Bolivia
Head of state and government
Evo Morales Ayma
Death penalty
abolitionist for ordinary crimes
Population
10.1 million
Life expectancy
66.6 years
Under-5 mortality
51.2 per 1,000
Adult literacy
90.7 per cent

Scores of people were injured when police violently dispersed a camp set up by Indigenous protesters during a march to La Paz over plans to construct a road through protected Indigenous territory. There were convictions in the 2003 “Black October” case.

Background

Social tensions increased during the year amid recurring protests over economic issues and Indigenous rights.

In March, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination welcomed legislation passed by Congress in January to combat racial discrimination. However, it expressed concern about its implementation, the under-representation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making bodies, access to justice and lack of clarity over mechanisms to ensure co-ordination and co-operation with the ordinary justice system in the new Law of Jurisdictional Delimitation.

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Indigenous Peoples’ rights

On 25 September scores of people were injured when police used tear gas and truncheons to break up a makeshift camp set up near Yucumo, Beni Department, by Indigenous protesters. The protesters were taking part in a 360-mile march from Trinidad, Beni Department, to La Paz in protest at government plans to build a road through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro-Sécure, TIPNIS), in breach of constitutional guarantees on prior consultation with Indigenous Peoples, and of environmental preservation laws. Police arrested hundreds of Indigenous protesters and took them to the towns of San Borja and Rurrenabaque to be flown home by the military.

The government stated that the road would bring economic development. However, Indigenous protesters said it would open up the area to extractive industries and encourage deforestation and coca production. The police crackdown led to the resignation of the Defence and Interior Ministers and nationwide protests.

In October, President Morales cancelled the project. In November a judge ordered the house arrest of the deputy police commander for allegedly ordering the police operation in Yucumo. Criminal investigations into the actions of the police were continuing at the end of the year.

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Impunity

Those responsible for serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions, carried out before democracy was re-established in 1982, continued to evade justice.

By the end of the year, the armed forces had not handed over to prosecutors information relating to past human rights violations, despite Supreme Court orders in April 2010 requiring them to declassify the information. The government did not press for the information to be disclosed.

  • In August, the Supreme Court convicted seven former high-ranking officials for their part in the events known as “Black October”, which left 67 people dead and more than 400 injured during protests in El Alto, near La Paz, in late 2003. This was the first time that a trial of military officials accused of human rights violations had reached a conclusion in a civilian court. Five former military officers received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years, while two former ministers were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Former President Gonzálo Sánchez de Lozada and two of his ministers, who had fled to the USA soon after the violence, were facing extradition proceedings at the end of the year. Other ministers subsequently fled to Peru and Spain.
  • Four military officers under investigation for the torture in 2009 of an army conscript in Challapata, Oruro Department, were released in April after a judge quashed the charges against them. In July, the Oruro Appeals Court overturned the judge’s decision and ordered judicial proceedings to continue under civilian jurisdiction. The trial had not started by the end of the year. Video footage showing the army conscript being repeatedly submerged in water in 2009 by officers had come to light in 2010.
  • In September, a judge revoked the charges against five members of the National Police accused of involvement in the dispersal of protesters who mounted a roadblock in Caranavi Province in May 2010 in which two people died and at least 30 were injured. At the end of the year, prosecutors were considering whether to bring further charges.
  • Trial proceedings connected to the 2008 Pando massacre, in which 19 people, mostly campesinos, were killed and 53 others injured, continued but were subject to delays.
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Torture and other ill-treatment

In February, Gróver Beto Poma Guanto died in hospital two days after being beaten by training instructors at the Condors of Bolivia Military Training School in Sanandita, Tarija Department. Three military personnel remained under investigation in connection with the case at the end of the year. However, despite repeated calls for the case to be transferred to civilian jurisdiction, it remained under investigation in the military justice system, which lacked independence and impartiality.

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