NGOs demand freedom for political prisoners on hunger strike and victims of slaughter in Paraguay

FIAN International and other NGOs denounce the health plight of hunger-striking farmers arbitrarily imprisoned in Paraguay.

FIAN International, in conjunction with the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (CLOC-Via Campesina), and other social, human rights, academic and environmentalist organizations have made a statement to denounce the health plight of 10 farmers who have been on a hunger strike for nearly two months after being arbitrarily detained in the prison of Coronel Oviedo, Caaguazú department, Paraguay.

These people are victims of the slaughter that occurred on 15 June in the ill-gotten lands of Marina Cué, Department of Canindeyú, which ended the lives of eleven farmers and six policemen.

The victims’ families and social solidarity organizations who were demonstrating against the state attorney general’s office about the situation of the political prisoners were brutally evicted and wounded by police.

International Mission finds gross violations

The ten political prisoners of Marina Cué are part of a group of 54 people who have been arbitrarily charged with seven criminal charges including offense of murder, attempted murder, serious injury, criminal association, grave coercion, coercion and invasion.

However, according to the International Mission, conducted from 5 to 11 last September by FIAN International, La Via Campesina and other organizations, “there is not sufficient evidence to minimally suspect the responsibility of them in the facts attributed to them”. The list of the persons charged was based on an old list of families living in the place and even included the people who were not present at the scene of the conflict.

Marina Cué defendants have spent 5 months in preventive imprisonment despite the fact that the prosecutor has not adduced any evidence indicating that these defendants could be “authors” of the actions.

This contravenes Article 242 of the Procedural Code that establishes as a requirement for preventive detention that “there exist sufficient facts to sustain reasonably who is author or participant in an offense”. Also this violates the principle of presumption of innocence enshrined in Article 17 of the National Constitution of Paraguay.

The NGOs emphasize that in this specific case, the recent Amendment of Article 245 of the Criminal Procedure Code which precludes the home arrest does not apply, since this rule cannot be applied retroactively to the act that occurred before the reform.

In its preliminary report, the International Mission concluded that the search warrant by the prosecutor of the city of Curuguaty, José Benítez, was inappropriate and provoked a facto-eviction that failed to comply with all applicable human rights standards, and the killing of innocent peasants who sought access to state land to guarantee their right and their families’ right to food.

Prosecutor biased

Jalil Amir Rachid appointed as the prosecutor to handle the case is lacking objectivity and is biased in his actions, which goes against the interests of the defendants. According to the report of the Platform for Peasants Conflict Studies and Research (PEICC), the role of the prosecutor is questioned by the refusal to investigate the role of the prosecutor Ninfa Aguilar in the facto-eviction occurred on 15 June, the lack of property titles of the agribusiness man Blas Riquelme and his requirements to the authorities without legal foundation, the torture and arbitrary arrests to the peasants victims, the actions of the police after the shooting, among others.

According to the PEICC report, the prosecutor took statements from the defendants violating judicial guarantees required by the Criminal Code, when there was no translation guaranteed, and by making the accused sign statements that were not read in Guaraní, not complying with the right of due process of the accused.

In addition, in accordance with the minimum standards of due process, the prosecutor mentioned should be disqualified to attend this specific case, because of a clear conflict of interest. Indeed Jalil Amir Rachid is the son of former senator and former president of the Colorado Party, Bader Rachid, intimate friend of Blas N. Riquelme, also former senator and president of the same party who also was a big landlord and owner of the agro-business “Campos Morombí”, beneficiary of ill-gotten lands, and also disputed with the state the land of Marina Cué. To keep the prosecutor in charge of the case in these conditions is contrary to the minimum obligations of international law assumed by the Paraguayan State.

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In this situation the undersigned organizations express the need for the international community to express to the Paraguay’s facto-government, to require that the authorities comply with the right to due process, through the following measures:

• Separate the fiscal Jalil Amir Rachid as the prosecutor of the Marina Cue case and ensure objectivity and impartiality in the investigation, avoiding the pressure that it could have on the investigation the political events that occurred in Paraguay in June of the year in course;

• In compliance with Article 242 of the Procedural Code and Article 17 of the National Constitution on the presumption of innocence, dictate freedom and the acquittal of the arbitrarily accused peasants; Dolores Lopez, Felipe Balmori, Maria Fani Olmedo Paredes, Juan Carlos Tilleria, Arnaldo Quintana Paredes, Adalberto Castro Benitez, Lucia Aguero, Alcides Ramirez, Luis Olmedo, Nery Urbina, in the Marina Cue case, therefore decoupling them definitely from the criminal proceedings against them;

• Establish, in coordination with the Ombudsman’s Office in Paraguay, an International Monitoring Commission to accompany the investigation of all crimes and violations of human rights of the peasants, committed in the Marina Cue case, to ensure the compliance with international human rights obligations of the Paraguayan State;

• To ensure the implementation of the right to food for the communities affected, by demanding urgently the return of the Marina Cue land to the families affected by the conflict, and the provision of a fair and adequate compensation to the families of the victims according to their actual needs.

More detailed information regarding undersigned orgonizations can be found here.

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