Press Release

IACHR Concludes Working Visit to Paraguay

August 12, 2011

Washington D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) carried out a working visit to Paraguay on August 1-5, 2011. The delegation was headed by the Chair of the IACHR, Commissioner Dinah Shelton, and the First Vice-Chair, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, acting in their respective capacities as Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples and Rapporteur for Paraguay.

The purpose of the visit was to conduct promotional activities, encourage compliance with the decisions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and promote the use of the friendly settlement mechanism to resolve petitions and cases being processed by the IACHR. The delegation also took the opportunity to further its understanding of the human rights situation in Paraguay. To that end, the Commission met with high-level authorities of the various branches of government, as well as with representatives of civil society organizations. The visit also included a significant number of working meetings between parties with regard to petitions and cases pending before the IACHR, in which major progress was made.

During the visit, the IACHR Chair was a witness of honor at a signing ceremony for a protocol on transferring lands to the Kelyenmagategma indigenous community. The Inter-American Commission applauds the recognition by the State of Paraguay of the Kelyenmagategma indigenous community's property rights over part of its ancestral territory, and its formalization of that recognition through the official transfer of the respective land title. This handover of part of the ancestral territory is one aspect of Case 12.629, Kelyenmagategma Indigenous Community.

By virtue of the Paraguayan State's effective action, the members of the Kelyenmagategma community have recovered part of their lands and the natural resources therein. This will reportedly give them access to sources of food appropriate to their culture; to sources of water; to the plants and places they require to practice their traditional medicine; and to the exercise of the vital relationship that binds them to their ancestral territory, an exercise that is essential to the integrity and preservation of their Enxet culture. As the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has pointed out, “for indigenous communities, relations to the land are not merely a matter of possession and production but a material and spiritual element which they must fully enjoy, even to preserve their cultural legacy and transmit it to future generations.” It has also stated: “To guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to communal property, it is necessary to take into account that the land is closely linked to their oral expressions and traditions, their customs and languages, their arts and rituals, their knowledge and practices in connection with nature, culinary art, customary law, dress, philosophy, and values.” These measures imply a fundamental recognition of the dignity of the individuals who make up the community. It should also be noted that human rights defenders who work to protect rights to ancestral territories play an essential role in monitoring compliance with the commitments made by the State.

During the visit, the State and the petitioners held a meeting in which they signed a formal commitment to continue complying with other aspects of Case 12.629, Kelyenmagategma Indigenous Community. The IACHR will continue to follow this process closely.

The IACHR also expresses its satisfaction over the significant progress made in friendly settlement processes in other cases involving Paraguay, during working meetings held as part of the visit. The Commission particularly appreciates the parties' efforts to conclude the negotiations that led to agreements between the parties in the following cases: 12.359, Cristina Aguayo Ortiz et al.; 1097/06, Miriam Beatriz Riquelme et al.; 12.358, Octavio Rubén González Acosta; 12.329, Vicente Ariel Noguera; and 12.699, Pedro Antonio Centurión. The parties also signed documents attesting to their willingness to continue with the procedures designed to reach a friendly settlement in cases 12.374, Jorge Enrique Patiño Palacios, and 1415/04, Alejandro Nissen Pessolani.

In this regard, the IACHR recognizes the steps taken by the Inter-Institutional Commission on Compliance with International Judgments (CICSI) to be able to reach these agreements. The progress made confirms that an inter-institutional coordinating body such as the CICSI plays a critical role in obtaining the State's commitment to full reparation of the victims of human rights violations.

With regard to the delegation's promotional activities, Commissioners Shelton and Orozco participated in the Seminar on the Inter-American Human Rights System, geared toward State officials. Commissioner Orozco also gave a lecture on inter-American mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders, as part of an advanced-studies course on human rights. Those in attendance included State officials and Paraguayan civil society organizations.

During the visit, the Commission delegation met with the President of the Republic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice and Labor, the Minister of the Interior, the Office of the Secretary on Childhood and Adolescence, and the President of the Paraguayan Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INDI). It also met with the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, the State Attorney General, and the Human Rights Ombudsman. The delegation also held meetings with the President and Vice-President of the Human Rights Commission of the Senate, and with the President and members of the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies. Finally, it met with the CICSI and with the Multisectoral Commission on Defending the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. With regard to the latter, the IACHR urges the government to strengthen this important mechanism for the participation of indigenous communities by quickly designating the representatives of the institutions that comprise the Multisectoral Commission.

The Commission thanks the government of Paraguay, particularly the Foreign Ministry, for the cooperation it provided in the work of preparing and conducting this visit. The IACHR also thanks the civil society organizations for the valuable information they provided during the visit.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 89/11