IACHR Calls for Stronger Consensus-Building Dialogue in Bolivia

November 19, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about the violence reported during recent demonstrations in Bolivia and calls on the State and on Bolivian society to follow the recommendations made by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts for the country. These recommendations focus on the need to foster dialogue in order to build consensus in this Plurinational State.

Since November 8, 2021, the Commission has received reports on the outbreak of demonstrations, prompted mainly by some sectors' discontent with the National Strategy Against Legitimizing Illicit Gains and Funding for Terrorism (Act 1386). According to official reports, this act was subsequently repealed through Act 1409, published in the official journal on November 17, 2021.

The IACHR noted the reports issued by the Ombudsperson's Office, which denounced the death of one individual during a demonstration in Potosí. According to the available information, the departmental public prosecutor's office is investigating these events. There were also reports of abuse allegedly committed by police forces.

The Commission further noted the press releases issued by the Ombudsperson's Office to denounce attacks on reporters and hurdles for the exercise of journalism, clashes between Bolivian citizens, threats against social leaders and public officials, and harassment against the women's rights institution Casa de la Mujer in Santa Cruz, among other forms of wrongdoing in this context.

The IACHR condemns all violence during demonstrations, particularly violence based on racial discrimination. The Commission calls on the State to investigate these events and to try and punish the perpetrators and masterminds of any crimes that may have been committed in this context, respecting due process. The Commission is sorry about the death that was reported in Potosí and urges the State to establish with due diligence the circumstances that led to it. The IACHR stresses that protecting the right to freedom of expression requires that the authorities enforce the conditions necessary for journalists to be able to freely and safely cover events that are of interest to the public, such as those linked to social protests.

Noting the historical social tensions that recent demonstrations have reflected, the IACHR stresses the importance of building an atmosphere that fosters dialogue, reconciliation, and a deactivation of the tensions and hostilities that are latent within Bolivian society. The Commission echoes a recent call for dialogue made by the Mission in Bolivia of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Along similar lines, considering the conclusions and recommendations made by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts for Bolivia on structural aspects, the IACHR stresses conclusion 8 of the , concerning the importance of building a platform for democratic and inclusive dialogue that combines various mechanisms of representative democracy with direct participation in peaceful, public deliberations. The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts also noted that leaders and activists in the political sphere and all the individuals who hold political positions must adopt discourses and stances that are based on respect and on acceptance of diverse opinions. On this point, the Commission stresses that political leaders and individuals in public roles must speak in favor of public deliberation and freedom of expression, as stated in the 2021 Joint Declaration on Politicians and Public Officials and Freedom of Expression.

The Commission further urges the State and Bolivian society to foster dialogue aimed at building a consensus that enables the development of shared plans, while incorporating diversity and deepening the process of mutual examination and understanding. The IACHR also stresses the conclusion reached by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts that Bolivian society needs to build—through its institutions and social capital—a common future based on strengthening the country's democracy and institutions, justice, and respect for human rights, and on building ties of mutual respect, trust, and peaceful coexistence, as well as on valuing diversity. The Commission further notes that the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts stressed the need for the State to prevent the emergence of groups that proclaim themselves security forces, given that they are illegal and pose serious risks for society during crises.

Finally, the Commission acknowledges and values the Plurinational State of Bolivia's commitment to the Inter-American Human Rights System, including the country's compliance with IACHR recommendations. In this context, the Commission stresses its willingness to assist efforts to address the structural causes of social tensions, through various tools including an on-site visit to Bolivia and the creation of a specific mechanism to monitor the recommendations made by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 311/21

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