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Paraguay: CO kidnapped and tortured

By JEAN DE WANDELAER

Conscientious objection is a constitutional right in Paraguay, but the fact that there are now around 600 COs seems to bother the military. On 4 November, 18-year-old objector César Barrios was on his way to Pirapey, 110km from Encarnación, to give a workshop on CO.

César - a member of the conscientious objection group MOC-was travelling at the request of the family of Victor Hugo Maciel, a conscript who had been killed by the army in October. Other families in the village no longer wished to send their young men to do their compulsory military service, and they sought more information on the legal right to conscientious objection.

At around 7 pm, the bus was stopped by an unmarked military patrol. They asked to see the papers of all the people. César Barrios, a member of the Paraguayan conscientious objectors' movement MOC, showed his identity card, but the soldiers wanted to see his military papers. César told them he was a CO and showed them a document of the Human Rights Commission of the Deputies Chamber, testifying to his status. One of the soldiers read it, then destroyed it in the front of all the passenger. He violently pushed César out of the bus and into a Toyota van, where he was blindfolded, handcuffed, and driven three or four hours to a military barracks.

Once there, César was dumped in a small, dirty bathroom and made to inhale a sleep-inducing gas. They kicked him in the stomach and back. After that, five young soldiers came in, completly naked, and began to insult him, saying he was gay; that all COs were homosexuals or prostitutes; that they would teach him to be a good macho and that they would rape him. Meanwhile, they were masturbating themselves.

They burned his T-shirt-which had a CO slogan-and then ran a knife over his throat, ears, nose and so on, asking him about the activities of MOC, about the leaders of MOC, phone numbers, and addresses (he gave false answers). With the knife, the military cut his hair. He stayed lying down the ground all day, and at night managed to escape with the help from someone in the barracks. Once out, he verified that he had been at the III Mounted Division in Ciudad del Este.

Without money (the military stole all his belongings), César finally found his way to Asunción the next morning. He is the seventh CO to have been kidnapped by the army in recent years.

MOC Paraguay is asking international supporters to send faxes, letters and take other actions calling for a full investigation of this case; to find those responsible for the kidnapping and torture of César Barrios; and asking for the safety and security of COs and members of MOC to:
Presidente del Congreso Nacional Senor Milciades Rafael Casabianca, Av. Republica y 14 de Mayo, Asunción, Paraguay (fax 595 21 443094) and to any Paraguayan Embassy
MOC, c/o SERPAJ, Azara 313 y c/Iturbe, 2» piso, Asunción, Paraguay (tel/fax +595 21 446722; email hugo@serpaj.una.py)