REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE REPUBLIC OF BOLIVIA
A. Background: Request for Consent
1. As a result of the military insurrection of July 17, 1980, whereby General Luis García Meza Tejada assumed power and thereby deposed the Government of Mrs. Lidia Gueiler, at a meeting held on July 25, 1980 the Permanent Council of the Organization adopted resolution CP/RES. 308 in which it requested that , in the shortest time possible, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights examine the situation of human rights in Bolivia.1
2. In accordance with the provisions of the aforementioned resolution and taking into account the denunciations and information that had been received on the situation of human rights in Bolivia, through a note dated August 8, 1980, the commission addressed the Bolivian Government to request permission to conduct an on-site observation within the territory of that country.
August 8 1980
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been observing the course of events in Bolivia since last July 17 with genuine concern. Further, it has received denunciations and information to the effect that a situation has developed in Bolivia that affects the observance of human rights, especially the right to life and the right to personal integrity and freedom.
As you are aware, the Permanent Council of the OAS, in resolution CP/RES. 308 (432/80) of July 25, 1980, requested that in the shortest time possible, the Commission examine the situation of human rights in Bolivia.
This message cannot be construed as a judgment as to the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the Government of General Luis García Meza, as such judgments are not within the commission’s purview in accordance with practices of International Law and the Commission’s own Statute and Regulations. However, acting on instructions received from the Commission, I am addressing Your Excellency in an effort to obtain specific information on the following points, which are of special concern to the Commission:
a) The names of the individuals who have lost their lives under irregular circumstances since July 17, 1980;
b) The names of the individuals who have been arrested as a result of the events mentioned earlier, their circumstance, place of detention and state of health;
c) The names of the individuals who are in asylum in various embassies and the status of the steps that have been taken to grant the corresponding safe-conducts;
d) The text of any legal provisions enacted since July 17, 1980, that can affect the observance of human rights; and whether such legal provisions have suspended the obligations that Bolivia undertook by virtue of the American Convention on Human Rights.
Moreover, the Commission wishes to inform you that it feels it would be advantageous to have the consent of the Government General García Meza to conduct on-site observations in Bolivia as soon as possible and in accordance with Articles 54 and 55 of the Commission’s Regulations, which are as follows:
Article 54 (Necessary Facilities)
In extending an invitation for an on-site observation or in giving its consent, the government shall furnish to the Special Commission all necessary facilities for carrying out its mission. In particular, it shall bind itself not to take any reprisals of any kind against any person or entities cooperating with the Special Commission or providing information or testimony.
Article 55 (Other Applicable Standards)
Without prejudice to the provisions in the preceding article, any on-site observation agreed upon by the Commission shall be carried out in accordance with the following standards:
a. The Special Commission or any of its members shall be able to interview freely and in private, an persons, groups, entities, or institutions, and the government shall grant the pertinent guarantees to all those who provide the Commission with information, testimony, or evidence of any kind;
b. The members of the Special commission shall be able to travel freely through out the territory of the country for which purpose the government shall extend all the corresponding facilities, including the necessary documentation;
c. The government shall ensure the availability of local means of transportation;
d. The members of the Special Commission shall have access to the jails and all other detention and interrogation centers and shall be able to interview in private those persons imprisoned or detained;
e. The government shall provide the Special Commission with any document related to the observance of human rights that it may consider necessary for the preparation of its report;
f. The Special Commission shall be able to use any method appropriate for collecting, recording or reproducing the information it considers useful;
g. The government shall adopt the security measures necessary to protect the Special Commission;
h. The government shall ensure the availability of appropriate lodging for the members of the Special commission;
i. The same guarantees and facilities that are set forth here for the members of the Special Commission shall also be extended to the Secretariat staff;
j. Any expenses incurred by the special committee, any of its members and the Secretariat staff shall be borne by the Organization, subject to the pertinent provisions.
Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration.
Edmundo Vargas Carreño
3. Through a note dated November 14, 1980. which made no reference to the request for consent, the government of Bolivia replied to the Commission in the following terms:
La Paz, November 14, 1980
Mr. Executive Secretary:
I am pleased to reply to your note of august 8 of this year, wherein you request information from the Government of Bolivia concerning any individuals who have died under irregular circumstances since July 17, 1980, individuals who have been detained, individual in asylum in diplomatic missions and any laws enacted since July 17, 1980, which could affect the observance of human rights.
I note that the request for information is being made in compliance with resolution CP/RES. 308 (432/80), of July 25, 1980, approved by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States.
The Government of Bolivia attaches special importance to the Inter-American Commission on Human rights and is therefore most happy to provide the information requested. The foregoing notwithstanding, this does not imply that the Government recognizes the validity of resolution CP/RES. 308 (432/80). The Bolivian government’s position will be set forth on the appropriate occasion.
a) Immediately subsequent to July 17, 1980, the following deaths occurred, involving both civilians and members of the forces or order:
In the city of La Paz:
Mr. Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, who died on July 17m 1980, while resisting the police.
FAB Soldier Francisco Apaza, who was killed by snipers on July 21, 1980.
Mr. Luciano Pacheco Mosquer, who died on July 20, 1980, in an attack on a military patrol.
Mr. Gabriel Mejía Rojas, who died on July 20, 1980. in an attach on a military patrol.
Edwin Suárez Sardón, a soldier who died on July 20, in a sniper action.
Sergeant Major Edgar Bertis Blanco, who was killed by snipers on September 1, 1980.
In the town of Caracoles, 4 civilians, one Army officer and one soldier died as a result of disturbances.
b) The individuals initially arrested have been released. At the present time, there are no individuals under arrest.
c) All those in asylum have received their safe-conducts and have left the country. At the present time, there are no individuals in asylum in diplomatic missions accredited to the Government of Bolivia.
d) No legal provisions have been enacted that is repressive or prejudicial to the observance of human rights.
Please accept my regards.
Very truly yours,
(R) Division General Javier Cerruto Calderón
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship
4. Since its fifteenth session, held in September and October of 1980, the IACHR has devoted particular attention to the situation of human rights in Bolivia. During its fifty-first session, held in November 1980 and which coincided with the holding of the Tenth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organization, representatives of the Bolivian Government met with the Commission.
During that talk, the Commission had an opportunity to explain its concern with respect to the information that it had received and again expressed its desire to conduct an on-site observation so as to make an objective determination of the real situation in Bolivia with respect to human rights. The representatives of the Bolivian Government presented their viewpoints on the events that had transpired in the country. Although they did not specifically discuss the possibility of an on-site observation, they expressed their desire to cooperate with the commission to fulfill Bolivia’s commitment under the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Bolivia is party.
5. At that same session, the Commission decided to prepare a report on the situation of human rights in Bolivia and to take, in any case, the measures necessary to secure the Government’s consent to on-site observations.
B. The Mandate from the General Assembly
1. At its sixth plenary session, held on November 27, 1980, the General Assembly of the Organization adopted a resolution (AG/doc.1297/80 rev. 1) whereby it endorsed Permanent Council resolution CP/RES. 308 (432/80) of July 25, mentioned earlier in this Report, and reiterated to the Commission the request that it prepare a Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Bolivia as soon as possible.2
2. At its fifty-second session, held in February 1981, the IACHR studied the General Assembly’s mandate and decided to again request the Bolivian Government’s consent and to begin preparation of the respective report immediately. Pursuant to that decision, the Commission again addressed the Government of Bolivia in a cable that read as follows:
February 28, 1981
Mario Rolón Anaya
Minister of Foreign Affairs
La Paz, Bolivia
As Your Excellency is aware, at its regular session the General Assembly of the OAS reiterated to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights the request that it prepare a Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Bolivia as soon as possible. At its fifty-second session, the IACHR decided to prepare that report for presentation at the next session of the General Assembly.
To insure that that report will be as objective as possible in describing the situation of human rights in Bolivia, the Commission is reiterating the terms of the note sent to your illustrious Government on August 8, 1980, which said that it would be advantageous to have the government’s consent to an on-site observation in Bolivia, to be conducted in accordance with article 54 and 55 of the Commission’s Regulations.
Further, the Commission wishes to inform you that should your Government deem it appropriate, the on-site observation could be conducted prior to the Commission’s next session, which is planned for next June.
We would appreciate a reply from your Government before the close of the current session, which is scheduled for March 6 of this year.
Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
Tom J. Farer
Thus far, the Commission has received no reply.3
3. To comply with the mandate received from the General Assembly, the IACHR has decided to prepare the present report, inasmuch as the Government’s failure to give its consent to an on-site observation is not an impediment to the proper discharge of the Commission’s obligations.
C. Method Employed
1. When preparing the present Report, the IACHR has taken into account all the information provided to it by both the Government and various entities. It has also considered the denunciations of alleged violations of human rights presented to it. Further, among the material that the Commission has been able to secure are constitutional and legal ordinances, which have been analyzed carefully.
2. The Commission wishes to repeat that the inclusion of individual cases whose processing has not been completed does not imply any prejudgment on the substance of the cases. The final verdict on each individual case will be given when the regulatory processing has been completed.
3. The present report is limited to the events that have transpired since the military insurrection of July 17, 1980, and examines the situation of human rights in Bolivia up to September 1981.
4. Generally speaking, this report follows the format used by the Commission when preparing other studies on the situation of human rights in various countries. Basing itself on the information it has been able to secure, the IACHR has divided the report into separate chapters which examine the principal rights set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights or the Pact of San José, Costa Rica.
1. Resolution of the Permanent Council on solidarity with the Bolivian people. The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, Considering: The principles established in the Charter of the Organization, especially those expressed in Article 3, paragraph d) and j); the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; and the Declaration of La Paz, adopted by consensus at the ninth regular session of the General Assembly; and Bearing in mind: That each state has the right to develop its cultural, political, and economic life freely and spontaneously and that in this free development, the state shall respect the rights of the individual and the principles of universal morality, as set forth in Article 16 of the Charter of the Organization; That this precept has been violated by the military coup that has taken place in Bolivia in disregard of the elections recently held in that country; and with respect for the principle of nonintervention, Resolves: 1. To deplore the military coup, which indefinitely suspends the process of democratic institutionalization that was culminating in the Sister Republic of Bolivia. 2. To express its deepest concern over the loss of human life and the serious violations of the human rights of the Bolivian people, as a direct consequence of the coup d’état. 3. To request that, in the shortest time possible, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights examine the situation of human rights in Bolivia. 4. To express its solidarity with the Bolivian people and its confidence that they will find the most suitable means to maintain the viability of their democratic institutions and their freedoms.
2. Follow up of the Situation of Human Rights in Bolivia. Resolution approved at the sixth plenary session held on November 27, 1980: Whereas: On July 25, 1980, the Permanent council of this Organization approved resolution CP/RES. 308 (432/80), The General Assembly – Resolves: 1. To endorse resolution CP/RES. 308 (432/80) of July 25, 1980 whereby the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States resolved to deplore the military coup in Bolivia, which indefinitely suspended the process of democratic institutionalization that was culminating in that sister Republic. 2. To repeat to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that, in the shortest time possible, it prepare a report on the situation of human rights in Bolivia, to be considered by the competent organ of the regional system.
3. In a communication dated October 9, 1980, the Government of Bolivia invited the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to inspect conditions in the country. In response to that invitation, on March 11, 1981, the United Nations Commission approved the sending of a special delegation. Further, representatives of the International Labour Organisation visited Bolivia in October 1980. Three representatives of Amnesty International visited Bolivia from November 12 through 25, 1980.