Paraguay: More than 100,000 conscientious objectors
In October, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations examined the periodic report of Paraguay. According to the country's report, "article 37 of the 1992 Constitution, which provides for conscientious objection in general on ethical and religious grounds in the circumstances permitted by domestic or international law. However, the only context in which specific mention is made of conscientious objection is in connection with compulsory military service in article 129, which lays down the general principles governing the procedures involved, such as the simple declaration, the exclusive or exclusionary jurisdiction of civilian bodies, exemption from punishment and establishment of obligations for those who declare themselves to be objectors."
"In view of the lack of regulatory legislation, the Human Rights Committee of the Chamber of Deputies agreed in 1994 to receive declarations from conscientious objectors and to approve their registration on a provisional basis, thereby exempting the objectors from military service until such time as the law established a public body to take responsibility for organizing
alternative service. Although there is still no regulatory legislation, the Constitution stipulates that the lack of such legislation may not be invoked to impair or deny any right or guarantee."
"By October 2002, the annual number of declared conscientious objectors stood at 15,511, bringing the cumulative total since the first conscientious objectors made their declaration in 1993 to 101,679."
The case of Paraguay is of special interest, as the country does not have a law on conscientious objection. However, the system described above is more favourable for conscientious objectors, as any law would be likely to include provisions for a substitute service, while under the present regulations there is no substitute service, and conscientious objectors are simply exempt for service.
The government's report states: "In 2003 a bill regulating conscientious objection and establishing alternative civilian service
was sent by the Chamber of Deputies to the Chamber of Senators for consideration and adoption. The Chamber of Senators rejected the bill on the ground that some articles were at variance with constitutional principles, and consideration of the possibility of introducing regulations governing the fundamental right of conscientious objection was definitively shelved."
Problematic is therefore the response of the Human Rights Committee. The Committee noted rightly that in rural areas there is a lack of information about the right to conscientious objection. However, the Committee also asks Paraguay to pass specific regulation on the right to conscientious objection, which would be likely to worsen the situation for conscientious objectors.
Sources: CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 40 OF THE COVENANT, Second periodic report: Paraguay, 9 July 2004, CCPR/C/PRY/2004/2, http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=CCPR/C/PRY/2004/2&Lang=E
Observaciones finales del Comité de Derechos Humanos : Paraguay. 31/10/2005. CCPR/C/PRY/CO/2. (Concluding Observations/Comments), http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CCPR.C.PRY.CO.2.Sp?OpenDocument