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Paraguay
05.04.02
Urgent Interventions

Paraguay: disappearance of 2 members of a left-wing political organization

Case PRY 010202.1
Follow-up case to PRY 010202
Forced Disappearance/Torture/Impunity

Geneva, April 5, 2002

The International Secretariat of the OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Paraguay.

According to the information received, Mr. Juan Francisco Arrom and Mr. Anuncio Martí were reported disappeared by their families on January 17, 2002. Mr. Arrom and Mr. Martí were both members of a small, left-wing political organization (Movimiento Patria Libre). Before their disappearance, the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Julio César Fanego, and the Public Prosecutor, Mr. Latorre, admitted to having kept Mr. Arrom and Mr. Martí under police surveillance because they were believed to be associated with the abduction of Mrs. María Edith Bordón de Debenardi.

Mrs. Debenardi was released after 64 days of captivity, in exchange for a large sum of money two days after the disappearance of Mr. Arrom and Mr. Martí on January 19, 2002. It was only on that day, however, that a detention order was issued against Mr. Arrom and Mr. Martí, along with another six members or supporters of MPL, alleging that they were “authors of or participants in” the abduction. The following people were officially detained: Mr. Jorge Samudio Ferreira, a supporter of MPL, Mrs. Ana Rosa Samudio de Colmán and Mr. Víctor Colmán.

Although there is insufficient evidence supporting the detention order, the official version claimed that, in virtue of its left-wing ideologies it was necessary to “verify” the activities of the MPL. Subsequently, on January 30, 2002, Mr. Arrom and Mr. Martí were found with evident signs of torture, and confined, by order of detention, to a private clinic in the capital where they remained for several weeks. Up until the day of their “reappearance,” the Public Prosecutor, Mr. Latorre, maintained that he had requested an international arrest warrant in case the “fugitives” had fled the country. According to the information received, the Public Defender (Defensor adjunto del Pueblo) visited Mr. Colmán and confirmed that he had been tortured.

New Information:

On February 1st 2002, it was declared that Mr. Martí would not be prosecuted without his statement, and in spite of the “overwhelming” proof against him, Mr. Arrom was granted conditional release, while the other three were kept in detention. According to our most recent information, all current evidence contradicts Mr. Latorre’s version of the story. This demonstrates the actions taken by the highest authorities, and of the main body of the Public Ministry, the Centro de Investigación Judicial (CIJ), and the National Police, in the cover-up and legitimization of the forced disappearance of Mr. Arrom and Mr. Martí, as well as the torture of the afore-mentioned members of the MPL.

The same day, both the Minister of Justice, Mr. Silvio Ferreira, and the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Julio Fanego, resigned. They were considered the President’s closest collaborators. President González Macchi has found a replacement for Mr. Julio Fanego. Both Mr. Ferreira and Mr. Fanego were allegedly aware of the placement and conditions of those who had disappeared. Mr. Silvio Ferreira was involved in contacting them in order to obtain false confessions for the Debernardi case, and was conscious that they were not to reappear before being made “presentable.” Equally, the police officer, Mr. Gamarra, the head of the investigation of the Debernardi case, was identified as one of the torturers and is allegedly the owner, or friend of the owner, of the house where the victims were held. As a result of the constant accusations, Mr. Gammara, along with Agent Schémbori, also identified as having inflicted the torture, are currently being held in custody. As a result of the reporters’ investigation, it was disclosed that the forced acts disappearance were carried out in front of the CIJ building, with the participation of the CIJ’s director, Mr. Javier Cazal. Despite the pressure from the public, Public Prosecutor Latorre has reiterated his complete trust in Mr. Cazal and has allowed him to remain in his position so far.

Despite the identification of most individuals responsible for the serious violations of human rights, the investigation has come to a standstill. The three detainees have remained in custody, and the judge representing the prison security has rejected the appeal presented by the defense due to the necessary changes that are to be made. Representatives of the Human Rights Coordination of Paraguay (CODEHUPY) requested a meeting with the Minister in charge of the human rights division of the Paraguayan Supreme Court; however, the Minister claimed he could not represent the Court, as he had resigned the day before. The meeting with his successor was postponed at the last minute and has since failed to be re-scheduled. Therefore, the Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the decision for the victims’ custody. Furthermore, Mr. Fabían Centurión, in charge of the investigations of torture, resigned as Prosecutor for the Criminal Division for Human Rights (Unidad Penal de Derechos Humanos). According to him, the motive for such a decision was the inability to rely on either the Public Prosecutor’s office, or the conditions of the facts of the independent investigation.

On February 6, 2002, by request of the CODEHUPY, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for the adoption of precautionary measures for Mr. Arrom and Mr. Martí, as well as for the three detainees. The OMCT is thankful for Paraguay’s recognition of the request, but remains gravely concerned, as the police protection granted is considered insufficient and hardly appropriate regarding the situation. The guards have a two-fold responsibility—minimal protection and reporting information to their superiors. The detainees have also voiced their fear of retaliation for having identified those responsible for the forced disappearance and torture. The decision to keep Mr. Samudio and Mr. Colmán incommunicado was lifted and the CODEHUPY visited them where they were being held in custody.

The detainees have confirmed that they have not suffered from physical pressure again; however, the conditions of the confinement are quite severe. The detainees are allowed out of their cells very sporadically, sometimes being left inside for eight days at a time. The building lacks the minimal required health care, including first aid in case of an emergency. This is especially serious considering that Mr. Samudio suffers from epilepsy. His last attack occurred on March 19, whereupon the necessary aid failed to arrive in time to help him. On March 21, following the defense’s relentless requests before the Public Ministry, Mr. Samudio was granted house arrest. According to the information received, the police officer, Mr. Gamarra, and Agent Schémbori are being held in the same quarters, and according to reliable sources, they are allegedly let out of their cells on a regular basis and enjoy many recreational activites. Mrs. Samudio de Colmán is detained in the Penitenciaria del Buen Pastor. Reports indicate that her cell, which she shares with four other women and a child, measures two by three meters, resulting in psychological problems.

According to the information received, during a special session of the court “Cámara de Diputados,” sponsored by three “diputados” and with the support of 50 Paraguayan organizations, a request for Mr. Latorre’s political trial was rejected by a very slight margin of votes, just missing the two-thirds vote necessary for permission to appear before the “Cámara de Senadores.” Having run out of ways to try Mr. Latorre before a court of law, and given his reluctance to give up his position, the Public Prosecutor continues to be an active investigator. This situation contributes to the general discredit of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Paraguayan public opinion. The OMCT expresses its extreme concern for the deadlock in the investigation of the serious violations of human rights, in virtue of the prevailing laws, as well as the regional and universal legal instruments ratified by Paraguay, particularly those of which are stipulated in articles 12, 15 and 16 in the guidelines for the “Función de los Fiscales.” These were adopted during the Eighth United Nations Congress.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Paraguay urging them to:

· take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Anuncio Martí, Mr. Juan Francisco Arrom, Mr. Jorge Samudio, Mrs. Ana Rosa Samudio de Colmán, and Mr. Víctor Colmán ;
· order a thorough and impartial investigation of the afore-mentioned violations of human rights, in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
· order the immediate release of the those detained, in absence of legitimate charges; otherwise, try them in an impartial court of law and guarantee them their procedural rights;
· guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.

Addresses:

· Sr. Luis Angel González Macchi, Presidente de la República del Paraguay, Palacio de López - El Paraguayo Independiente y Ayolas, Asunción – Paraguay, Fax : (+595 21) 493 622, Email: dmarin@presidencia.gov.py
· Sr. Diego Abente, Ministro de Justicia y Trabajo, Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia esq. EEUU, Asunción – Paraguay, Fax: (+595 21) 208 469
· Sr. Francisco Oviedo, Ministro del Interior, Chile y Manduvirá, Asunción – Paraguay, Fax: (+595 21) 446 448

Please also write to the embassies of Paraguay in your respective country.

Geneva, April 5, 2002

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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