Paraguay’s UPR: States and human rights defenders call for protection and follow-up

20.01.2016

In the context of Paraguay's UPR, States and civil society called for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders

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In Geneva on 20 January, several States recommended that Paraguay take concrete steps for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists and campesino leaders, during the country’s second cycle Universal Periodic Review. Meanwhile, at a side event jointly organised by ISHR, local activists underlined the need for the State to consult civil society to define and implement practical mechanisms to tackle human rights violations in the country.

During the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October 2011, Paraguay was not given any recommendations aimed directly at human rights defenders, in spite of the fact that defenders in Paraguay - especially defenders of indigenous and land rights - face repression from both the Government and non-State actors. ISHR therefore submitted a briefing paper to Paraguay’s second cycle regarding the current situation facing HRDs in Paraguay.

During the UPR Working Group, several States gave comments and recommendations on HRDs. Such States include Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Macedonia, the United States, and Norway. The representative of Norway expressed several recommendations on human rights defenders, asking that Paraguay recognise the legitimate participation of defenders, whilst creating and maintaining an environment ‘safe and conducive for human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their legitimate work without threat of violence or reprisal’.

Afterwards, a parallel event was organized by ISHR, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Human Rights Coordinator of Paraguay (CODEHUPY). Panelists included Anibal Cabrera of the Coordinator for the Rights of Children and Adolescents (CDIA), Francisco Benitez of CODEHUPY, Ireneo Téllez e Hipólito Acevei of the Working Committee for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay and Marcial Gómez the National Campesino Federation (FNC).

The panelists touched on several issues which remained from the 1st cycle in 2011 including discrimination against women, children and indigenous communities; land restitution; and state violence. Several panelists commented that despite the efforts and intentions of the government, implementation of the recommendations has been a recurring problem. Hipólito Acevei said that Paraguay's political will has two extremes, the assumption of responsibilities from the Government of its responsibilities on the one hand and on the other, a lack of comprehensive responses, strong institutions and practical solutions.

As for the recommendations of the current session of the UPR, Marcial Gómez stressed the need to combat impunity and protect human rights defenders, including "peasants, women, indigenous people, and intellectuals", explaining that in several cases protesters and campesinos have been arrested, charged, repressed and even killed.

The event concluded with the panelists emphasizing the important work of intenernational NGOs in highlighting human rights realities in Paraguay – which are often unknown to the international community and overlooked by the Paraguayan parliament. They also called upon States which had made recommendations to put in place follow-up mechanisms and ensure that human rights issues are discussed within the framework of ongoing diplomatic and economic relations. A representative from the Paraguayan State confirmed the openness of his Government to discuss and work with civil society to implement the recommendations of the UPR.

Closing the event, ISHR’s Ben Leather remarked that ‘the UPR’s true impact and utility wil only be felt when recommendations are effectively implemented in line with defenders’ demands. The Paraguayan government must guarantee the protection and participation of human rights defenders if this is to become a reality’.

The report of the UPR Working Group will be adopted at the Human Rights Council in June.

For more information, please contact Ben Leather (b.leather@ishr.ch) at ISHR.

Category:

Region
  • Latin America and Caribbean
Topic
  • Human rights defenders
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • Universal Periodic Review
Country
  • Paraguay