Court upholds sentencing of 11 campesinos for defending their land rights
An appeals court in Paraguay upheld the sentences against 11 campesinos (rural farmers) after a court in July 2016 found them guilty of first degree murder, land invasion and other crimes. As reported on the Monitor, the police violently evicted the farmers in 2012, as they tried to defend their right to their land. Known as the Curuguaty Massacre, 17 people were killed in the clashes. The campesinos' legal representative stated that they will appeal the sentencing to a higher court and even to the international legal community, if necessary, as the trial did not follow due process guarantees.
As previously featured on the Monitor, hundreds of people gathered outside the Paraguayan Congress on 31st March 2017 to protest a government decision to change the rules of the upper chamber of the legislature and pass a constitutional amendment allowing for presidential re-election. During the demonstration, a group of protesters managed to break into the government building, where they lit fires and caused severe damage. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets aimed at the crowd.
After the incident, President Horacio Cartes publicly accused a number of journalists, including Menchi Barriocanal and Óscar Acosta, of instigating the 31st March protest and inciting violence. The journalists, however, had only published the information on the government's intention to pass a constitutional amendment on re-election of the president; they did not call for protests. Amnesty International - Paraguay has launched a petition calling on the president to rescind his accusations against the journalists.
In a separate incident, several journalists from Paraguay have presented evidence of the excessive force used by security forces against members of the press during the 31st March protests at a public hearing of the 162nd Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held in Buenos Aires on 22nd to 27th May 2017. The Paraguayan government accepted the fact that there was excessive use of force that day, but also claimed that violence was used by some of the demonstrators in turn. It also reported that the Minister of the Interior and the Chief of Police had been removed from office over these abuses and that a protocol for protecting journalists during protests would soon be approved.
On 17th May, the organisation Panambí presented its report on 2016 cases of transgender violence in Paraguay. During the presentation, Vicky Acosta, a member of Panambí drew attention to the increasing number of violent acts against trans people and demanded more protection from the authorities, including a legal framework to guarantee their rights.