Report on Human Rights Practices Country of Paraguay

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Paraguay has a high number of illegal weapons. It is estimated that of the 1 million weapons in civilian hands in the country, only one third are legally registered. In addition, the country's lax gun laws also make it an important transit site for the regional illicit arms trade, particularly for firearms being moved into neighbouring Brazil. Firearms are used in approximately 60 percent of homicides in the country. The global average stands at 42 percent. Its main targets are wealthy landowners with messages having been found after attacks against large ranch owners calling for them to stop intensive farming and provide food and medical services for local communities [1].

In April , the government declared a day "state of exception" in response to a series of violent incidents allegedly involving the EPP. The following year the EPP sharply increased its activities.

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There is also evidence suggesting the EPP has begun broadening its tactics to include more targeted assassinations and attacks on infrastructure. In response, the government has stepped up its efforts to suppress the small, elusive guerrilla group, but measures such as the state of exception used again in October have faced criticism from many policymakers and human rights groups, who say the measure is ineffective and inappropriate. However, there is little concrete evidence to substantiate this claim.

Extreme inequality in land ownership in Paraguay, which has a predominantly agricultural economy, has led to conflict between landowners and poor farmers.

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In June , an operation to remove squatters from a wealthy landowner's property ended in the death of six police officers and eleven peasant farmers. The scandal over this incident triggered the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo, whose election in had ended the Colorado Party's six decades of rule, who was replaced by Vice President Franco. Journalists are frequently subject to harassment and violence from both politicians and criminal groups, particularly in the border region with Brazil.

Government officials have publicly questioned the role of human rights organisations, particularly those involved in calling attention to abuses by security forces. This gave Paraguay the fourth best ranking in , beaten only by Jamaica, Canada, and the United States.

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Few Paraguayans believe crime is their country's biggest issue, especially compared to other countries in the region; according to the LAPOP survey, The Supreme Court of Justice Suprema Corte de Justicia is the country's highest court and consists of nine justices who are nominated by the Council of Magistrates Consejo de Magistratura and confirmed by the Senate and the president. The Courts of Peace have jurisdiction over localised matters, while Courts of First Instance are more specialised with separate chambers to hear cases relating to civil, criminal and commercial matters respectively.

Instead of juries, trials involve three-judge tribunals, with a majority opinion required to convict; for misdemeanour cases, one judge presides. Prosecutors in the country are divided among specialised units and between twelve geographic areas throughout the country. Paraguay's court system is inefficient and highly corrupt, with allegations of irregularities going all the way to the Supreme Court. There are frequent reports of bribery among judges and prosecutors, and of politicians interfering with investigations.

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Although the constitution stipulates that the judiciary is independent, in practice there is constant political interference, particularly in the judicial selection process; in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report, Paraguay placed st out of countries for judicial independence. Wealthy and well-connected defendants enjoy a high level of impunity.

Lengthy pre-trial detention is a major issue due to corruption and inefficiencies within the judiciary, particularly in rural areas. The law grants defendants the right to counsel, although the high caseloads of many public defenders mean that the quality of representation for poor defendants is uneven.

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Prison conditions are harsh; Paraguay's prisons are overcrowded, violent, and have inadequate human and material resources. As of , the country's 15 penitentiaries were operating close to 20 percent over capacity. Corruption among prison guards has often been reported. As of , it had around 24, employees. The PNP are inadequately trained and under resourced. Of the regional human rights system, Paraguay has ratified all treaties and conventions, except for the Inter-American Convention against all forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, and Inter-American Convention against racism, racial discrimination and related forms of intolerance.

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The constitutional and normative framework recognises the right to health and other related rights, and there are a number of public policies, programs and initiatives that stem from this framework, including relevant work on human rights indicators and the right to health which should be continued. The Government has developed a system to monitor the implementation of the recommendations from human rights mechanisms SIMORE which is considered as a good practice and is being replicated by other countries. Many of the challenges identified during my visit relate to structural and systemic factors that obstruct progress in many areas, including in the realisation of the right to health.

Main factors include deep inequalities and widespread discrimination associated with a regressive tax structure that does not allow for the necessary public investment; lack of effective decentralisation; endemic institutional weaknesses, and corruption at all levels.

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The effective implementation of the existing normative framework is often hampered by a lack of a human rights based approach to health, including to public budgets and information. This, combined with a non-inclusive model of rapid economic growth, seriously undermines efforts undertaken since the inception of democracy to promote and protect the right to health and related rights.

In my report I will illustrate and elaborate on some of these structural factors. I have observed stark disparities and discrimination regarding the enjoyment of the right to health in Paraguay and some retrogressive tendencies related to certain prior achievements. This has been mostly related to barriers of availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality, as well as the underlying determinants of health such as poverty, food and nutrition, safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and access to health-related education and information.

The right to equality and the prohibition of discrimination is guaranteed by the Constitution of Paraguay. I therefore urge the Government to expedite the approval of the Law against all forms of Discrimination, which has been a project for the last 7 years. Paraguay is amongst the few countries in the region which do not have such law and this represents a historical debt to Paraguayan society.

Moreover, the lack of essential services in rural and remote areas of the country disproportionally affects groups who are in situation of poverty as well as campesino and indigenous communities. While overall rates of maternal and child mortality have improved, Paraguay still faces important challenges in reducing preventable maternal and neo-natal mortality.

It continues to be one of the countries with the highest maternal and neo-natal mortality rates in the region. Women and girls face numerous barriers in their enjoyment of their right to health, in particular those from groups in situations of poverty and vulnerability such as indigenous women and those deprived of liberty. Evidence and information gathered during my visit has led me to conclude that violence against women and girls can be considered as an epidemic in Paraguay.

There is widespread prevalence of sexual abuse and other forms of violence, including domestic violence. I welcome the draft law on Integral Protection of women against all forms of Violence, which is currently being considered by Parliament and trust it will be passed and implemented swiftly. Maternal mortality remains very high mostly due to the large number of early pregnancies, many of which affect 10 to 14 years old girls as a result of sexual abuse and violence.

The situation is aggravated by an extremely restrictive law about the interruption of pregnancies, which only allows abortion when the life of the women is at risk. In addition health-care professionals who perform abortions and the mothers of these girls are criminalized.

As a result pregnant girls are confined to homes, isolated from their families and close relatives until they give birth. The current legal and policy system is failing to protect very young girls as they are forced to continue high-risk pregnancies with long-lasting impact on their physical and mental health. The case of the Mainumby girl, widely reported and discussed in the media, is an example of a systemic challenge.

But her case is just one of the hundreds of cases of 10 to 14 year old girls who are forced into unwanted pregnancies and motherhoods every year. This is a particularly worrying phenomenon and a public health concern that must be addressed without delay and in a serious and comprehensive way through changes in legislation, policies and practices based on scientific evidence and a human rights-based approach. Existing legislation should be reviewed to decriminalize abortion and allow the therapeutic interruption of pregnancies when the life of the mother is in danger, when the pregnancy is the result or rape and incest, and when life of the foetus is not viable.

Evidence shows that criminalising abortion only leads to clandestine and unsafe practices and exposes women and girls to additional dangers, violence, and stigma that negatively impact on their health. Many girls and young women die from complications related to clandestine abortions every year in Paraguay.

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During my visit, I received reports of acts of intimidation and harassment of individuals, NGOs, human rights defenders, and lawyers working on cases related to gender and gender-based violence. This is not acceptable. These are crucial actors in a democratic society who work to promote and protect the right to health, and should be able to do so in a safe and enabling environment.

Children and adolescents comprise a large sector of population of Paraguay and should be accepted by authorities, society, and by health service providers, as holders of rights. In this respect, their meaningful participation in all decisions affecting them should be promoted, including in the area of sexual and reproductive rights. There have been some positive initiatives trying to address the needs of children and adolescents in the health system, such as the national plans for the promotion of quality of life and health with equity for children and adolescents.

However, serious threats and barriers to the right to holistic development of children remain, including corporal punishment in public and private setting, and a lack of comprehensive approach to address bullying and other forms of violence in schools. Local communities are the most affected by this abhorrent crime and are also the first line of defense against human trafficking. Paraguay made significant increases in drug seizures and illicit crop eradication in Nevertheless, Paraguay remains among the largest source countries for marijuana in the Western Hemisphere, and a transit country for Andean cocaine.

Paraguay continues a strong trajectory of economic growth, expected to again surpass 4 percent in — outpacing neighbors in the region. Transnational criminal organizations use Paraguay for the large-scale cultivation and processing of marijuana and the processing and transit of Andean cocaine.

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