Bolivia
Head of state and government
Evo Morales Ayma

Indigenous Peoples’ rights to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent over developments affecting them remained unfulfilled. Victims of human rights violations committed during past military regimes continued to be denied full reparations. Delays in the administration of justice persisted. Violations of freedom of expression were reported.

 

Background

Protests in support of economic and social demands and Indigenous Peoples’ rights were widespread. In some cases police responded with excessive use of force.

In September, following his visit to Bolivia, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism acknowledged some advances, but expressed concern at continuing persistent discrimination against Indigenous Peoples and other communities at risk.

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Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In February, a law was passed calling for consultation with Indigenous Peoples in the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro-Sécure, TIPNIS) over government plans to construct a road through the park. In April, Indigenous communities opposed to the road marched to La Paz arguing that the consultation was contrary to previous legislation passed to protect the TIPNIS and to international standards and the Constitution.

In June, the Plurinational Constitutional Court ruled that the consultation was constitutional, but that its parameters must first be agreed with all the Indigenous communities potentially affected. In July, the government decided to go ahead with the consultation after reaching agreements with only some of the Indigenous communities. In October, before the consultation was completed, construction began of the first stretch of the road outside the park and Indigenous territory. Official reports on the results of the consultation were still pending at the end of the year.

No police officers responsible for excessive use of force in 2011 during peaceful protests against the road in the TIPNIS had been brought to justice by the end of 2012.

Lack of prior consultation over mine exploration in Mallku Khota, Potosí Department by a Bolivian subsidiary of a Canadian mining company led to violent unrest between local communities and the police. In August, the government announced the nationalization of the mine to put an end to the protests by those opposed to the Canadian mining company. However, conflicts between supporters and opponents of the project continued in December.

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Impunity and the justice system

Delays in bringing those responsible for human rights violations under military governments (1964-1982) persisted. Delays in the administration of justice led to impunity in other cases. Allegations of misuse of the judiciary against opponents or critics of the government were reported.

  • In April and May, legislation was passed modifying compensation payments for victims of political violence under military governments and providing for the publication of the names of people entitled to compensation. There were concerns about the lack of transparency and unfairness of the reparation process. Of 6,200 applicants, only around 1,700 qualified as beneficiaries. Victims and relatives of human rights violations maintained months-long protests in front of the Ministry of Justice to demand greater transparency, among other things.
  • In September, the US authorities refused a request to extradite former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to Bolivia. He faced charges in connection with “Black October”, when 67 people were killed and more than 400 injured during protests in El Alto, near La Paz, in late 2003.
  • Trial proceedings connected to the 2008 Pando massacre in which 19 people, mostly peasant farmers, were killed and 53 others injured, continued but were subject to delays.
  • Hearings in the case of 39 people accused of involvement in an alleged plot in 2009 to kill President Evo Morales began in October. By the end of the year, there had been no investigations into allegations of lack of due process or into the killings of three men in 2009 in connection with the case.
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Freedom of expression

In August, criminal complaints of inciting racism and discrimination were filed against two newspapers and a national news agency. The government argued that the three media outlets had misused President Evo Morales’ comments about the behaviour of people in the east of the country and portrayed him as a racist. There was concern that this was a disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression.

The Plurinational Constitutional Court ruled in September that the crime of “contempt for public officials” was unconstitutional and a violation of freedom of expression.

In October, radio journalist Fernando Vidal was seriously injured when four masked men set him alight while he was on the air in Yacuiba, near the Argentine border. Fernando Vidal had publicly criticized local officials and reported on drug trafficking in the region. Four men were arrested in connection with the attack. Investigations were continuing at the end of the year.

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Women’s rights

In September, a law was passed punishing harassment and political violence against women. The law, which was welcomed by women’s organizations, establishes preventive mechanisms and provides for sanctions for acts of harassment and violence against women who are electoral candidates, elected officials or who work in public institutions.

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