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Press Release

Statement of the OAS General Secretariat on Bolivia

  March 17, 2021

Regarding the statement of the Bolivian Foreign Ministry issued yesterday, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) denies its contents and repudiates its repressive and threatening tone, as well as the desire to personalize in Luis Almagro decisions and institutional positions of the General Secretariat.

The General Secretariat reiterates the facts referred to in its statement and reaffirms the recommended courses of action. It reaffirms the need to provide justice and due reparation to the victims and the families of the victims of all acts of violence, human rights violations and crimes against humanity that have occurred in Bolivia from October 2019 onwards.

Fair, credible and impartial trials are absolutely necessary in this regard, and that is what the proposal recently formulated by the General Secretariat calls for. Among other things, taking into account reports from the United Nations Human Rights Committee that indicated during the government of Evo Morales that “The Committee repeats its previous concluding observations (CCPR/C/79/Add.74, para. 19) and takes note with concern of the continuing reports of widespread political interference and corruption in the judicial system.”

Unfortunately, this situation has worsened, which substantially affects the credibility of the ongoing processes.

The actions of co-optation of the Bolivian justice system were already publicly pointed out when the OAS observed the elections of the judicial power in the country, which currently seem consequential with the cancellation or dismissal of different trials against MAS supporters, as well as threats of judicial persecution and effective judicial harassment of politicians opposed to the government.

On the other hand, an independent judiciary that ensures the rights to justice, to a regular trial, to the presumption of innocence, to due judicial guarantees enshrined, among others, in Articles XVIII and XXI of the American Declaration of The Rights and Duties of Man and Article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights are also part of the elements of democracy that the General Secretariat is responsible for promoting and supporting, as well as all the organs and members of the OAS.

The OAS General Secretariat considers that the judgments made regarding moral and ethical authority by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not admissible.

On the other hand, the General Secretariat wishes to make it clear that the participation of the Electoral Observation Mission and the Audit Mission were carried out at the invitation of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, with agreements signed between the General Secretariat and the country, and not because of any “colonialist interference,” a completely absurd concept in this case.

The missions of the Organization are carried out in the field only at the invitation of the State Party and with the signature of the corresponding agreement on immunities and privileges.

The General Secretariat also reiterates that the conclusions of these missions are based on the observation and verification of duly proven and documented facts, adhering to the highest standards of observation. Their performance has been positively valued on all occasions in the past years that they have observed elections in the countries of the hemisphere.

The courses of action indicated in the General Secretariat's statement have to do with guaranteeing the independence of justice and the guarantees of due process, in order to avoid a discriminatory logic by which some are persecuted and others are acquitted in a politically selective way.

International Commissions to Fight Corruption have been and are an important instrument in the fight against corruption at the regional level, guaranteeing equanimity and balance beyond the conditions generated by the exercise of power.

On the other hand, the International Criminal Court (ICC) constitutes an instrument of justice that is absolutely necessary even for the international community. The General Secretariat considers that the ICC has a fundamental role in prosecuting systematic human rights violations that have occurred in Bolivia, including the Sacaba and Senkata massacres.

Impunity is never an option for a people.

Both institutes constitute a path of peace and not of violence, a path of justice and not of impunity. They are instruments of sovereignty because they assure the people, the only sovereign, of justice and non-submission to the wills of power.

The General Secretariat reiterates its support for the Electoral Observation Missions, and especially reiterates its recognition of the work of the EOM that observed the elections in Bolivia in October 2019, as well as the Mission that carried out the comprehensive audit of said electoral process. The observations made were duly documented and tested on both occasions, and it was absolutely false that they did not comply with the required standards and that they issued a manipulated report without evidence. On the contrary, the evidence is overwhelming and in this sense we invite the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to meet with the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation (DECO), to better learn of the evidence collected and the contents of the observation, attaching to this statement some of the conclusions of the Secretariat for Strengthening Democracy.

It is truly unacceptable and reprehensible to claim that these reports have generated violence and social upheaval. Violence and social upheaval was already present in the country immediately after the election act of October 19, 2019.

The Electoral Observation Mission in this regard pointed out that “OAS observers found that violence forced the interruption of the computation process in six departments: La Paz, Cochabamba, Chu-quisaca, Potosí, Oruro and Beni. In Potosí, Pando and Tarija, the infrastructure of the Departmental Electoral Tribunal was completely set on fire, as were the facilities of the Civic Registry Service in Potosí and Chuquisaca." On November 6, 2019, the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Bolivia strongly condemned “the acts of violence that have been registered in various parts of the country during the last few days and makes an urgent call for calm. Violence has no place in a democracy, that is why the Mission exhorts all political and social actors, as well as the general public, to wait calmly and in a peaceful environment for the results of the audit carried out by a technical team of the OAS General Secretariat."

On November 10, 2019, the OAS General Secretariat indicated "The most valuable thing to bear in mind at this time is the right to life of Bolivians and to avoid any violent confrontation between fellow citizens."

On November 12, it was stated before the Permanent Council of the Organization “Condemnably, this process was not exempt from violence, the worst, on one side and on the other, absolutely reprehensible violence. Hate and hate speech must be eradicated, hatred and violence among Bolivians must be eradicated. There cannot be a process that costs the Bolivian people dead and wounded and suffering. Hatred turned into violence has a very high cost for the people and must be stopped immediately."

It is not acceptable to claim that a documented and proven report generates acts of violence.

In this regard, the General Secretariat also issued statements calling for social peace and condemning the violence during that period, as well as making arrangements for the IACHR to visit the country and subsequently for the installation of an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) that would allow an impartial investigation of what happened in the country. The General Secretariat always urged investigations into what happened.

It is appropriate to reiterate that the General Secretariat has adopted as a general rule the endorsement of the statements and reports of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) always, considering that its conclusions are institutionally binding (as are the reports of the EOMs), as well as the resolutions approved at the General Assembly and the Permanent Council of the Organization.

The OAS General Secretariat will continue to carry out its actions within the framework of the fundamental principles of the OAS Charter and other instruments approved by the member states to promote and consolidate representative democracy while respecting the principle of non-intervention in the hemisphere.

Both the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter provide, in turn, the means for the General Secretariat to exercise these obligations. It has departed from none of them.

For all these reasons, we reiterate to the government our proposals, whose sole purpose is to strengthen the institutions for the strengthening of the rule of law; certain that with them we do nothing more than comply with the obligations imposed by the Inter-American norms.

The OAS General Secretariat condemns any form of threat expressed against the Secretary General, OAS officials or members of the Electoral Observation or Audit Missions that had to undertake work regarding the institutional situation of Bolivia or its electoral processes.

Regarding the absurd accusation of the participation of the OAS in a coup d'état, the OAS General Secretariat reiterates what was stated on November 10, 2019 -when the audit report was presented: “The situation in the country requires (primarily) the governmental and political actors of the different partes, as well as all the institutions, to act in accordance with the Constitution, with responsibility and respect for peaceful means.” And it added that "Likewise, it is understood that constitutional mandates should not be interrupted, including that of President Evo Morales." The OAS was the only regional or multilateral organization that requested that this constitutional mandate be respected.

In consequence of the foregoing, and with the unwavering desire that truth, justice and non-repetition guide the coexistence of the Bolivian people, the OAS General Secretariat has arranged the necessary work to send to the Prosecutor's Office of the International Criminal Court of the antecedents corresponding to alleged acts against humanity from the last government of former President Evo Morales to the present, with the necessary investigation of the transitional government in this regard, especially in the cases of Sacaba and Senkata.

The General Secretariat will also forward the conclusions and reports of the GIEI to the ICC, since it understands that without public light on the events that occurred and the individual responsibilities that may correspond, it will not be possible to do justice to the recent past in Bolivia.

Reference: E-024/21