. Another argument was the short deadline set by the Commission for the visit to be authorized. The complete text of the missive from the Government of Paraguay, together with the Commission’s reply, may be found in the Annex to this report.
In its reply, the Commission refutes the reasons adduced by the Government of Paraguay, stating that the “duality” of procedures has never been an obstacle to the Commission’s consideration of human rights in OAS member countries. The Commission points that there is no provision, either in the United Nations Charter or in that of the OAS, that can be interpreted as conferring such priority or incompatibility; on the contrary, both organizations have consistently recognized the possibility that parallel procedures can exist. As for the shortness of deadlines, the Commission noted that this argument could not be sustained given the ten-year lapse since the Government of Paraguay had agreed to accept the visit, and the repeated requests to that effect submitted by the Commission and even by the General Secretariat of the OAS. In light of the inconsistency of the arguments adduced by the Government, the Commission concludes that such refusal by the Government of Paraguay raises new obstacles to the Commission’s compliance with its mandate.
Since the Government of Paraguay has not issued its authorization, and violations of the rights recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man have continued during the period covered by this report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has decided to issue the present report, which was approved provisionally in accordance with its Rules of Procedure and sent to the Government on July 6, 1987.
On September 9, 1987, the Commission received the observations of the Government of Paraguay on the provisional report, and after a careful analysis, proceeded to make the changes it deemed appropriate. On September 23, following its deliberation, the Commission adopted this definitive text.
B. CONTENTS, METHODOLOGY AND SOURCES OF THE PRESENT REPORT
The present report of the Situation of Human Rights in Paraguay covers the period from December 31, 1977–the date when the last special report prepared by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in that country was updated–until June 26, 1987, the date when the IACHR tentatively approved this new special report during its 70th regular session.
The successive chapters address the following rights: the right to life, safety and integrity of the individual; to due process of law and protection from arbitrary arrest; the right to freedom of thought and expression; the right to freedom of movement and residence; labor rights and finally, political rights. The report ends by setting forth the conclusions reached by the Commission and the recommendation that the status of human rights in Paraguay be addressed by the government of that country.
Each of those chapters presents the principal violations of which the Commission was apprised in the period covered by the present report. Each chapter starts with the transcription of the corresponding article from the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, an instrument that is applicable to Paraguay, which has failed to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights.
To prepare the present report, the Commission had recourse to the laws and the jurisprudence of Paraguay’s courts. Special consideration was given to the claims it has received and to the Government’s responses thereto. The Commission has also utilized information published in the Paraguayan and foreign press media. Finally, preparation of the report made use of the abundant documentation received directly by the Commission or remitted to it by human rights organizations, both Paraguayan and international.
The Commission once again regrets the obstacles raised by the Government of Paraguay to prevent the on site inspection visit to ascertain the status of human rights in that country. Those obstacles, however, have not prevented the Commission from performing its duty and preparing this report on the Status of Human Rights in Paraguay for the period 1979 to 1987.
. OEA/Ser.L/V.II.43, doc. 13 corr. 1, 31 January 1978.
. Pages 1 to 10.
. AG/doc.1101/79 and IACHR OAS/Ser.L/V/II.47, doc.13 rev. 1, 29 June 1979.