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UN Committee against Torture calls for urgent reform of Bolivian courts for lack of independence

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The report, prepared by 10 independent experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, refers to “the lack of independence and autonomy of the Judiciary and the Prosecutor’s Office, as evidenced in judicial proceedings for sedition and terrorism brought against political opponents.”

The Committee also expressed concern about insufficient progress in the investigation of alleged torture, ill-treatment and excessive use of force during the 2019-2020 crisis, which resulted in the departure from power of President Evo Morales, and called on current officials to investigate all these facts, prosecute and punish perpetrators.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture called for an urgent reform of the Bolivian justice system due to its lack of independence. (photo internet reproduction)

The experts recommended “an urgent reform of the judicial system in order to guarantee its independence and respect for due process, in particular, by enacting a law on the judicial career that guarantees professional stability, and revising the process of selection, evaluation and removal of judges and prosecutors, according to public and objective criteria, based on merit. The necessary resources for the proper functioning of judicial bodies must also be guaranteed.”

The report also denounces “the lack of independence and autonomy of the Judiciary and the Prosecutor’s Office, as evidenced in judicial proceedings for sedition and terrorism against political opponents” and urged the country to review the current procedures by which judges and prosecutors are selected or removed.

The report also noted that the criminal definitions of sedition and terrorism in Bolivian legislation “are based on extremely vague concepts” in reference to the arrest of ex-president Jeanine Añez.

The Committee has also called on Bolivia to review its anti-terrorism legislation, in particular the crimes of sedition and terrorism, “to ensure that they conform to the principle of legality and international human rights standards.”

Several international organizations such as the UN and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have denounced the use of prosecutions in Bolivia as an instrument of persecution of political opponents.

In August, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), which investigated serious human rights violations committed between September and December 2019, found a recurrent lack of independence in the administration of justice in Bolivia.

In November, CAT expressed its concern about the way in which criminal charges of sedition and terrorism have been enforced in Bolivia both in the interim government of Jeanine Áñez, imprisoned as part of the so-called “coup d’état” case, and in Luis Arce’s administration.

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