Human Rights Watch welcomed the judicial order of detention
issued against former Paraguayan strongman Alfredo Stroessner.
Judge Rubén Dario Frutos reportedly issued the order for Stroessner's arrest on the basis of evidence that implicated the former dictator and his minister of the interior, Sabino Augusto Montanaro, in the forced "disappearance"of Paraguayan doctor Agustín Goiburú in 1977. Goiburú, a political dissident who had escaped from detention in Paraguay in 1970, was living in exile in Argentina at the time of his "disappearance."
"This effort to prosecute Stroessner and Montanaro, although it comes years after the crimes for which they are being sought, is nonetheless a timely one," said José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "Like the Pinochet prosecution, it is proof of the growing international consensus that those responsible for gross human rights abuses should not escape punishment." He called on the Brazilian government to cooperate with Paraguay and allow the extradition process to go forward.
Stroessner was overthrown in a military coup in February 1989 and subsequently obtained political asylum in Brazil. But Vivanco rejected the notion that Stroessner had any legitimate claim to asylum protection. "It is an abuse of the institution of political asylum to use it to protect human rights violators from justice," said Vivanco. "The whole point of asylum is to protect victims from further harm, not to grant impunity to perpetrators of abuse."
Vivanco noted that granting refuge to a public official credibly alleged to have committed grave violations of human rights contravenes basic principles of asylum law, which expressly refuse the right of asylum to human rights violators. Indeed, under the Convention against Torture, to which Brazil is a party, rather than extend its protection to such persons, the country is required to prosecute or extradite torturers found on its territory.