Paraguay: No justice for peasants in forced eviction killings

Investigations into the deaths of 17 people during a forced eviction in Paraguay two years ago have been completely skewed in favour of the police, said Amnesty International today.

On 15 June 2012, 11 peasants and six police officers died when more than 300 police officers, many of them armed, moved in to evict around 90 peasants occupying land in the Curuguaty district of Paraguay. While 12 people will stand trial next week for the killing of the police officers and other related crimes, no official has been charged for the deaths of the peasants.

“It is appalling that two years after this tragic event there has been no full and impartial investigation. The Paraguayan authorities must right this imbalance and fully investigate all those responsible for the deaths, on both sides of the violence,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director for the Americas Programme at Amnesty International.

Witness testimony, collected by Amnesty International in the months following the violence, suggests that some of the peasants were shot in suspicious circumstances, after the main violence had subsided. There have also been allegations of disproportionate use of force by the police, as well as torture, ill treatment and arbitrary detention.

However investigations carried out by the General Prosecutor focused only on the responsibility of the peasants involved and justified the violence meted out by the police as self-defence. Testimonies included in the investigation were mainly from police officers and other officials, and little weight was given to evidence from peasants.

Two years after the violence in Curuguaty, Amnesty International continues to call for an independent and impartial investigation into the deaths and for the authorities to ensure a fair trial for those facing charges.

“Justice cannot be served without a full investigation into the role of the police as well as the peasants involved. Without such an investigation, there is a real risk of impunity for those responsible for these tragic deaths,” said Guadalupe Marengo.

During Paraguay’s review before the Human Rights Committee in March 2013, the Committee recommended the State carry out impartial and independent investigations into the deaths and into all related incidents reported by the victims, particularly torture, arbitrary detention and possible violation of due process.

In June, Amnesty International sent a letter to the General Prosecutor (Fiscal General) highlighting its main concerns around the investigations, and calling for the Prosecutor to carry out a full inquiry into the investigation.