Press Release

IACHR Grants Precautionary Measures in Favor of María Patricia Arce Guzmán, Mayor of the Vinto Municipality in Bolivia

December 27, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 68/2019 on December 25, 2019, to grant precautionary measures in favor of María Patricia Arce Guzmán and her children in Bolivia, in the belief that they face a serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable damage to their rights.

When making this decision, the Commission considered that—according to this request for precautionary measures—Ms. Arce was held against her will for a few hours by a third party on November 6, 2019, after premises belonging to the municipality that she leads were attacked, vandalized, and burned. The request said that these attackers had verbally and physically abused Ms. Arce while they held her, until she was rescued by the Police and taken to hospital so doctors could check her condition and provide treatment. The State said it had launched—on its own initiative—a formal investigation of these events by a public prosecutor, who had conducted the required procedures and asked that a protection program be put in place. The State noted that Ms. Arce is still active in her position as mayor.

The Commission assessed the measures taken by the State. However, following that assessment and considering the serious nature of the events that Ms. Arce was subjected to, the Commission found that no information had been provided about the scope of the current protection scheme, while no details were known that might enable the IACHR to assess the scheme’s suitability and effectiveness. Ms. Arce herself said she enjoyed no protection following the events of November 2019. Similarly, while an arrest warrant had allegedly been issued against one of the individuals involved in those events, whether that person had actually been arrested remained unknown.

The Commission considered that such elements reflected the beneficiary’s past vulnerability and her current potential exposure to events similar to those of November 6, when her rights were at the mercy of unknown attackers in the absence of a security scheme to support her. Given that Ms. Arce is voicing her complaints about these events, and considering that she has returned to the duties of her public office, the Commission deems it reasonable to presume that she might be more vulnerable or possibly be a target for attacks, based on the elements that were assessed in this Resolution.

After assessing the legal and factual allegations made by both parties, the Commission considered that—based on the standards that are applicable prima facie—María Patricia Arce Guzmán and her children face a situation of grave and urgent risk, since their rights to life and personal integrity risk suffering irreparable damage. Consequently, in keeping with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR asked Bolivia to take any measures necessary to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of María Patricia Arce Guzmán and her children, which includes protecting their rights from risks posed by third parties; to come to an agreement with the beneficiary and her representatives regarding any measures that need to be implemented; and to report on any actions taken to investigate the alleged events that gave rise to the adoption of this precautionary measure, to prevent such events from happening again in the future.

The fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the State do not entail a prejudgment on a potential petition that may be filed before the Inter-American system to allege violations of rights protected by the American Convention on Human Rights and other applicable instruments.

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. 339/19