University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in The Republic of Bolivia, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.53, Doc. 6 (1981).




A. Conclusions

1. In light of the background information, events and considerations set forth in the present report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reached the conclusion that the Government of Bolivia, which took power on July 17, 1981, has committed serious violations of human rights upheld in the American Convention on Human Rights. These violations affect:

a. The right to life, inasmuch as authorities belonging to or linked with Government security agencies have unlawfully caused the death of leaders opposing the new regime and also of an indeterminate number of other individuals;

b. The right to humane treatment, by subjecting detainees to cruel and inhuman physical and psychological punishment and torture during the weeks following the military insurrection;

c. The right to personal liberty, since hundreds of individuals had been detained without compliance with constitutional and legal requirements such as warrants from competent authorities or the bringing of charges, and without being brought to trial, even though some of those individuals have already been released. And also because habeas corpus and amparo, judicial guarantees of the highest importance for the protection of human rights, have not been effect;

d. Political rights which are suspended. In the opinion of the Commission, the process of the restoration of democracy that was begun in 1977, was interrupted and all the efforts the Bolivian people had made in that direction were frustrated by the uprising of July 17, 1980, which disregarded the popular will and was the origin of other violations of human rights;

e. The right to movement and residence, since most of the individuals detained were forced to go into exile, prohibited from returning to the country or threatened if they returned to Bolivian territory. Other citizens who chose to remain in Bolivia were confined to living in particular geographical areas, and were also subject to special control by the authorities;

f. The right of assembly, freedom of association and labor rights, which have been seriously limited and restricted by government action, aggravated by the issuance of regulations discriminating against the opposition groups;

g. The freedom of thought and expression. While no formal limits have been placed on the exercise of these rights, there has been an appreciable amount of self-censure caused by the acts of intimidation practiced on some journalists, the restriction of official paid notices and the assaults on offices owned by some communications media.

2. Serious obstacles have been placed in the way of the operations of the Catholic Church and the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, both of which, but particularly the Church, have been systematically persecuted; priests of various religious denominations have been detained, mistreated, deported and confined.

3. The Commission observes that the Government of Bolivia suspended political rights which under the American Convention on Human Rights cannot be suspended. It also suspended other rights without complying with the substantive restrictions and requirements set forth in Article 27 of the Pact of San José.

4. The Commission has learned that the Junta of Commanders, the supreme organ of the Military Government, has appointed General Celso Torrelio Villa to be the nation’s new president. It has also read the statements he made when swearing in his Cabinet of ministers. The Commission is confident that this change will mean an institutional opening whereby the holding of general elections will be guaranteed in the near future, with the full participation of the various political parties, thus permitting the Bolivian people to enjoy a system of representative democracy based on the free expression of the popular will.

B. Recommendations

By virtue of the conclusions stated above, the Commission feels it pertinent to make the following recommendations to the Government of Bolivia:

a. That it take all measures that may be necessary to prevent new violations of the right to life, and that it conduct investigations in order to clarify the irregular circumstances under which there were deaths attributed to government authorities, and that it punish those found guilty with the full force of the law.

b. That it take all measures that may be necessary to end the practice of cruel and inhuman punishment and torture, and that it order investigation of accusations of the use of cruel and inhuman punishment on detainees, meting out to those responsible whatever penal and/or disciplinary measures are required by law.

c. In reference to the right to personal liberty: i. That it comply with the requirements set forth in the Constitution whenever the Government makes use of the constitutional abnormality; ii. that it immediately inform the families of detainees that they have been arrested; iii. that it transfer detainees exclusively to official detention centers intended for that purpose; iv. That it order that detainees be told of the charges against them, that they be given access to an attorney, and that they be brought under the jurisdiction of the competent judge within the deadlines provided in the law; v. that it guarantee that habeas corpus and amparo will be in effect.

d. That it order release of persons detained as a result of the military uprising of July 17, 1980 against whom no charges have been brought, or immediately brought to regular trial, if there is good cause.

e. That it allow those persons who were deported or who for other circumstances were forced to voluntarily seek asylum or go into exile to return to the country freely.

f. That it define the legal status of persons in compulsory residence as soon as possible, guaranteeing them due process if there is reason to bring a case, or otherwise to allow them freedom of movement.

g. That it take adequate measures to ensure observance of the right of assembly, the freedom of association and labor rights, and repeal those provisions that prevent normal practice of those rights, particularly Supreme Decrees 17531 of July 21, 1980 and 17536 of July 30 of the same year.

h. That it conduct investigations on the destruction and sacking of radio stations and newspapers, penalizing those responsible for such actions according to the law, and properly paying indemnity to the owners. That it also guarantee unrestricted exercise of the rights to freedom of thought and expression.

i. That it take the measures required for the Catholic Church and entities working for the promotion and protection of human rights to carry out the work properly.


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