12 March 2013
The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of Paraguay on how that country implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Maria Lorena Segovia Azucas, Minister of Justice and Labour of Paraguay, presenting the report, said people in Paraguay lived by the principles of democracy and protecting and promoting human rights was a central pillar of the Government. Paraguay was living in a time of peace and according to human rights principles with freedom of the press and no political prisoners. Paraguay had done a great deal of work and made progress in human rights with coordination between various departments. Trans-national organized crime and human trafficking were being combated, and violence against women was being fought with a new law. The delegation said that the high rank of the delegation attending today’s meeting proved the seriousness of Paraguay’s commitment to fully respond to the requirements of the Committee.
During the discussion, Committee Experts raised questions about the extra-judicial execution of two peasant leaders in December and February; the implementation of the principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at the domestic level by the State; details on the progress made in dealing with indigenous people; concerns about the effectiveness of the ombudsman; concern about conscripting teens into the army in Paraguay; and the use of poor children as domestic labour.
The delegation of Paraguay was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Ministry of the Interior, the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Secretariat of Youth and Adolescents, the Senate, the Prosecutor General and the Permanent Mission of Paraguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva, among others.
In preliminary concluding remarks, the Chairperson of the Committee, Nigel Rodley, said he was impressed with the relevancy of the answers of the delegation. Measures being taken regarding indigenous people were encouraging but the Committee needed to see what was happening. Regarding the human rights plan, it would be interesting to see how it would actually be implemented at the level of action within government departments. The Committee was worried about the large number of clandestine abortions. The Committee expected that the delegation would take concrete action on human rights issues within a year.
Ms. Segovia Azucas, in her concluding remarks, said that specific action would be taken regarding the protection of human rights in Paraguay, not just plans. She said that creating the Ministry of Justice on the one hand and creating the Ministry of Labour on the other hand was kind of a landmark, which had already the approval of one of the Chambers of Congress. The delegation eagerly waited for the comments of the Committee and it would comply with them.
The concluding observations and recommendations of the Committee on the report of Paraguay will be released towards the end of the session of the Committee, which concludes on Thursday, 28 March.
At 3 p.m. this afternoon, the Committee will start its consideration of the report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (CCPR/C/CHN-HKG/3).
Presentation of the Report
MARIA LORENA SEGOVIA AZUCAS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Paraguay, presenting the report (CCPR/C/PRY/3) of Paraguay, said people in Paraguay lived by the principles of democracy and protecting and promoting human rights was a central pillar of the Government. Paraguay was living in a time of peace and according to human rights principles with freedom of the press and no political prisoners. Paraguay had democratic institutions and had held four democratic elections in the past 20 years with no questions raised about their fairness. New elections would be held on 21 April this year. The elections would be full, free and transparent and observers would be present for the elections.
Ms. Segovia Azucas noted that Paraguay had done a great deal of work and made progress in human rights with coordination between various departments. Since 2009 a human rights network had been in place under the auspices of the government’s executive branch. One of the most important signs of the development of a human rights plan involved civil society and academia--decree 10.747/2013 for 2013. In 2012, indicators for human rights were formulated in the areas of health, education, justice and access to fair trials as well as non-discrimination between men and women. The Government had also enacted laws to fight issues such as corruption and illicit enrichment.
Paraguay regretted the loss of human life in Curuguaty and was investigating the situation to try to provide legal and financial assistance to widows of the rural members of the population who lost their lives. In the same zone, efforts were being undertaken to prevent torture and crime. Trans-national organized crime and human trafficking was being combated, and violence against women was being fought with a new law. The delegation said that the high rank of the delegation attending today’s meeting proved the seriousness of Paraguay’s commitment to fully respond to the requirements of the Committee.
Answers to the List of Questions Previously Submitted by the Committee
The delegation of Paraguay, answering a list of questions previously submitted by the Committee to the State party, said the office of the ombudsman had received “A” status from the International Coordinating Committee of national human rights institutions since 2004. All violations of human rights could receive reparations through judicial procedures.
In terms of policy development regarding land claims for indigenous communities, all claims were summarized and addressed to public institutions.
In terms of public civil servants, there were 106,400 women and 93,990 men employed. The private sector was also showing progress in the field of gender mainstreaming and programmes for equal opportunities in education had been set up.
Paraguay had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and it would present its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in April. The State realized the necessity of harmonizing its domestic laws with the provisions of the Convention. A plan to allow access for voting for persons with disabilities would begin this year. The Supreme Court of Justice would be involved in enacting the “100 Brasilia rules.”
The issue of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and the prevention of discrimination against them had been addressed within the Human Rights National Plan.
In terms of the declaration of a state of emergency in April 2010 and October 2011, the Government had guaranteed citizens’ rights during those periods and they state of emergency had been declared in conformity with the constitutional framework and in respect of human rights.
Concerning domestic violence against women, there were laws that protected women against this kind of violence and the National Congress was studying a comprehensive draft law on the protection of women against violence. In 2012, the Ministry for Women had built four regional centres to protect female victims of violence and it planned to construct two shelters at the country’s border. In 2012, 563 complaints of domestic violence were recorded. Perpetrators of domestic violence could be sentenced to up to three years in prison according to the law.
The delegation pointed out that in Paraguay abortion was one of the key causes of maternal death and efforts were being made to combat this problem. The standard for post abortion treatment was adopted in 2012 allowing for patients’ care and confidentiality.
A law to combat human trafficking was enacted in 2012. There were 98 victims reported from November 2011 to October 2012.
There were currently no complaints about children being forcibly recruited by the armed forces.
Regarding the prevention of forced labor, a delegate said work inspections were carried out and some breaches in rural areas had been investigated. There were laws against child labor and law 4788 criminalized forced labor.
Monitoring of educational institutions was carried out to monitor teens in conflict with the law.
Regarding prison conditions, a delegate said solitary confinement was used as a last resort. Regarding the over-crowding of prisons, comprehensive reforms had been set up, but there were achievements and challenges. In terms of caring for boys and girls who accompanied their mothers to prison, reforms were in the works including setting up a nursery plus education and training.
Regarding the protection of children and teens against violence in the home, judicial reforms would soon make the mistreatment of children sentenced by jail and fines. A bill was being formulated in that regard.
Regarding the selection of public defenders, 300 were currently in office and regulations would provide for transparency.
Measures were adopted to compensate victims and children during Paraguay’s dictatorship from 1954 to 1989.
The right to conscientious objection was recognized in the constitution. The right to peaceful demonstration was also protected and the Government had adopted a human rights approach, including a handbook to train police.
Questions by the Experts
FABIAN OMAR SALVIOLI, the Committee Rapporteur for Paraguay’s report, said a frank dialogue was always welcome and the responses to the questions made the Committee’s work easier.
He raised the issue of the extra-judicial execution of two peasant leaders in December and February. He worried about a possible regression regarding the ombudsman. There was no anti-discrimination law. He wanted to know if there was an effective mechanism for implementing the Committee’s recommendations.
Another Expert wanted to know more about the implementation of the principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at the domestic level by the State. The Expert said implementation was necessary by all government ministries. He wanted to know the status of two cases and if all provisions were being implemented regarding these torture cases.
Regarding indigenous people, an Expert said he would like more details on the progress made in dealing with indigenous people. He said non-governmental organizations had provided information regarding compromises of the right to legal consultations. What specific issues were addressed and which indigenous peoples were consulted? There were three rulings of the Inter-American courts regarding land rights for indigenous people. Another area of concern was that many indigenous people were critical of the Department for Indigenous Affairs. How were complaints addressed? Since November 2012, some 20,000 hectares of property would be transferred in the Chako. It seemed the institution was selling private land. He hoped it was in fact defending the land of these people.
An Expert cited other cases which raised questions about the rights of indigenous people. Another source of grave concern regarded the extra-judicial executions of two men who were peasant leaders. They seemed to have been executed by hit men. What was the legal status of these two cases?
Another Expert said there were concerns about the effectiveness of the ombudsman’s job. Another area of concern was the state of exception or emergency proclaimed in Paraguay. Press accounts said the right to public meetings was not allowed during the state of emergency. He wondered about any future state of exception or emergency and said that what rights were being affected and why should be clearly stated.
An Expert harboured concern about conscripting teens into the army in Paraguay and using impoverished children as domestic labour. The inadequacy of birth registration still hindered efforts to ensure respect of the Covenant in that regard.
Another Expert focused on the anti-discrimination bill. Since 2007, the bill had been before the parliament but had not been tabled. Some conservative groups seemed to be opposed to the bill, which detailed anti-discrimination against women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and persons with disabilities. There were provisions in Paraguayan law which did not protect these people so this bill needed to be adopted. What measures would be taken to adopt and implement the bill?
Another issue related to debt bondage. The indigenous people of Chako were particularly vulnerable, an Expert said.
Child labour was a problematic issue in Paraguay. This could be akin to a form of slavery. Were penalties in place for those trying to impose debt bondage on children? Trafficking of children and in particular young girls was related to debt bondage. What was being done to tackle this problem? Also, how may cases of corporal punishment against children had been registered?
Another Expert said she was pleased by Paraguay’s efforts to implement programmes and policies in cooperation with neighboring countries and international organizations. She hoped the country had the financial resources to actually implement them. She questioned how the Government would implement decent working conditions for women and urged the State to consider what measures it had taken to implement equal pay for equal work.
Regarding protecting people with disabilities, an Expert urged Paraguay to take steps to ensure accessibility to voting for persons with disabilities. She asked whether the bill protecting persons with disabilities included the indigenous people.
Regarding abortion and the number of cases leading to criminal prosecution, the Expert urged the availability of safe and legal abortion services for women and girls who might require them in cases of rape, incest or sexual assault.
What were the penalties imposed in cases of human trafficking and what were the additional practices planned to protect women, children and asylum seekers? The Expert questioned the provision of a shelter for victims of human trafficking. Was this the only shelter and was it big enough?
A helpline was to be moved into a call centre. Had this happened already?
Another Expert asked about access to schooling and buses for children with disabilities. Regarding expanding health services to women in cases of abortion, how would this square with the criminalization of abortion?
A member of the Sub-committee on the Prevention of Torture commended Paraguay for its efforts to protect human rights. However, he was concerned about gaps in reporting complaints of torture and investigating those complaints. Pertaining to truth and justice, how was the reparation process carried out by the human rights ombudsman? How would a victim of psychological torture be compensated?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation addressed the question about extrajudicial executions. Regarding the two peasants who were executed, there were institutions responsible for handling complaints about the murders and both cases were classified as intentional homicide. The forensic and other investigations were carried out and they hoped to understand the motives for the killings. The State was very interested in clarifying these issues and would soon provide the Committee with information on the status of the cases, he added.
Addressing the question of jurisprudence regarding the Covenant, problems were arising to do with conscientious objectors. The lack of regulations did not prevent the protection of conscientious objectors in the constitution. A judge ruled that the person in question could object conscientiously.
The delegation clarified that there was no gap in the functioning of the ombudsman. A two-thirds majority in the parliament was required for the nomination of an ombudsman, however some senators had withdrawn their support. The delegation hoped with upcoming elections, the ombudsman’s role could be renewed.
Regarding the status of the anti-discrimination bill, some conservative sectors were concerned that it could lead to the adoption of same-sex marriage. However, the government was determined to make it come into law.
With regard to compulsory military service, measures had been mainly legislative in nature and about a dozen laws had been amended. Article 10 for example said citizens required to engage in military service must fulfill certain conditions. This was an issue in a country with a strong military culture. In March 2006, a special order was put forward to prohibit forced recruiting of underage youth for service. A procedure in a specialized institution has been set up to file a complaint involving the violation of children’s rights. A directorate had been set up to investigate sites alleged to be violating this law. Regarding the telephone helpline, it was working and was available 24 hours a day. There was no forced recruitment of children under 18 in Paraguay. In the recent case of a hidden paramilitary group, children had been recruited but it was difficult to address this issue because the group was clandestine.
The delegation said from January until now 95 cases of abortions had been reported. Abortion was a crime in Paraguay.
The delegation said the State recognized the need to harmonize the law to ensure voting rights for persons with disabilities. Legal provisions were enacted so that all public buildings would be renovated to allow access for persons with disabilities as well. Transport vehicles must allow access for those in wheelchairs, including a hydraulic system. However, an increase in fares would be required. The State subsidized the transport system but that subsidy was being questioned.
Regarding the issue of domestic violence and lack of response, the delegation said mechanisms to care for female victims were in place due to coordination between various ministries involving health and education. A helpline had been set up and institutional efforts to unify information had also been formed. A new law against domestic violence was under consideration as well. At the regional level, gender indicators were being worked on.
Regarding trafficking in persons, the Ministry of Women was also involved in efforts to stop it via two shelters at the border. There were also institutional moves afoot and a campaign was being rolled out at the regional level. A law against human trafficking had been approved, and the implementation was being examined.
Paraguay reiterated its stance against trafficking in persons and the country had addressed the problem of prevention, criminal prosecution and then care for the victims. In 2012, 100 Paraguayan citizens who were victims of trafficking were recovered. Eight convictions against perpetrators were handed down with jail sentences of up to eight years.
The state of emergency was declared in 2010 and 2011 and thanks to the constitution, no abuses were committed. A delegate said there were two departments neighbouring Brazil with porous border points and violent groups operating there had also been trafficking drugs. MERCURSUR condemned the attacks on civilians. The restriction allowed for the detainment of people suspected of taking part in criminal activity. When someone was detained, the person had two options: habeus corpus or to leave the country. The judiciary told the citizens that judges would need to monitor the legality of detainments.
Regarding an ILO convention, the executive was working on a legislative body to table a law on domestic workers and public policies for men and women working within the home, regarding healthcare. An equal opportunities plan in conjunction with the ILO would set up employment offices in Paraguay.
The government had plans for building schools and housing for indigenous people on their lands. A delegation of government technicians would meet with the indigenous groups on the spot to propose what kinds of buildings should be built. Paraguay needed an inter-institutional commission (CICSI) to go through all the laws and comply with decisions regarding indigenous people. Since 2005, there had not been progress on this issue, however, the Ministry of Justice would now lead the project and money would be found by the State so that the commission could do its job. An institute devoted to indigenous matters would be given ministerial status. Regarding ancestral lands, Paraguay was committed to not allowing these lands to fall into the commercial sector. There had been a complaint submitted by indigenous people about a lack of trust concerning these lands but the Government was committed to carrying out decisions taken by the Inter-American Court.
Paraguay had come a long way in respecting human rights. Since 2008, the country had taken gigantic steps. It now had a Vice Minister of Justice overseeing human rights and there was a national network on human rights established across the public authority. There was a cross cutting policy dealing with human rights and each department had a kind of ombudsman to establish a human rights network. It had been a herculean task. Following the arduous work of 2011, an ordinance placed emphasis on the implementation of a human rights plan and the State was working with civil society on this. It had been sensitive and difficult work and clashed with some of the realities of life in Paraguay like the abortion law and reproductive health rights laws. Paraguayan society had a cultural backlog which needed to be respected.
The Secretariat for Women now had ministerial status. There was now also a ministerial rank for a department working on the rights of persons with disabilities.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
An Expert cited the Paraguayan Government’s figures alluding to clandestine abortion - 2,584 abortions in 2008 and in 2010, 2,700 abortions had been performed. The Expert added that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development used a figure of 26,000 clandestine abortions performed in those years. Could the delegation shed light on the gap between these figures?
Regarding abortion, resolution 3535 from Paraguay’s Ministry of Education and Culture suspended reproductive health and sex education. But this education was essential to moving forward, stressed the Expert. The last reform of the penal code could be seen as tougher if a woman decided to resort to abortion with assistance rather than doing it herself. This was a dangerous tendency because it seemed to be encouraging women to carry out clandestine abortions alone.
Another Expert said that although precautionary measures on indigenous lands were recognized by the Committee, the State could not deny that the lands were up for commercial sale.
Answers by the Delegation
Regarding abortion, the delegation said the Ministry of Women’s Issues was focusing on clandestine abortions. The State was working with international organizations to draw up standards and come up with a ministerial resolution to try to provide more humane care to women who underwent clandestine abortions. The document took into account medical standards and confidentiality. The figures given on abortions were valid and represented those who came to the healthcare centres. The clandestine cases were not factored into the figures. Women had the option of coming to these clinics and all had the right to post-abortion care. The ministries were working on a strategy to implement sex education to prevent unwanted pregnancies. A document had been prepared on this.
Regarding the suspension of sex education, Paraguay was in the process of mapping out a prioritizing strategy so that it could implement the pending decisions to mainstream sex education into school curricula. This was a priority for the State but there were certain cultural issues which required a far wider ranging debate. The State was keen to have this debate and it was not sticking its head in the sand.
Questions by Committee Experts
An Expert asked about Paraguay’s national human rights plan, which was understood to be a structural plan, but did not specify concrete actions.
Concerning prison overcrowding, were there prisons operating above their full capacity? Alternatives to prison seemed to be rarely used, why was that? The issue of prison conditions was longstanding and the matter had been raised in 2006 by the Human Rights Committee but there was no information on prison overcrowding. Overcrowding had direct implications on the enjoyment of human rights. A non-governmental organization had said there was a lack of security in prisons and some prisoners carried weapons and had attacked each other, resulting in 17 deaths.
Regarding juvenile offenders, pre-trial detention was frequent rather than being the last resort. How was this consistent with articles 9 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?
Were pre-trial and convicted prisoners separated? Also, were these people allowed to vote, along with persons with disabilities? The Committee had taken the position that pre-trial detainees should have the right to vote. The blanket denial of the right to vote to all those convicted of crimes was counter to article 25 of the Covenant.
Regarding corruption, an Expert said he was concerned about how serious the Government was about the issue in the judicial system. The statistics provided about corruption were very low. It was important to protect those who launched complaints but did the system react proactively? Could details be provided on actual convictions of corruption cases?
Another Expert said the rate of non-registration of births seems high and there was a long way to go. The isolation of communities was no doubt part of the problem but bureaucracy also seemed to be a problem. The Committee had been told underage mothers could not register the birth of their children.
Regarding conscientious objectors, the delegation’s reply to previous questions left a lack of clarity. Had alternative service arrangements been put into practice yet? What was being asked of conscientious objectors? There was also concern about a short time limit allowed for those who wanted to object after their notice of conscription.
Another Expert said he had a query about articles 7 and 10 of the Covenant dealing with the prohibition of torture and cruel and degrading treatment. A new definition of torture had been drawn up by the State and this was encouraging, but how many convictions for cases of torture had actually been handed down? The Committee did not have any information about compensation or reparation for victims of torture. Community safety commissions had arrested people illegally and the Committee had even heard of torture allegations. Had the State taken any measures against members of these groups and had they been brought to trial?
The criteria for calculating compensation for those persecuted under the dictatorship had been criticized by non-governmental organizations as not being impartial. How would the State guarantee impartiality in these cases?
An Expert asked about due process regarding the former President of Paraguay. Any trial should guarantee due process but the whole trial took place in three hours. He said he was not referring to internal matters of the State or the outcome of the trial but he was focussing on due process being available.
Experts also raised questions about the office of the public defender; conditions for children in prison with their mothers; defenders of rights of indigenous people,
Another Expert said she was impressed by the answers already given by the delegation. An evolution of the situation of human rights in Paraguay could be seen. She asked if there was a maximum duration for those held in police custody, as it seemed to go from a few hours to several months. Was in true that 70 per cent of people deprived of freedom were awaiting trial, and wasn’t that figure terribly high? Was there a kind of bail or electronic bracelet system as an alternative to pre-trial detention? The information given to detainees by the State seems to vary greatly from region to region in Paraguay. She said it would appear that some people were kept in jail even after they had concluded their sentence. Did that happen in Paraguay?
An Expert asked if Paraguay implemented the Istanbul Protocol on torture. The history of violence at public demonstrations was well known in Paraguay. From the point of view of lessons learned, wasn’t there a risk of impunity when it came to violence and killings at public gatherings? If those guilty of the violence had not been convicted, it led to a problem of due process.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said short answers would be given to questions due to time constraints but documents would be sent as a follow-up.
The delegation appreciated the Committee’s sensitivity to certain issues in Paraguay. Strengthening institutions was difficult 20 years after a dictatorship. The Attorney General had structured institutions to guarantee the protection of human rights and transparent investigations. Efforts were being made to come up with key solutions to the issue of removing barriers impeding proper investigation, prosecution and sentencing in cases of torture. The May 2012 amendment of the penal code made it possible to define torture properly. Prior to the amendment, there was no punishment for this offence. In the public prosecutor’s office there were 35 cases concerning torture being investigated. Progress was being made and the Government had the political determination to uphold human rights, including on past cases of torture.
Concerning overcrowding in prisons, the delegation said the prison of Tacumbu was built for 600 people but was renovated to hold 1,200. This prison now had over 3,000 prisoners. The Labour Minister had taken this on as a matter of urgency and the State was using all available resources to try to build a new facility. Overcrowding was preventing the separation of the pre-trial detainees and convicted prisoners.
There were 17 children in prison but a new facility was planned for women with children who had been detained and the building of the jail had already started.
Another prison facility near the one in the capital could hold just over 500 prisoners and over 100 people had already been transferred. The overcrowding issue was important and approval for $ 47 million had almost been finalized for the building of a new prison. However, once the prisons had been built, the delegation said it still did not have the human resources to man the prisons. Restructuring the penitentiary system required new buildings, human resources, healthcare and training. Reintegration was the goal for prisoners but education was needed for that.
National health plans were being restructured so that prisoners could have easier access to healthcare. However, budgets, technological safety and security issues needed to be examined. The weapons budget also needed examination. Since President Franco had been in office, priority had been placed on these issues regarding the penitentiary system. Getting the funding was not always easy for the recruitment of more people. However, the Ministry of Justice and Labour and Ministry of Health were being consulted.
Regarding prevention measures to avoid pre-trial detention, the new constitution said a person could not be held for longer than the minimum conviction that could be handed down by the court - two years. Replacement measures were being considered. However, it was the public which brought pressure to bear on this issue, believing any person should be held until trial. A delegate said that 30 percent of people in prison had not been convicted. The State needed more courts, which was why some trials would not be held for 12 to 18 months. However, people could not be detained without being caught in flagrante and within six hours the case must be brought to the public prosecutors office. He said that within 24 hours a judge must decide on pre-trial detainment. And in the constitution under article 16, the right to defence was inviolable. Any person had the right to a lawyer and if the person did not have one, the State must appoint one.
Regarding the rights of the individual, the delegation said anyone could ask for habeus corpus from any judge. No one could be detained without a judicial order.
Regarding anti-corruption measures, a delegate said there was a policy to strengthen control bodies for monitoring it in the three powers of the State. The executive body had recently elevated a police body to create the Anti-Corruption Ministry. It would work with Inter-American and United Nations bodies to bring the Government into compliance. There was ongoing monitoring of Paraguay by international bodies. There was a law for freezing assets to combat money laundering and terrorist activities. There was also inter-institutional cooperation in Paraguay for example between the national police, taxation and customs departments to fight corruption. Drug trafficking and trafficking in persons were being fought by complying with United Nations and Organization of American States instruments.
Paraguay had zero tolerance of corruption. Regarding criminal prosecution, there was a unit established to combat economic crime. There were 11 such units and public officials had been convicted. Sixteen had been investigated and some had been removed from their jobs. The scourge of corruption destroyed and discredited democracy and Paraguay wanted its officials to be above suspicion. Some judges had been removed from office and some were given prison sentences. Five judges were removed for example in the week before the delegation travelled to the Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva.
In 2012, all magistrates were required to make a full declaration of their assets to requisite officials. And at the institutional level, oversight mechanisms were taking place in cooperation with USAID and the Supreme Court.
Concerning compensation for victims of human rights violations, a law had been created to determine the amount awarded. Appeals could be made by the victims if they were not satisfied with the amount. Another law called for compensation for heirs and descendants of the victims. There had been various sentences handed down, for example, on police officials for human rights violations. Through the ombudsman’s and public prosecutor’s office, cases were investigated and dealt with.
Another delegate said a model was being sought to computerize civil birth registries with the help of the Organization of American States. The main problem was one of resources. There were 58 registry offices, but 100 were actually needed. Civil registries in hospitals were also needed and more people were needed to do the job.
Regarding conscientious objectors, the Supreme Court had authorized the granting of this status and now there was a safeguard for the rights of such people. Prior to the implementation of the law, those who declared this status could not be protected by Law 43. The law could not be applied retroactively, so it would not be affecting those who got their status granted before.
The delegation said the public prosecutor’s office was completely independent from the three branches of government. Seventeen people were murdered in Curuguaty and the prosecutor’s office has come up with hypotheses based on expert and eyewitness testimony as well as forensic evidence. The office had also received denunciations for allegations of torture in Curuguaty. And a specialized human rights unit was investigating these allegations of torture.
NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, said he was impressed with the relevancy of the answers of the delegation and that they had contributed to a constructive dialogue. The delegation had stated that in 20 years since the end of the dictatorship, plans had been outlined, but 20 years was a long time. Measures being taken regarding indigenous people were encouraging but the Committee needed to see what was happening. Regarding the human rights plan, it would be interesting to see how it would actually be implemented at the level of action within government departments.
The Committee was worried about the large number of clandestine abortions and the Chairperson said one began to wonder whose culture needed to be changed? The question about the impeachment of the President was a question of both article 14 and 25. Members of Parliament had to take their decisions on the basis of evidence rather than on other issues. It was encouraging that the State party accepted that State corruption could undermine everything else. The responses on the massacre were helpful but more follow-up was needed. The Committee expected that the delegation would take concrete action on human rights issues within a year.
MARIA LORENA SEGOVIA AZUCAS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Paraguay, said that specific action would be taken regarding the protection of human rights in Paraguay, not just plans. She said that creating the Ministry of Justice and Labour was a kind of landmark. Paraguay was making decisive steps forward to unrestricted respect for human rights. She said that on the website of Paraguay’s President there was a document entitled “National Human Rights Plan”. The delegation eagerly waited for the comments of the Committee and it would comply with them.
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