Sunday, April 25, 2010

Paraguay Suspends Due Process

Images[1] Yesterday, the Paraguayan Congress voted to give the President and army emergency powers to deal with guerillas who are responsible for kidnappings in the northern part of the country.  The Congress proclaimed constitutional order at risk and declared a 30-day emergency in a five-state region.  Pursuant to his new emergency powers, President Fernando Lugo will be able to order arrests and transfers of suspects without court approval.  The law also limits other freedoms, such as the freedom of assembly, to limit protests.  The Paraguayan Minister for the Interior emphasized the temporary and limited nature of the emergency powers, which do not alter the country's democratic form.

The guerilla group, known as the Paraguayan People's Army, claims to be kidnapping people for ransom which will be used to finance political change to help the rural poor.  Since 2008, it has raised $700,000 in the kidnappers of two wealthy ranchers.  It also has been accused of killing police and civilians in attacks on police stations and military posts.

Many human rights treaties permit State Parties to derogate from certain human rights obligations in times of national emergency.  Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an example of such a derogation clause.  However, certain rights, such as the right to life and the right to be free from slavery and torture, are considered so fundamental that no derogation is permitted.  To invoke the derogation clause, a State Party such as Paraguay is required to publicly announce a state of emergency, to report to the United Nations (UN) and to provide an ending date for the derogation.  While news reports did not indicate whether Paraguay has officially reported to the UN, it appears to have met the other preconditions of article 4 of officially proclaiming a national emergency and providing a date of termination.


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