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Except for a few, Paraguayan Congress members “should be liable to prosecution once they leave their seat in Congress. They now have immunity, but they should be taken before justice for violating the Constitution and the principles of institutional responsibility attached to their position”, said lawyer Milena Pereira of Paraguayan organization BASE Investigaciones Sociales (BASE IS).
The human rights expert, who was part of the legal team that filed accusations against the Paraguayan Congress in an oral and public Ethical Trial held on November 22, highlighted that the Parliament “violates the Republican tradition, which is the principle that the general interest should prevail over the particular interest, and it is provided under the Constitution”.
“The ethical trial was filed based on this argument that we were able to prove. The Parliament has systematically violated the national Constitution”, Pereira told Real World Radio.
We interviewed the lawyer to know the details of the ethical trial and the details of the tribunal’s judgment. But she also talked about the political, social and judicial reality of her country.
The Platform of Social Organizations for Democracy in Paraguay held the final stage of the ethical trial to Parliament at the Plaza de la Democracia in the country’s capital, Asuncion. This was the continuation of the process began on August 22, when social organizations filed a formal claim against Congress before the Ethics Tribunal.
This was not a binding trial, but the proceeding followed the guarantees of due process, Adital news agency reported. In fact, the National Congress had the chance to respond through its defense attorney.
The Tribunal that was supposed to decide on the case was presided by former Supreme Court justice, Luis Lezcano Claude, and made up by renowned legal experts, researchers and historians of the country.
Pereira told Real World Radio she regretted the consequences of the acts and decisions of the “coup Parliament” are “too serious and harmful to our people and to our society that was beginning to move towards a democratic transition”.
The member of BASE IS explained that from June 22, when the Parliamentary coup d’état ousted Constitutional President Fernando Lugo, Paraguay has been “living in a situation where the Constitution barely exists, there is no rule of law”.
She highlighted the so called “Curuguaty massacre” of June 15, when 11 landless peasants were murdered in a police eviction from the plot of land they were occupying, nearly 35 km from Curuguaty, in Canindeyu department. Six police officers were also killed. Over 50 landless peasants were prosecuted and 12 were arrested. The coup regime has done very little to clarify the incidents. There were even claims that there were armed people infiltrated in the land who started the shooting. Several landless peasants who are imprisoned in Coronel Oviedo detention center, in Caaguazu department, held a hunger strike for several weeks to demand their freedom, and the lives of some of them were in danger. The pressure of Paraguayan social organizations and the public demonstrations in the country helped the strikers receive special attention and the court ordered house arrest.
The lawyer continued to criticize the Parliament and all the branches of the State: “The Supreme Court of Justice obeys the Congress. The Court has repealed the Constitution in order to get away with corruption”.
Besides, the de facto government “leaves the citizens totally unprotected, being victims of serious rights violations”.
About the verdict of the Ethics Tribunal, Pereira underlined that the sentence declares the Congress members “persona non grata” while it urges them to create a commission to investigate the incidents of Curuguaty. It also urged them to create an inter-institutional commission to solve the territorial conflicts that affect indigenous communities. “The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (ICHR) says the politics followed by Congress is genocidal towards indigenous communities and a commission should be urgently created to deal with this”.
The member of BASE IS said the Tribunal’s ruling is “strong and taxative” by pointing out that the Parliament has taken advantage of a tragic incident like the Curuguaty massacre to oust Lugo.
Pereira ended up saying the Platform of Social Organizations for Democracy are willing to continue with these process of citizen control of the main branches of power. There could be ethical trials. “We hope there will be another one soon. We can sue the Judiciary, the Supreme Court of Justice, a High Court of Electoral Justice, for instance, whose members should have been impeached years ago, just to mention some cases”, she concluded.
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