b) Testimony of Raúl Esteban Portillo, former inmate at the Center The witness was 16 when he was placed in the Center. He was taken from the police station directly to the Center. His family was not notified. When he arrived, the guards used their nightsticks to beat him in the face, on the hands and on the feet. He was in the Center for 7 months the first time, and 8 days the second time.
The guards beat the inmates in an underground cell that had shackles on the wall. They put them there and beat them on the hands, feet and face. They brought them water, beat them for an hour and left them there for two hours. When he was beaten, he came down with a fever for nine days, but was never attended by a physician.
Some inmates fought over food because they were hungry. The cellblocks were approximately 6 meters by 3 meters and each housed between 20 and 25 inmates. There were around 500 people at the Center. The cellblock he was assigned to housed some inmates who had already been convicted; his own trial was still pending. They cleaned the floor. There was no ventilation, but there was light. The bathroom was filthy, and had only one shower, but no hot water or towels. They did not provide them with clothing or the necessities for personal hygiene. He walked around barefoot.
The food was not good and he got sick from it. The inmates themselves prepared the food, as the cook only prepared meals for the guards. When the press or human rights observers came, the cook prepared the food.
There was no grade for him in the school, as it only went as far as the second grade and he was in sixth grade. However, he went to classes for two hours every day to pass the time. There was a library, but it wasn’t for the inmates. He didn’t learn any trade; the only thing he learned was how to steal, how to smoke and how to take drugs. The guards sold the marijuana, alcohol and pills. They made them practice the Catholic religion. Inmates were not allowed to use the telephone; they could only send letters. There was no physician, no dentist, no eye doctor and no psychiatrist. There was no infirmary, either. If the inmates “didn’t recover, they died.” If the guards discovered that inmates had knives, those inmates were sent to Emboscada.
At the time of the February 11, 2000 fire, a guard had struck an inmate and the others became furious. They said they were going to burn the mattresses to attract the media. His friends were hungry and were being mistreated. The inmates decided to light the fire because “some had been there for eight years, ten years and they wanted out. They were bored.” He was asleep when the fire broke out. When he woke up he opened the window so that everyone could breathe. He was burned everywhere: on the arms, the chest and the back. The smell made him sick, and he spit up blood and ashes. They couldn’t get out because there was something sharp inside the lock. They begged for help and the guards said “pe manomba” which in Guaraní means “You can all die.” It was 15 minutes before the inmates were able to open the cellblock door.
At the hospital, about a half hour passed before anyone examined him. He was in the hospital for seven months; two months of that time he was in a coma. Upon his release from the hospital he was brought home and recovered there. Later, the authorities had him returned to the Center, as they did not want to give him his freedom. He suffered horribly. He spent a year and six months under house arrest. By the time they convicted him he was in Itauguá. The place is better, but the food is terrible and they hit the inmates there as well. He wants to go to school and doesn’t want anything to happen to his family. Neither the Center nor Itauguá changed him for the better.
He asked the Court for help to move forward with his life and to go to school. He would like to be a doctor, but does not have funds to go to school. He also asked for help for his home, since the family was evicted. Finally, he asked for help to regain the use of his arm.
73. On March 31, 2004, the State sent the sworn statements given at the Office of the Chief Government Notary of the Republic of Paraguay by witnesses Fernando Vicente Canillas Vera, Teresa de Jesús Almirón Fernández, Michael Sean O’Loingsigh, Teófilo Báez Zacarías, Estanislao Balbuena Jara, Gloria Carolina Noemí Nicora de Martínez, Edgar Eduardo Giménez Gamarra, Carolina Isabel Laspina de Vera, Mirtha Isabel Herrera Fleitas, Inés Ramona Bogarín Peralta, Ana María de Jesús Llanes Ferreira, María Elizabeth Flores Negri, Maureen Antoinette Herman, Teresa Alcaraz de Mencia, María Vilma Talavera de Bogado, Carlos Alberto Torres Alújas, Christian Raphael Rojas Salinas, Ciriaco Rubén Valdéz Cáceres and Miguel Angel Insaurralde Coeffier, and the expert opinions of Messrs. Jorge Rolón Luna and Pedro Juan Mayor Martínez (supra para. 45), also given at the Office of the Chief Government Notary of the Republic of Paraguay, in response to the President’s March 2, 2004 order (supra para. 42).14 The Court will now summarize the relevant parts of those statements.