Torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects, including juveniles, by the police continued to be reported. An army colonel was imprisoned briefly for denouncing corrupt practices by senior army commanders. Important new evidence emerged about the torture, killing and "disappearance" of political prisoners during the past administration of General Alfredo Stroessner. In May presidential and congressional elections were held. Juan Carlos Wasmosy of the ruling Colorado Party was elected the country's first civilian president since 1954. International observers criticized military intervention in the electoral process after a senior army commander said the armed forces would not accept an opposition victory. In his inaugural speech, President Wasmosy pledged his government to respect human rights. In January Paraguay accepted the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. New reports were received of torture and ill-treatment in police stations and detention centres. The victims included children and other young people. In April, 16-year-old Blas Américo Villalba, who was accused of armed robbery, testified before an investigating judge that he had signed a confession under torture. He said he had been arrested in March and taken to the police Intelligence Department where he was beaten and kicked in the stomach. He also alleged that plastic bags had been placed over his head while he was given electric shocks, and that he had been threatened with death. His co-defendant, 19-year-old Luis Ferreira Martínez, told the investigating judge that he had been taken by three police officers to a wooded area on the outskirts of Asunción where he was tortured and threatened with death. In June Blas Américo Villalba died of wounds received in what police described as an armed confrontation after he had escaped from a juvenile detention centre. Judicial authorities failed to conduct thorough investigations into these and other allegations of torture and continued to accept as evidence confessions allegedly made under duress. Army Colonel Luis Catalino Gonz lez Rojas was rearrested in January and held in the military prison of Peña Hermosa in the Chaco region. Colonel Gonz lez had been arrested in September 1992 after opening investigations into corruption within the armed forces and provisionally released in October pending the military court's verdict (see Amnesty International Report 1993). In January the Supreme Military Court acquitted him of charges of defamation and slander but sentenced him to 90 days' "disciplinary arrest" for having publicly denounced the involvement of his superiors in corrupt practices. He was released in February, before the expiry of his sentence. Judicial investigations into torture and deaths in custody of political prisoners under General Stroessner's administration continued, despite efforts by alleged perpetrators to block the trials. In May the Supreme Court of Justice rejected a petition presented by defence lawyers acting for Pastor Coronel, the former head of the Departamento de Investigaciones de la Policía (DIP-C), Police Investigations Department. The petition argued that charges against Pastor Coronel for the torture of opposition activist Bienvenido C ceres in 1982 should be dropped because the statute of limitations had expired. The Supreme Court confirmed the Appeal Court's ruling that the statute of limitations should only apply from the day that General Stroessner was overthrown in February 1989. Detailed evidence substantiating allegations of widespread human rights violations by the military and police during the period of General Stroessner's rule (1954 to 1989) continued to emerge from police records confiscated by judicial officials in December 1992. The confiscated archive material included meticulous records of the arrest, torture and murder of political prisoners. It also showed that the police had continued to monitor the activities of opposition leaders after General Stroessner was overthrown in 1989. Further archive material was uncovered in early 1993 from other branches of the security services, including the Interior Ministry's Technical Office for the Repression of Communism, which again provided evidence of human rights violations. Arrest warrants were issued against the senior officers of the Technical Office, but they had not been detained by the end of the year. Under provisions of the 1992 Constitution, relatives of "disappeared" prisoners and victims of torture gained access to the security services' records. The information acquired was used to substantiate formal charges against leading members of the former Stroessner administration. In May a criminal court judge ruled that former President Stroessner, who remained in exile in Brazil, was in contempt of court for deliberately failing to appear before the court to answer charges relating to the deaths in custody of brothers Rodolfo and Benjamín de Jesús Ramírez Villalba. The brothers were detained in 1974 and accused of plotting to assassinate General Stroessner. They were severely tortured and held chained and incommunicado in the DIP-C for 22 months. Both were believed to have been killed by DIP-C officials in 1976, although their bodies were never found. In November the criminal court judge investigating the "disappearance" of the Villalba brothers sought the extradition of General Stroessner from Brazil. The archive material also provided proof of collaboration between the military governments of Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil during operations to combat "subversion" in the 1970s and 1980s. In March relatives of Gustavo Edison Inzaurralde Melgar and Nelson Santana Escotto, both Uruguayans, presented a formal criminal complaint against Paraguayan, Argentine and Uruguayan security officials for the illegal detention, torture and kidnapping of the two men in 1977. DIP-C documents showed that both men had been arrested in Asunción in March 1977 on suspicion of membership of an illegal left-wing organization. In May 1977 the prisoners were handed over to Uruguayan and Argentine army intelligence officers who secretly took them to Argentina. Their whereabouts remain unknown. The criminal court judge issued arrest warrants against several former high-ranking Paraguayan police and military officers in connection with the arrest, torture and "disappearance" of the two men and summoned the Argentine and Uruguayan intelligence officials to testify. However, they failed to appear. Amnesty International called for the release of Colonel González Rojas. The organization continued to call on the government to set up independent investigations into allegations of torture and to ensure that past human rights violations were thoroughly and impartially investigated.
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