On Wednesday, 1 December 2:30 PM, Paraguayan state attorneys and armed police raided the offices of indigenous rights NGO, Iniciativa Amotocodie (IA), by forcing entry through a window at the back of the building, and seized the vast majority of their documents and computers.
The raid happened shortly after IA succesfully campaigned against a scientific exhibition to a remote area of Paraguay inhabited by uncontacted indigenous Ayoreo groups. Due to national and international action, including a petition on this website, the expedition was suspended at the last minute.
Amnesty International have said that the raid lacks any clear legal basis and that it is an attempt to “divert attention" from the state's failure to conduct the legally required consultation over the expedition, and as reprisals for the NGO's public opposition to it.
It seems that the Paraguayan state wishes to paralyse this organisation's ability to do its vital work in protecting the rights of uncontacted indigenous groups.
Local groups have called the action a "sinister precedent", as it is the first such raid on a civil society organization since the fall of Paraguayan dictator, Stroessner.
The rights of those who defend society’s most vulnerable groups must also be defended.
Please sign the petition – it will arrive as a personal letter directly to the people who need to receive it.
[Here's the text in English for the letter (in Spanish) you will send]
I am writing to you to urge you to stop the unfounded legal investigation action indigenous rights group, Iniciativa Amotocodie.
It is clear from the legal documents and from the history of the case, that the state´s recent actions against this organization has been taken in retaliation for their public opposition to the subsequently suspended ¨Paraguay Dry Chaco 2010" scientific expedition. The raid on their office and seizure of virtually all their documents and computers lacks any sound legal basis and has been conducted with numerous irregularities - from the questionable claims given for the raid itself, which are generic, unclear and unsubstantiated to the forced entry of the premises and the seizure of materials totally unrelated to the initial warrant.
I repudiate this action against a civil society organization fighting for the defense of vulnerable groups within the care of your government and would like to bring to your attention the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998, under which governments have an obligation to recognize and support the crucial work of human rights defenders, and ensure that they can perform their work without fear of reprisals or threats.
We urge you to take the necessary steps to halt this process immediately and return this institution the tools of their work, which were unjustifiably and illegitimately taken from them.
Se podría entender que las recientes acciones del estado en contra esta organización han sido tomadas en represalia por su oposición pública a la luego suspendida expedición científica ¨ Paraguay Chaco Seco 2010 ".
La incursión en la oficina de la institución y la incautación de casi todo su equipamiento y material de trabajo carece de un fundamento sólido jurídico y se ha llevado a cabo con numerosas irregularidades. Entre ellas se destacan: las alegaciones cuestionables del pedido de intervención, que son de carácter genérico y vago; la entrada forzada del local y la incautación de materiales que no tienen relación alguna con la orden inicial.
Repudio esta acción contra una organización de la sociedad civil que lucha por la defensa de los grupos vulnerables, y les pido que mantengan en mente la Declaración de Naciones Unidas sobre los Defensores de Derechos Humanos, adoptada en 1998, donde expresa que los gobiernos tienen la obligación de reconocer y apoyar la labor de los defensores de los derechos humanos, y garantizar que puedan realizar su trabajo sin temor a represalias o amenazas.
Les insto a que adopten las medidas necesarias para detener este proceso de inmediato y que devuelva a esta institución las herramientas de trabajo.