Being the victim of a crime in a foreign country can be a devastating and traumatic experience. While no one can undo the emotional trauma, physical injury, or financial loss you may have experienced, the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion is ready to help. We are very concerned about violent crimes committed against U.S. citizens in Paraguay. We will assist you in managing the practical consequences of being a crime victim and provide you with information about accessing the local criminal justice system, as well as other resources for crime victims abroad and the United States. This office can assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family or friends on your behalf and explain how funds can be transferred. We can also help you to better understand the criminal justice system in Paraguay, which is very different from the system in the United States
The information included in this guide related to the legal requirements in Paraguay is provided for general purposes only. The information may not be accurate or relevant to a particular case. Questions involving interpretation of Paraguayan laws should be addressed to legal counsel licensed to practice law in Paraguay. The investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities. Upon the request of the Paraguayan government, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may assist local authorities in certain cases of kidnapping, hostage-taking and terrorism.
A crime should be reported to the appropriate Paraguayan authorities as soon as possible. A police report, known as a denuncia, may be filed at the nearest Unidad Fiscal (Prosecutor’s Office) of the Paraguayan judicial authorities. You may also file a report at a police station but it will not have the same validity for legal process and it is recommended that victims go to the Prosecutor’s Office to file a formal report. Also, it is best to file the report in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred, if possible. Be sure to receive a copy of the report before departing.
Often, the Prosecutor’s Office will not have English-speaking staff so if the victim does not speak Spanish it is helpful to bring someone who speaks Spanish along.
The victim should file the report in person.
If you have difficulties filing your police report with an official, please contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. You may need a police report to file for crime victim compensation or insurance reimbursement. If you do decide to file a report please send a copy to us, along with your address and phone number in the event we need to communicate with you. While we are not authorized to act as your legal representative, our office can help you track the progress of your case and advise you of any developments.
A suspected kidnapping or hostage-taking should be reported to the Direccion Anti-Secuestro. It should also be immediately reported to the US Embassy. Investigations are conducted by the Fiscalia General de la Nación (Attorney General’s Office)
A criminal investigation can be a long process, sometimes lasting many months, depending on the circumstances. Unfortunately, many investigations never result in the arrest of a suspect. While the crime is being investigated a victim may be called upon to provide forensic evidence such as fingerprints, photographs, and other evidence. The Embassy encourages victims of crime to hire a private attorney to assist with the process. To see information on attorneys click here.
If the police decide that a criminal offense has been committed and have probable cause to believe that a particular person committed the offense, they will seek an arrest warrant from the Prosecutor’s office (Fiscalia). Police must have this arrest warrant in order to arrest a suspect. However, a warrant is not required to arrest criminals caught in the act or fleeing the scene of a crime.
The Paraguayan judicial authorities should inform you in writing when a suspect has been arrested. It takes between 24 and 72 hours for notice to be made.
The law requires law enforcement authorities to inform suspects promptly of the reasons for an arrest and bring suspects before a senior prosecutor for a preliminary hearing within 24 hours of detention. Habeas corpus is available to address cases of alleged arbitrary detention. Persons detained for a crime have the right to prompt access to counsel and indigent defendants charged with a crime are entitled to a court appointed attorney.
While individuals accused of lesser offenses have access to bail, it generally is not available for serious crimes such as murder, rebellion, or narcotics trafficking.
A convicted person has the right to appeal the sentence. However, the convicted person does not have the right to personally appear at the appeal hearing.
As a victim of crime, you may want to consider hiring a local attorney to secure appropriate legal guidance. Local legal procedures differ from those in the United States. Although the Paraguayan judicial authorities are responsible for prosecuting your case, an attorney can promote your interests with the police and the court. While our office cannot recommend specific attorneys, we can provide you with a list of attorneys who have expressed interest in representing U.S. citizens. To see this list click here.
Americans living or traveling in Paraguay are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Paraguay. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Mariscal Lopez 1776 in Asuncion. Look for the American Citizen Services sign at the gate. During working hours, the ACS unit can be reached at (595-21) 213715 ext. 2105. Our fax number is (5950-21) 228603. We encourage Americans to email us at ParaguayACS@state.gov. That email address is monitored daily. Complete information about our services and hours is available on our website at https://py.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/.
Special Information for Cases of Sexual Assault and Rape
Physical evidence is very important in sexual assault cases, and can deteriorate as time passes. As such, victims should not change clothes, avoid bathing if possible, and have a physical exam at the first opportunity. You should take these steps even if you are unsure about whether to report the crime to police. If you decide to pursue a prosecution at a later time, these steps preserve evidence that will assist the prosecutor. A consular officer or after-hours duty officer from the U.S. Embassy may be able to accompany victims of sexual assault for the medical exam. You should get medical attention to determine if you have been injured in any way and to discuss treatment and prevention options for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The U.S. Embassy can provide you with a list of local doctors.
In Paraguay the legal definition of rape and sexual assault does not vary from region to region. Rape and sexual assault are characterized as acts performed with the use of force, weapons and/or intimidation by the assailant. It is often committed in isolated places, or when the assailants take advantage of the absence of surveillance and security measures. This may be a premeditated crime or crime of opportunity. In many cases the assailant remains unknown. The law provides for sentences ranging from 2 to 12 years of imprisonment for violent sexual assault.
Special Information for Cases of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is not a crime under the Paraguayan Penal Code. However the Domestic Violence Law was passed in 2000 with the aim to fill in legal vacuums.
How can the victims obtain a restraining order?
Under Paraguayan Domestic Violence Law, every person, who is a victim of physical or psychological abuse, insult, offence or any other form of aggression within his/her family, can file a claim at the jurisdictional police station or directly with the Juzgado de Paz, for an immediate protective measure that helps to put an end to the violence or prevent its reoccurrence. The request for a protective measure can be made personally by the victim, any other person that acts on his/her behalf when the victim cannot do it, in writing or verbally.
The request for protection measures has to state the following clearly:
- Name of requester and identity card number, if possible
- Name of the victim
- Name of the perpetrator and his/her address
- Report of the facts
- Request for necessary evidence
A Judge upon receiving the petition will issue a restraining order immediately.
“ACOSO”- harassment or stalking in Paraguay is not considered to be a violent crime.
Point of contact to report domestic violence: Local Police Stations or Juzgado de Paz
The criminal report can be filed at the Juzgado de Paz or Police Station of the jurisdiction where the violent act took place.
911 in cases of security, fire, rescue, disasters, car accidents, public services emergencies (i.e. gas leaks, short circuits, etc), health emergencies, family violence.