Paraguay 2019
© Amnesty International / Tercer Piso
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Paraguay 2019

On 2 December, the President withdrew from Congress a bill to ratify the Escazú Agreement[1] on environmental matters.

Discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued. Despite some progress on access to justice, truth and reparation, Indigenous Peoples continued to be subjected to forced eviction and displacement. Human rights defenders continued to be criminalized. The independence of the judiciary remained a concern.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

On 3 March, about 50 people, including armed individuals, entered the ancestral lands of the Ysati “July 3” community in the Itakyry district, burning crops and six of their houses containing all their belongings. Fifty-five people, including 38 children, were displaced and forced to seek shelter in precarious conditions in a nearby community. The local prosecutor opened an investigation into these attacks which was continuing at the end of the year.[2]

On 27 June, the authorities handed over 140 homes and the first part of a development fund to the Sawhoyamaxa community, as part of its compliance with a 2006 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. On 10 December, after approval by the Congress, the President issued Law 6.465/19 to expropriate a piece of land necessary to build a road that would allow the Yakye Axa Indigenous community, beneficiary of a 2005 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, to access their lands.

In July 2019, the Paraguayan Indigenous Institute reported a fiscal agent with Criminal Unit No. 3 in Hernandarias to the State Attorney General. It alleged she had misused the criminal justice system against Indigenous Ava Guaraní communities in Itakyry district in the context of a dispute over land titles with individuals. The Prosecutor’s Office had yet to appoint a prosecutor to investigate this complaint by the end of the year.[3]

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI)

On 27 September, the Mayor of Hernandarias issued Resolution 3076/19 which prohibited a march called by Diversxs Alto Paraná, an LGBTI collective, on the grounds that he considered it contrary to “public morals”. He also confirmed Resolution 036/19, which declared Hernandarias a “Pro-Life and Pro-Family City”.

Despite this ban, Diversxs decided to go ahead with the march. Members of the collective were verbally and physically assaulted by anti-rights groups and the National Police failed to intervene to protect them or detain the attackers. Some members of Diversxs filed criminal complaints about these incidents.

On 14 October, Amnesty International and Diversxs, with the support of REPADIS and It Gets Better Paraguay, filed an action of unconstitutionality against both resolutions on the grounds that they violate the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, peaceful protest and equality, among others.[4]

Independence of the judiciary

On 13 August, the Jury for the Prosecution of Magistrates decided to sanction Judge Emiliano Rolón. The decision followed a complaint filed by the Attorney General, head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, in October 2018 against him and Judge Arnaldo Martínez, for allegedly failing to discharge their obligations properly. On 30 May, Judge Arnaldo Martínez resigned his post stating that this process was unconstitutional and interfered with judicial independence.

In July 2018, both judges had voted to acquit 11 campesinos who had previously been convicted in the Curuguaty case and not to initiate a new trial, after identifying serious violations of due process in the Public Prosecutor’s investigation. In addition, the Public Prosecutor’s Office only investigated the deaths of the six police officers, excluding the deaths of 11 campesinos, which remained unpunished at the end of the year.

In September 2019, Amnesty International noted the need to address with due diligence, independently and impartially, cases of sexual harassment reported in Paraguay. This followed a case brought by María Belén Whittingslow Castañé against her teacher, member of the Jury for the Prosecution of Magistrates, which was dismissed without a detailed analysis of the evidence she provided describing the acts of harassment. Her allegations were dismissed as “courtship and wooing” and the defendant’s word was accepted as evidence without analysing the texts of the messages or the evident asymmetry of power between María Belén and the teacher.

Right to housing and forced evictions

On 19 September, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of the Interior left the Joint Action Plan for Cases to Deal with the Offence of Trespass without effect. Nevertheless, the proposed alternative intends that evictions are carried out more quickly and without complying with international human rights standards.

On 27 August, the Tekoha Sauce Indigenous community was notified of an eviction process being pursued by the Itaipu Binacional hydroelectric company (Paraguay-Brazil) against its members, including leaders Cristóbal Martínez and Amada Martínez. The company claimed that the community had illegally settled on its property.[5]

The authorities had yet to respond to the request for the restitution of territory to the community, which had been displaced in the 1970s by the construction of the Itaipú Hydroelectric Plant. However, a draft bill was proposed by the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission of the Senate to determine, within the Limoy Reserve, a protected area that could be used as Indigenous conservation territory, which would allow the community to practice traditional hunting and fishing.

Human rights defenders

On 12 July, the last criminal proceedings against Andrés Brizuela, defender of land-related rights of the Guahory campesino community, ended as the result of an agreed court settlement. He had been accused of breaking into the house of someone who had claimed ownership of community land.

On 28 August, a court acquitted human rights activist Ernesto Ojeda of charges of “coercion, aggravated coercion, deprivation of liberty and resistance” in the city Fernando de la Mora. The charges related to events in September 2017, when Ernesto was 17 years old and was executive coordinator of the National Federation of Students. The proceedings were a disproportionate response by the criminal justice system, criminalizing human rights activism.

[1] Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.

[2] Paraguay: Attacks on Ysati community under investigation (AMR 45/0734/2019)

[3] Paraguay: The Attorney General must investigate misuse of the criminal justice system against Indigenous communities in Itakyry

[4] Paraguay: Amnesty International brings unconstitutionality proceedings against resolutions that discriminate against LGBTI people (News story, 14 October)

[5] Paraguay: Indigenous community at risk of eviction (AMR 45/0614/2019)