1. The Committee considered
the second periodic report of Bolivia (CCPR/C/63/Add.4 and HRI/CORE/1/Add.54)
at its 1562nd and 1563rd meetings on 25 March 1997 (CCPR/C/SR.1562 and
SR.1563) and subsequently adopted at the 1582nd meeting (Fifty-ninth session),
held on 9 April 1997 the following comments:
2. The Committee welcomes
the second periodic report submitted by the State party and the delegation's
willingness to engage in a frank dialogue with the Committee. The Committee
regrets, however, that although the report provides information on general
legislative reforms in Bolivia, they remain largely unadopted by Parliament.
The delegation candidly admitted that there have been difficulties in
the implementation of all the reforms which would when approved create
a legal system more compliant with the Covenant. The Committee appreciated
the presence of a highly competent delegation which provided in-depth
helpful information to the Committee in addressing its questions and thus
allowed it to obtain a clearer view of the overall human rights situation
in the State party.
3. The Committee commends
the State party for the core document (HRI/CORE/1/Add.54), which set out
many of the problems existing in the country.
B. Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Covenant
4. The Committee recognizes
that the State party, which is emerging from a change of government that
ended a long period of dictatorial rule, is undergoing a transition towards
democracy in which the infrastructure necessary for the implementation
of the Covenant has not been fully developed. The Committee notes that
many encouraging legislative initiatives with respect to human rights
are meeting with difficulties, and that a full assessment of their implementation
is not yet possible.
5. The Committee notes that
social and economic disparities are all-pervasive in the country and result
in high levels of poverty and illiteracy, and lack of opportunity especially
for the indigenous population, women and the poor.
C. Positive aspects
6. The Committee notes with
satisfaction the efforts of the Government of Bolivia to introduce democracy
and to match the country's level of human rights protection with international
7. The Committee particularly
welcomes the promulgation of the 1994 Constitution, which incorporates
provisions for the protection of civil and political rights. The Committee
welcomes the Government's declared intention to put an end to serious
violations of human rights and to create a better political, constitutional
and legal framework to allow the full implementation of the rights enshrined
in the Covenant.
8. The Committee notes with
satisfaction the reform of the Penal Code which abolishes the death penalty.
9. The Committee also welcomes
the legal reforms undertaken, notably constitutional amendments to bring
Bolivian law into conformity with international human rights standards,
the adoption of legislation to abolish imprisonment and physical constraint
for the enforcement of economic obligations (Ley de Abolición de Prisión
y Apremio Corporal por Obligaciones Patrimoniales), the new Bail Act (Ley
de Fianza Juratoria contra la Retardación de Justicia Penal), the law
against domestic violence (Ley contra la Violencia Intrafamiliar o Doméstica),
and the reforms in the legislation governing the electoral system (Ley
de Reformas y Complementacion al Régimen Electoral), the legal aid programme
(Programa de Defensa Pública) and habeas corpus and amparo.
10. The Committee welcomes
the reinstitution after 100 years of the Ministry of Justice, as well
as the establishment of the Human Rights Department within the Ministry
of Justice and the establishment of the Gender Department. The Committee
also welcomes the creation of the necessary legal machinery to receive
complaints and manage various aspects of human rights issues, including
through the Ministry of Justice, the Parliamentary Commission for Human
Rights, Legal Aid and the Public Prosecutors Office, and the creation
of a human rights office in the Chapare area.
11. The Committee welcomes
the information that torture, forced disappearances and extrajudicial
executions are punishable offences in Bolivia. It also welcomes the information
that military tribunals have no jurisdiction except within the military
institution and that cases of human rights violations by members of the
army and the security forces fall under the jurisdiction of civil courts.
12. The Committee further
welcomes the fact that the number of persons being held in pretrial detention
has significantly decreased.
13. The Committee notes the
penal reforms that have abolished the discrimination against the Amazon
Indians where it was considered that they were not criminally responsible
by mere reason of their Indian origin. It also welcomes the reforms that
have introduced legislation which allows the indigenous populations to
receive education in their mother tongues, and the enactment of measures
which permit the Indian communities to maintain their traditional means
D. Principal subjects of concern
14. The Committee is concerned
that the State party's legislation in respect of the state of siege does
not comply with the provisions of the Covenant. There is no constitutional
provision which prohibits the derogation of the relevant rights of the
Covenant and the expression "conmocíon interior" ("internal disturbance")
is much too wide to fall within the scope of article 4 of the Covenant.
Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that minimum guarantees were not
complied with during the state of siege declared in 1995.
15. The Committee is concerned
that the current legislation for combating impunity has proven to be ineffective
in the identification, trial and punishment of those responsible for human
rights violations, and in the payment of compensation to the victims.
It also notes that members of the armed forces and other government officials
who were involved in the most serious human rights violations have not
always been dismissed, and continue to take advantage of their positions,
thus reinforcing impunity within the State party. It is also concerned
at the delays and failures of the process of law and at the non-compliance
by the police with United Nations minimum standards.
16. The Committee notes with
concern that members of various social sectors, particularly human rights
activists and members of trade unions, are subject to intimidation, thus
facing serious obstacles in the legitimate exercise of their rights.
17. The Committee is concerned
that national laws in conflict with the Covenant remain on the books,
in particular the Coca and Controlled Substances Law (Law No. 1008). The
Committee is particularly concerned that articles 86 and 116 of this law
remove the investigating process from judicial control, that the right
to bail is severely restricted, that articles 74 and 125 deny the right
of detainees who are ill to be treated with humanity, and that other provisions
undermine the presumption of innocence (arts. 82 and 117), the right to
an impartial tribunal (arts. 82 and 127), the right of defence (art. 117),
the right to be tried in one's presence (art. 113) and the right to challenge
any aspect of the process (art. 128).
18. The Committee is particularly
concerned that release on bail is never possible for those persons charged
with offences that carry a penalty of two or more years of imprisonment
and that the presumption of innocence is not respected under current Bolivian
19. The Committee expresses
concern about the lack of independence and efficiency of the judiciary
and the long delays in the administration of justice, which do not conform
with the requirements of articles 9 and 14 of the Covenant.
20. The Committee notes with
concern the conditions in places of detention.
21. The Committee is concerned
that, despite constitutional guarantees of the rights of women and laws
attempting to put an end to discrimination, women continue to receive
unequal treatment in Bolivia owing in part to the continuation of traditional
attitudes and outdated laws that clearly contradict the provisions of
the Covenant. It further notes, that labour laws do not protect the rights
of women adequately, particularly those engaged in domestic work.
22. The Committee expresses
its concern about the very high level of maternal mortality referred to
in the report, much of which arises as a result of illegal abortion. In
this regard, it regrets that the State party could not provide information
about the effect of laws that criminalize abortion on this high level
23. The Committee is also
concerned about the exploitation of children in employment, including
the practice of the "criadito" and the growing numbers of street children.
24. The Committee is concerned
at the curtailment of the rights of members of trade unions to the freedoms
of association, assembly and expression, at the high levels of violence
against trade union members, at the intimidation by police agents of persons
taking part in peaceful demonstrations, and at the high number of strikes
that are deemed illegal. It is particularly concerned about the incidents
that occurred in Potosi and Chapare.
25. The Committee expresses
concern at the impact of violence on the part of the security forces,
which curtails the enjoyment by members of indigenous groups of their
rights under article 27 of the Covenant. In that connection, the Committee
is concerned that despite the legislation enacted to allow the indigenous
communities to enjoy the use of their traditional lands in a communal
way, discrimination and other obstacles to the full enjoyment of the rights
protected under article 27 of the Covenant continue to exist.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
26. The Committee strongly
encourages the Government to enact the new draft legal framework for the
protection of human rights in the State party to ensure full conformity
with the Covenant, in particular the new Code of Criminal Procedure, aimed
at the modernization of the Bolivian legal and judicial structures and
allowing the investigation and punishment of human rights violations.
27. The Committee urges the
State party to put into place the necessary mechanisms to avoid a recurrence
of the events surrounding the 1995 state of siege, where the police used
excessive violence against the members of teachers' unions.
28. The Committee urges the
State party to investigate allegations of human rights violations, in
order to bring to justice perpetrators of past and present human rights
abuses. It recommends that an independent mechanism be instituted for
dealing with complaints of police violence and that the existence of this
mechanism be publicized. It further urges the State party to act on the
findings of its investigations, to bring to justice the perpetrators and
to provide proper compensation to the victims, particularly with respect
to continuing occurrences of torture and ill-treatment by the police and
29. The Committee recommends
that the State party amend Law 1008, in order to make it compatible with
the State party's obligations under the Covenant.
30. The Committee urges the
State party to comply with article 10, paragraph 2 of the Covenant by
separating accused persons from convicted persons in prison, and juvenile
offenders from adults.
31. The Committee recommends
that the Office of Ombudsman and the Constitutional Court be put into
place as soon as possible and that both be given broad jurisdiction and
sufficient resources to guarantee the enjoyment of human rights.
32. The Committee urges the
State party to take effective measures to abolish the practice of the
33. The Committee recommends
that an educational programme be devised so that all segments of the population,
in particular members of the army, security forces and the police, and
members of the judiciary and lawyers, are better acquainted with international
standards for the protection and observance of human rights and human
34. The Committee recommends
that the independence of the judiciary be ensured and a law regulating
it be enacted. It further recommends that the nomination of judges should
be based on their competence and not their political affiliation. The
Committee also recommends that responsibility for the judicial police
be transferred from the executive to the judiciary.
35. The Committee recommends
that further measures, such as those of the "Justicia Communal", be taken
to ensure that members of indigenous groups are protected against violence
within the country and enjoy fully their rights under article 27 of the
Covenant, particularly with regard to preservation of their culture, language
and religion. The legislation on indigenous communities should be enacted
36. The Committee recommends
that the State party include in its next report comprehensive information
on the issues raised during the consideration of the report, particularly
on the effectiveness of the laws under review or in existence, the evolving
roles of the institutions established for the protection of human rights,
and the system of coordination of the various institutions. In this regard,
the Committee recommends that the Government draw on the assistance available
through the programme of technical cooperation of the High Commissioner/Centre
for Human Rights.
37. The Committee urges that
respect for human rights be institutionalized at all levels of government,
and recommends that human rights education be provided in schools at all
levels and that the present concluding observations be widely disseminated.