By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
ASUNCIÓN, PARAGUAY—Skepticism of the Paraguayan justice system grows after the sentencing of 11 farmers to prison following the deaths of 6 police officers in the Curuguaty massacre. The sentences ranged from 4 to 35 years in prison.
On July 18 the formal guilty verdict was read at the Paraguay Palace of Justice. Due to fears of unruliness the government dispatched 1500 police officers to the palace. 500 individuals, including families of the farmers and activists were in attendance to hear the verdict. The guilty verdict comes after a year long trial that solely focused on the deaths of the 6 police officers and disregarded the deaths of several farmers. An investigation in their death has not been opened by the Attorney General despite the demand for an investigation from both families and activists. Since the massacre, several organizations have called attention to irregularities in the investigation. In 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee implored Paraguay to allow an “immediate, independent and impartial investigation.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zid Ra’ad Al Hussein, released a statement expressing his concerns by stating, “The conviction of 11 peasants in the Curuguaty case following a trial that allegedly did not respect judicial guarantees is deeply troubling.” He continued by adding that, “I’m also deeply concerned by the fact that, up to now, the deaths of 11 peasants, killed in the same incident, have not been investigated by Paraguayan authorities, nor have the allegations that some were summarily executed after being subjected to torture and other human rights violations.”
The Curuguaty Massacre occurred when police forces were sent to the Morumbi property to evict farmers who were occupying 2000 acres of land. The property was given to Blas N. Riquelme, a politician and businessman during the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner. During his dictatorship, land was given to the military and political elite. Farmers in Paraguay have long voiced their demand for land reform—about 80% of the agricultural land belongs to 2.5% of the population.
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