Category Archives: Human Rights, Impunity

Continued Impunity Could Aggravate Pending Political Conflict

Part One: 
Ex President Sánchez de Lozada and Others Avoid Prosecution in the United States

Over two years have passed since Bolivian security forces killed 59 and left over 200 people seriously injured during widespread demonstrations protesting the management of Bolivia’s gas reserves in September and October of 2003. As with other social conflicts in Bolivia, there have not been legal consequences for the human rights violations committed during the "Gas War." By the time President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada resigned, the armed forces and police had killed almost as many people during his fourteen-month presidency as during seven years of the Banzer dictatorship, considered one of Bolivia’s bloodiest military governments since the 1952 revolution.  The military’s systematic refusal to cooperate in a meaningful way with investigations – although ordered to do so by the Bolivian Supreme court – and the delay of the U.S. government to deliver subpoenas to Sánchez de Lozada and two former cabinet ministers living in the U.S. have impeded attempts to seek justice for the victims and stem future human rights violations in a politically tenuous climate. read more

Flawed State Department Report on Human Rights in Bolivia

On April 22, 2004, the State Department submitted to Congress its determination and report finding that “the Bolivian military and police respect human rights and cooperate with civilian authorities in the investigation, prosecution and punishment of personnel credibly alleged to have committed violations."2 Moreover, the State Department asserted that both the military and police “investigate all allegations of human rights abuses” (emphasis added).The sweeping nature of these claims invites skepticism. read more

Bolivian Constitutional Court Rules that Soldiers Must Be Tried in Civilian Courts—Armed Forces Re

Bolivian president Carlos Mesa is currently in the midst of the most acute crisis since he assumed the presidency in October of 2003.  In his inaugural speech Mesa promised full investigations and sanctions for those responsible for atrocities during the 2003 conflicts, lack of progress on this front has provoked criticism from national and international human rights monitors.  This criticism escalated this past February after a military court quickly acquitted four soldiers alleged to have shot at unarmed civilians during public protests in February 2003 in La Paz, despite evidence against the accused.  The protests were in response to tax mandates outlined by former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, who resigned under pressure last October after several months of intermittent but increasingly violent political conflicts.  The case, initially filed in the civilian justice system, was inappropriately transferred to a military tribunal despite objections by the public prosecutors assigned to the case and the families of the victims. Military trial for human rights cases are closed proceedings that to date have always resulted in a rapid acquittal. Furthermore, they violate the dictates of Bolivia law and international agreements signed by Bolivia. read more

Impunity for Human Rights Violations through Military Trials in Bolivia

One of the key issues currently facing the Mesa government concerns the open public criticism of continued impunity granted to the military.  Specifically, public attention has been focused on February’s military tribunal acquittal of four soldiers alleged to have shot at unarmed civilians during public protests one year ago in La Paz, the refusal of military personnel to testify in civilian investigations of October violence, and the lack of congressional action with respect to the prosecution of former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada for the deaths in mass uprisings of last October. read more