Covering events from January - December 2003

There were continued reports of torture and illtreatment of criminal suspects and army conscripts and of excessive use of force by the security forces during demonstrations. There were limited advances in criminal investigations into cases of torture committed by the security forces. A law was passed to set up a Truth and Justice Commission to document human rights violations commmited between 1954 and 2003.


Attempts to impeach outgoing President Luis Angel González Macchi, accused of corruption, failed when Congress voted against the measure. The government of President Nicanor Duarte Frutos took office in August.

In April, former Vice-President Angel Roberto Seifart and 18 others were cleared of involvement in the killing of at least seven students during anti-government demonstrations in March 1999; eight other people, including two senators, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to five years. In October, charges against 68 members of the armed forces accused of involvement in the March 1999 killings and an attempted coup in May 2000 were reportedly dropped after the time period stipulated by the statute of limitations expired.

Excessive use of force by the security forces

According to reports, peasant farmer and trade union demonstrations continued to be met with excessive use of force by the police.

  • In August, Cástulo Manuel Riveros Garay was reportedly shot dead by police agents during a strike by municipal workers in the Zeballos Cué district of Asunción. Police denied responsibility in the killing.
  • In October, Miguel Peralta, a landless peasant farmer, was killed and several other peasant farmers injured, reportedly by the security forces, during an attempt to evict landless peasant farmers from the Santa Bárbara farm in Hernandarias. Several members of the security forces were also injured in the operation.

Torture and ill-treatment

There were continued reports of torture and illtreatment of criminal suspects.

  • In May, police agents in Santa Lucía de Villarica, Guairá Department, reportedly forced entry into Pascual Trinidad's home, accused him of theft, placed a plastic bag over his head and beat him. No information had been received by the end of the year regarding criminal investigations into this case.
  • In July, two police agents accused former Interior Minister Walter Bower, police commanders Humberto Núñez Aguero and Merardo Palacios, and police officer Osvaldo Vera of being involved in their torture following the May 2000 coup attempt. In November criminal proceedings against the accused reportedly stalled.


Prison conditions continued to be of concern with reports of serious overcrowding. In September, Justice and Labour Minister Juan Darío Monges made commitments to reform the prison system. Several detainees died, reportedly as a result of excessive use of force by prison guards.

  • On 26 April, 18-year-old Víctor Javier Lugo died and another youth was injured when prison guards at the Itaguá juvenile detention centre allegedly opened fire on the youths as they tried to escape. No information had been received by the end of the year regarding investigations into the killing.

Torture and ill-treatment of conscripts

There were continued reports of ill-treatment of army conscripts.

  • Four conscripts belonging to the First Cavalry Division based in Pozo Colorado, Chaco Department, alleged in May that they had been ill-treated. Another soldier belonging to the Cuguaty First Army Corps testified before a judge that he had been tortured and raped by an officer. Judicial authorities were reportedly investigating both cases at the end of the year.

No significant advances were reported in investigations into the deaths of the more than 100 young conscripts who had died since 1989. In October, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepted a request to investigate the "disappearance" of two underage conscripts, Marcelino Gómez and Cristian Ariel Núñez, in 1998 in Chaco Department.


The Office of the Attorney General failed to press charges against members of the armed forces in relation to the killing of José "Coco" Villar on 2 July 1999. The reason given was lack of evidence, although the officer in command of the security operation during which José Villar was killed was known to the authorities and had been implicated in the killing of Vice-President Luis María Argaña earlier that year.

Few advances were made in criminal investigations into the alleged torture of Anuncio Martí and Juan Arrom in 2002. In November, legal proceedings against two police officers and a judicial investigator were suspended.

On 16 October, a court in Asunción reissued a judicial order for the arrest of the former President, General Stroessner, in exile in Brazil, and former Interior Minister Sabino Augusto Montanaro, in exile in Honduras, to face charges for their alleged involvement in the torture and killing of Celestina Pérez in 1974 while in police detention.

In October, a law was passed creating a Truth and Justice Commission to examine human rights violations under the Stroessner government. The Commission had not been established by the end of the year.

Also in October, the government informed the US authorities that it would not sign an impunity agreement not to surrender US nationals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to the International Criminal Court. Such agreements are in breach of states' obligations under international law.

Concerns continued to be expressed over the failure of the state to pay compensation to victims of human rights violations committed under the Stroessner government. In August, the new Procurator General declared that he would appeal to the Supreme Court to make payments possible.

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