f) Testimony of María Zulia Giménez González, journalist and attorney The witness wrote several Articles in the Asunción newspaper Noticias, where she worked as a journalist covering “court-related” matters. And so on February 11, 2000, she went to the Center when the fire happened. She arrived after the events, by which time the inmates had been sent to treatment centers. In the end, she confined herself to the accounts given by people, neighbors, and other inmates, who told her how the events had unfolded.
She was aware of conditions at the Center well before the fire, because she visited routinely, as it was part of her assigned area. On days when the judges went to visit the Center, the prison staff cleaned up the “correctional institution, a misnomer,” and painted it with lime. But when the judges left, “hell started all over again.” The inmates said that there was a place in the basement where they were tortured. She saw the basement and how they were treated; she also saw how the children were crowded in the cells.
The prison guards were trained to punish and torture, but not to treat the inmates like human beings. The witness never saw extinguishers and does not know whether the Center had any emergency plan.