A Paraguayan appeals court upheld the sentences against 11 Indigenous campesinos who were fighting for their right to land during a violent police eviction that left 17 people dead, known as the Curuguaty Massacre in 2012.
The court of Salto de Guaira, in the east of the country maintained the sentences issued in July 2016 that condemned four campesinos to prison sentences between 18 and 30 years, four other campesinos to four years, and the only three campesinas to six years of house arrest.
Jorge Bogarin, the campesinos' lawyer lamented the court's decision, telling EFE, "The sentence in the Curuguaty case could have been nullified for many reasons, for instance because the crime scene was manipulated, but such circumstances were never analyzed by the appeal court."
He also criticized the 10-month delay before the sentence was confirmed, instead of the legal one month, arguing that it undermined the principle of justice and that “delayed justice is not justice.”
The campesinos' lawyers will meet Wednesday in order to discuss further actions, including appealing to Paraguay's Supreme Court, and if need be, to international courts like the Inter-American Human Rights Court.
The campesinos — including two who were minors at the time, and relatives of campesinos killed in the massacre — were officially convicted of murder, invasion of private property and other charges. Prosecutors have only investigated the deaths of the police officers, but none of the riot police have been put on trial for the deaths of campesinos.
The activists maintained that their movement was infiltrated by undercover police who were responsible for the deaths of six police officers and 11 campesinos during violent clashes that ensued when more than 300 riot police forcefully evicted some 60 peasants from the Marina Kue they had occupied in May 2012.
Months before the massacre, campesinos launched the Marina Kue land occupation to reclaim farmland which they said was illegally privatized during the three-decade-long dictatorship. After a year-long trial into the case that critics have slammed as a farce, the exact details of the eviction remain unclear. What remains unquestionable is that violence ensued as security forces exercised military-like force to remove the occupation.
And while the investigation into the massacre stalled, the event was quickly exploited by the country’s right-wing opposition to wage an expedited, and what many called an illegal impeachment process against leftist President Fernando Lugo, holding him responsible for the tragedy.