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Paraguay

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Last updated on 21.09.2018 at 14:42

Paraguay Overview

One of the poorest countries in South America, Paraguay was also among the last to transition to democracy.

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Court acquitted 11 rural farmers after six years in prison

Court acquitted 11 rural farmers after six years in prison

On 26th July 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice acquitted 11 campesinos (rural farmers) who were convicted in 2016 of first-degree murder, land invasion and other crimes in the context of a violent eviction by police in 2012.

Association

On 26th July 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice acquitted 11 campesinos (rural farmers). The activists were convicted of first degree murder, land invasion and other crimes in the context of a violent eviction by police in 2012. The operation is known as the Curuguaty Massacre, which left 17 people dead.

The Court overturned the sentences against the 11 accused, ordering their immediate release as "it had not been proven that they committed the crimes".

Amnesty International welcomed the decision and said

“After six years of fighting for justice in this terrible case, today we finally celebrate the acquittal of 11 campesinos unfairly accused of the death of six police officers, in a case that has shocked both Paraguayan society and the international community. The court’s ruling is a triumph for human rights in Paraguay."

Peaceful Assembly

On 6th August 2018, hundreds of Paraguayans took to the streets to protest against corruption, and protections granted to government officials accused of corruption. The demonstration was organised by students of the Universidad Nacional de Asunción, (National University of Asuncion), who were joined by several organisations and political parties. The demonstrators marched to "Plaza de Armas", located in front of the National Congress, in the capital Asunción. One of the government officials, accused of corruption, Jose Maria Ibañez resigned from the Chamber of Deputies after the mobilisation. 

Expression

The Sindicato de Periodistas de Paraguay (Paraguayan Union of Journalists, SPP) is working on a new system to document attacks to freedom of expression. The system will record threats, harassment and legal persecution, which are usually used to restrict freedom of press in Paraguay.

The data will enable activists to advocate for better public policies to guarantee freedom of press while defending citizens’ right to access to information. The SPP will also promote the creation of a network of journalists throughout the country in order to document cases of violence against them. The union hopes this data will enable activists to react promptly. 

In Paraguay, 17 press workers have been killed since 1989. Most cases remain unsolved and the authors of the crimes remain unpunished. 

Association in Paraguay

The Constitution of Paraguay guarantees the freedom of association and no legal restrictions or bans on external funding are in place.

The Constitution of Paraguay guarantees the freedom of association and no legal restrictions or bans on external funding are in place. Although land claims of some indigenous communities have been legally resolved, police raids, harassment by paramilitary forces and illegal evictions continue against others, while numerous peasant farmers are forced to sell their land. Judicial proceedings against peasant farmers are common and human rights defenders face repression, in particular those working for the defence of indigenous communities and against land confiscation. For example, human rights defender Lorenzo Areco, who was killed in 2013, was known for his work assisting farmers with land claims. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, trade union rights are also subject to regular violations, such as reprisals for strikes and delay or denial of registration.

Peaceful Assembly in Paraguay

Although it is constitutionally guaranteed, the right to peaceful assembly is limited by laws imposing restrictions on the time and location in which demonstrations can take place.

Although it is constitutionally guaranteed, the right to peaceful assembly is limited by laws imposing restrictions on the time and location in which demonstrations can take place. The government continues to intimidate protestors, especially students demanding better education, and the police use excessive force against peasants and union workers. Repression has not curtailed the exercise of the right however. On 10 December 2014, International Human Rights Day, thousands – including teachers, public employees, farm workers and human rights advocates – marched in the capital Asunción to protest against homelessness, poverty, and unemployment, and to demand the president’s resignation. Recently, a union protest was met with excessive force by the police, leaving more than 20 people injured.

Expression in Paraguay

The constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and the press are significantly compromised in practice as well as by law.

The constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and the press are significantly compromised in practice as well as by law. Defamation is a criminal offence punishable with fines and prison sentences, and cases against journalists are regularly filed. The media landscape is highly concentrated, with three privately-owned media corporations having the influence to set the national media discourse. Although reporters are relatively safe in the capital city, they face significant danger in remote border areas, where local politicians operate in collusion with drug traffickers. At least three journalists were killed in Paraguay in 2014, and a total of 17 have been killed since 1991. Impunity and fear of reprisals have resulted in widespread self-censorship among reporters covering sensitive areas. Progress has also been registered as Paraguay, already an Open Government Partnership (OGP) member, passed a transparency and access to information law in September 2014 that came into force a year later. A positive development is the Senate decision to reject the approval of the so-called Pyrawebs bill that would have established mandatory data retention, which would have had a negative impact on the right to privacy and expression.