Press Release

IACHR Unveils Tentative Launch Date for Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to Support Investigations into Violence and Human Rights Violations in Bolivia, Along with Plans to Strengthen that Mechanism

April 28, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) unveiled a tentative launch date for the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts that has been created to support investigations into the acts of violence and human rights violations that happened in Bolivia over the period September 1–December 31, 2019, in line with the agreement that the IACHR and the Plurinational State of Bolivia signed on December 12, 2019. The IACHR also announced plans to strengthen that mechanism.

In a note issued on December 10, 2019, the Plurinational State of Bolivia expressed its willingness for an international investigation to look into the acts of violence and human rights violations that happened in Bolivia during the country’s social and political crisis, and to establish who is responsible for them. In response to that message, the IACHR presented to the Bolivian government a proposal to create an international mechanism to investigate the violence in the country, specifically through the creation of an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, by its Spanish acronym) that is autonomous and independent and can protect the right to truth and adequately identify anyone responsible for human rights violations.

After the IACHR signed the relevant agreement with the State of Bolivia, the GIEI was formally created on January 23 at the IACHR headquarters in Washington, D.C., in a public event that featured the Foreign Ministry of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and other authorities representing both the State and the IACHR. At the time, the IACHR appointed four members of the Group: Julián Burger, Juan Méndez, Patricia Tappatá Valdez, and Marlon Weichert.

To strengthen the GIEI, the IACHR now plans to appoint a fifth member, whose name will be disclosed once the appointment is made. The IACHR stresses its confidence in the integrity, impartiality, and technical suitability of the experts who have been appointed as members of the GIEI. Beyond these experts, the GIEI will have its own technical team on the ground.

The GIEI will conduct its work independently and consult any sources it deems relevant during this investigation, beyond those representing the State and Bolivian civil society organizations. It will have the following responsibilities: planning the investigation of acts of violence perpetrated against individuals, organizations, and authorities in Bolivia, in the context of socio-political tensions, protests, and social unrest in the country; conducting a technical analysis of the lines of investigation that have been developed, issuing any relevant recommendations, and assisting investigations to ensure they are adequate, comprehensive, and aligned with the applicable international human rights standards; proposing the adoption of measures to ensure the safety of all the people involved in investigations; and conducting a technical analysis—with any relevant recommendations—toward a comprehensive assistance plan for victims of these events.

Based on the agreement, the Plurinational State of Bolivia will grant these experts full access to the records of all criminal investigations and cases opened in this context, to public government reports on these events, and to all facilities, infrastructure, resources, and means necessary for the GIEI to do its job, as well as all security measures needed, in keeping with Bolivia’s legislation.

Once it is on the ground, the GIEI will have a six-month mandate that may be extended for as long as both parties agree it needs to be to meet its goals. The GIEI will notify the Plurinational State of Bolivia of the partial and final results of its efforts and of any recommendations the group deems appropriate, and it will draft a final public report on its work. The IACHR will monitor the GIEI’s efforts and recommendations.

At a meeting with high officials of the State of Bolivia during the IACHR’s 175th Period of Sessions (held March 2–8 in Haiti), the parties stressed the significance of this mechanism and agreed to keep working together to draft and approve the GIEI’s Protocol for Action before the Group starts work. A tentative launch date was set for October 2, 2020, noting that the GIEI should not be launched before elections are held in Bolivia. During that meeting, the parties agreed that the GIEI should not base its investigation efforts on the Preliminary Report on the violence in Bolivia issued by the IACHR in December 2019.

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. 091/20