World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


South American tribe sues over historic genocide

South American tribe sues over historic genocide

July 1, 2014

The survivors of a South American tribe which was decimated during the 1950s and 60s are taking Paraguay’s government to court over the genocide they suffered.

The case of the hunter-gatherer Aché tribe, who roamed the hilly forests of eastern Paraguay until being brutally forced out, became notorious in the 1970s.
As the agricultural expansion into eastern Paraguay gathered pace from the 1950s, the Aché found themselves forced to defend their land from an ever-increasing colonist population. These colonists soon started to mount raiding parties to kill the male Aché: women and children were usually captured and sold as slaves.

One of the most notorious hunters of the Aché was Manuel Jesús Pereira, a local landowner. He was an employee of Paraguay’s Native Affairs Department, and his farm was turned into an Aché “reservation”, to which captured Aché were transported. Beatings and rape were common. Countless others died of respiratory diseases. The Director of the Native Affairs Department was a frequent visitor, and also sold Aché slaves himself.

This situation was denounced by several anthropologists in Paraguay, many of whom were deported, or lost their jobs, as a result. It was brought to international attention by German anthropologist Mark Münzel. His 1973 report Genocide in Paraguay, published by the Danish organization IWGIA, documented many of the atrocities committed against the Aché.

Survival International publicized Münzel’s account, and sponsored an investigation by leading international lawyer Professor Richard Arens, who found the situation as bad as others had reported. Many other international organizations, academics and activists denounced the atrocities and called for Paraguay’s government to be held to account, which curbed some of the worst excesses.

However, Paraguay’s then-President, General Alfredo Stroessner, was viewed as a key Western ally in the region. The British, US and West German governments denied that genocide was taking place, and the US authorities sponsored the Harvard-based organization Cultural Survival (CS) to “review the status of indigenous peoples in Paraguay”. Their report to the government was confidential, but a copy was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. CS then published an amended version.

Relying partly on the testimony of Peace Corps volunteer, Kim Hill, it denied that genocide had taken place, and criticized many of those, such as Münzel and Arens, who had brought the Aché’s plight to global attention. US aid to Stroessner’s brutal regime continued.

Now, the survivors of the genocide and their descendants are seeking redress. An Aché organization, the National Aché Federation, has launched a court case in Argentina, with advice from leading human rights lawyer Baltasar Garzón. The Aché are using the legal principle of “universal jurisdiction”, under which the most serious crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity can be tried and punished in a different country to that in which they occurred, if the victims cannot secure justice in their own country.

Ceferino Kreigi, an Aché representative, said, “We’re asking for justice – there was torture, rape, beatings. We can no longer bear the pain we have suffered.”

The Aché’s lawyer, Juan Maira, said, “[The Aché] were hunted as though they were animals, because they wanted to confine them to a ghetto. Once in the reserve, they weren’t allowed to leave. They sold not only the children, but sometimes the women too, as slaves. Perhaps 60% of the population could have been wiped out.”

The Aché’s population is now increasing once more, though their forests have been stolen for cattle ranching and farming, and almost totally destroyed.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: Announces Mission To Combat Ebola

Ebola outbreak: a peacekeeper with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) wears a protective mask while on duty at UN offices in the capital city of Monrovia. UN Photo/Andrey Tsarkov More>>

Syria: Life-Saving Food Aid In Jeopardy For Millions Of Syrians

18 September 2014 – The United Nations World Food Programme ( WFP ) today warned that it is running out of funds to provide food for almost 6 million Syrians receiving its life-saving assistance. More>>

UN Warns: Hundreds Of Yemeni Families In Need Of Aid

Two displaced girls stand in front of the classroom where their family has been living in Aden, Yemen. Photo: UNHCR/P. Rubio Larrauri More>>

Ukraine: Victim "Tortured By Russian-Sponsored Militants"

GENEVA, September 17, 2014 – Irina Dovgan, a Ukrainian woman who made international headlines after she was publicly abused by Russian-sponsored militants in eastern Ukraine, testified today before the UN Human Rights Council. More>>

Gaza: Detention Conditions Of Palestinians Arrested By Israelis

PCHR Follows up Detention Conditions of Palestinians Arrested by Israeli Forces in Latest Offensive on the Gaza Strip More>>


UN: ‘Heinous’ Murder Of British Aid Worker By Islamic Militants

A wide view of the Security Council in session (file photo). UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras More>>

ALSO:

UN: Nuclear Programmes Of DPR Korea, Iran Remain Serious Concern

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (left) delivers his introductory statement at the Board of Governors Meeting in Vienna, Austria. Photo: IAEA/Dean Calma More>>

Libya: Closer To Brink Of Protracted Conflict And Strife

Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Bernardino Léon. UN Photo/Evan Schneider More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news