a) Testimony of Dirma Monserrat Peña, elder sister of Pedro Iván Peña, a former inmate at the Center The witness’ brother was taken away on December 31, 1999, but his family was never advised. In order to get word to them, Pedro Iván Peña lied to the police and told them that he had a stolen object stashed in his house. That way, the police came to his house looking for the supposedly stolen object. That was how his family learned that he was at Police Station 12. The witness went to the police station, but they denied that his brother was there. She had to turn to a community radio station to ask for help. A journalist called her and confirmed that her brother was at that police station. Her brother told him that they had tortured him badly and, in fact, he had “sign[s] of torture” and “scratches everywhere”. The witness wanted her brother to be examined by a physician at the police station, but the police didn’t want to have it done.
The witness’ brother told her that he had been tortured at the Center several times, and that there was a cellar where they took the inmates, who were bound and had their hands tied; sometimes they suspended them upside down. An inmate could spend one to three days in that cellar. They treated the inmates “like animals”. Food was in short supply, and what little there was was “disgusting”. Nevertheless, the inmates fought for a plate of food. If they didn’t have a plate, then they often had to go hungry.
The fire was hell for the family. They were afraid her brother would die, as he was in critical condition after the fire and they were told he would not live. The director of the Center began saying “let them all die, they’re not worth the trouble [...] let them all die, they’ll never be good for anything, they have no future.” Pedro Iván Peña spent two or three weeks in the hospital and was then transferred to the infirmary at Tacumbú prison, where he spent almost three or four months and was then released. Since then the police have harassed him time and time again.
The witness’ brother suffered a number of mental and psychological after-effects of the fire. There are times when he remembers every detail of the fire; other times he has no memory of the fire at all. There are times when he forgets his own name, his date of birth. Summing up, there are “times when he is quite well, and others when he is in very poor condition.”
Since the fire, her brother has had a cough and his hand is completely nonfunctional. Her brother’s body is covered with scars: on the arms, the legs and the nose. He needs surgery for the hands and nose, but the authorities refuse all their requests.
Pedro Iván Peña learned nothing at the Center. In fact, he forgot all the good things that he had learned in his family, the good manners and study. He was a good person, a calm person, but “all that ended when he entered the Center.” After the fire, he was half crazy, traumatized by the abuse. He is no longer the person he was before; now he’s a mental wreck.”
Children with criminal records are harassed constantly and can’t get jobs. If they work on the street, the police, who already know them by sight, pick them up; if the children don’t pay them, the police take them to the local precinct and find something new to pin on them. The children are taken away to reformatories, a misnomer since all they learn in such places are bad habits, as “they deform and cripple them mentally and spiritually”;
What has happened to the witness’ brother has had a profound emotional effect on the family, which is also harassed. The police come into the home without a court order, in pursuit of her brother.
She asked the Court for a better life and an education for all the inmates now at Itauguá. She also asked for protection for her brother, for herself and for her entire family, as they are still being harassed by police.