On September 2, 2020, in Paraguay, members of a military-led elite unit allegedly killed Lilian Mariana Villalba and María Carmen Villalba. The incident happened during an operation against a Paraguayan guerrilla camp (People’s Army) in a forested area. The girls, who were cousins, were from Argentina but were visiting their fathers in the camp who are both members of the armed group. The State authorities argued that the killings were done in the belief that the girls were members of the armed group and claimed they were 15 and 17 years old. It was later proved through forensic examination that the girls were only 11 years old.
IRCT and IFEG were commissioned to provide an expert opinion by Human Rights Watch and conducted a review of the information of the case. The review concludes that the Paraguayan authorities upon burning their girls’ clothes, “they have destroyed crucial evidence” which “violates the most basic and fundamental criminal investigative and forensic principles.” The clothing would otherwise provide crucial information on the distance of the shots and i.e. whether they were shot in self-defense as the military claim or whether the girls were fleeing when they were killed.
María Carmen Villalba and Lilian Mariana Villalba
The entire investigation is flawed with a lack of transparency with no ballistic analysis of the gun used and no autopsy reports before the girls were buried. The Paraguayan authorities have not disclosed whether they seized the weapons used by the state agents to analyse. The analysis could determine the circumstances of the incident and who and which weapons killed the girls.
“All signs indicate that the investigation into the killings has been woefully inadequate,” said Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The Paraguayan government should immediately allow Argentinian forensic experts to conduct an autopsy and grant them and the victims’ families full access to the evidence. The longer the government delays exhumation, the more likely that any evidence from the remains will be lost.”
IRCT calls on Paraguay to respect its international human rights obligations which require it to conduct thorough, prompt, and impartial investigations into killings by state agents. Further, Paraguay must adhere to the international standard for conducting autopsies and other forensic analysis. Paraguay must be held accountable and any state force killing must be investigated.
Read the full IRCT and IFEG submission here.
For more information
For more information on the case, please visit Human Rights Watch here.